Scientific trainee pay is pretty dang good right now so stop complaining

I don't know what started the round of "I only got paid X when I was a trainee" on the twitts but I noticed nobody was adjusting for inflation.

Using the US Dept of Labor calculator, I came up with the following.

For an initial frame of general reference, $30K in 2012 is equal to $22K in 2000, $17K in 1990, $11K in 1980 and $5K in 1970.

The grad stipend when I started graduate school was equal to $15.6K in 2012 adjusted dollars. For us, the NSF fellowship was a considerable upgrade and the NSF graduate fellowship from that time is equivalent to $22.6K in 2012.

Interesting. So how are today's trainees doing?

The current NSF stipend is apparently $30K, a 33% increase in adjusted dollars compared to what it was when I was a graduate student. Looking at my old training department, they are offering a 35% increase in stipend over what they were offering when I started, again, in constant dollars.

I also happened to spend some time on NIH training grant funds so I can also report that my starting postdoc salary was $28.6K in 2012 dollars. The current NRSA base is $39.3K, which represents a 37% increase.

The bottom line is this. We're in crap economic times and graduate students and postdocs are getting paid at least 33% more than I was, even going by inflation adjusted dollars.

Stop whining about your salary.

165 responses so far

  • bill says:

    *makes popcorn*

  • Annika says:

    I don't complain! Most of my friends are in the humanities, where the student pays for the training. Besides, what I make (26,800 as a grad student) is enough to cover (modest) housing, food, clothing and transportation in my area while still having enough for a plane ticket to vacation every year and a tiny bit of savings.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    @bill... Snicker.

    More seriously, I think that (here it comes) kids today (told you) have significantly different lifestyle expectations than we did. This is a consequence of coming up during the last economic boom and having gone through undergrad experiences with fancy state-of-the-art sports centers, cable, personal phones/cell phones, cable TV in the dorms, fancier food served on campus, cars, etc. The list goes on.

    The consumerism/wealth/standard of living on college campuses is just vastly different to what my own cohort experienced, and I think that a lot of graduate trainees (by no means all, but a lot of them) now have expectations filtered through that experience.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Not to say that it's easy for trainees now. But stipend/salary is *definitely not* where I'd put the focus of my rage.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Exactly SN. Also because they are more likely to be the children of the self-indulgent Boomers for whom the trappings of wealth and personal indulgence were so critical. They were spoiled rotten as kids and given a lot of material things without having to work for them.

    Of course they expect more things when they are on their own hook.

  • Dr24hours says:

    No one was whining. It was a jocular discussion that had a few jokes about poverty tossed in. It started by the comparing post-doc salaries to football coaches and university presidents.

    But my comments about hazing apply here too. You went straight to the crotchety old man, "it was worse when I did it" defense. Maybe it was. That doesn't make it right. Low grad-student and post-doc pay is part of the hazing process, designed to winnow the field to the "true scientists" who are willing to suffer indignities *for science*.

    It's disgraceful.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Your concept of what "hazing" is runs to some very strange places, my friend. I gotta tell you, the "hazing" will stop when you cease to be employed anywhere....

  • bill says:

    Low grad-student and post-doc pay is part of the hazing process

    It's nothing of the sort.

    What it is, is a hangover from the days when, in return for a few years of modest (not low!) pay, you could expect a career in research which would return a decent (not high) salary, good job security, and lots of personal satisfaction. It used to be a damn good deal -- not so much any more, but the pay was never any kind of punishment or torment.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "That doesn't make it right."

    I got PAID by OTHER PEOPLE to do scientific research for five years and emerged with a doctorate.

    Please, *do* tell me what part of that was me getting a raw deal.

  • Dr24hours says:

    Hazing is any activity designed to overburden, humiliate, exhaust or demoralize a person without power who wants to join an in-group.

    Poverty level post-doc pay fits the description perfectly.

  • drugmonkey says:

    You went straight to the crotchety old man, "it was worse when I did it" defense. Maybe it was. That doesn't make it right.

    I lived a pretty decent life as a grad and postdoc. including managing some of the major life economic hurdles with an academic spouse slightly behind me on the path. This was not in one of our Nation's cheapest cost-of-living areas I am far from a hyper financially miserly person, ether.

    My problem was the uncertainty, not whatever my present salary was.

    This post shows that there is even less reason right now to complain about pay rate.

    The uncertainty? That's still with us and probably even worse. This latter aspect I cop to freely on this blog time and time again. Getting started as an independent investigator is much more difficult right now.

  • Dr24hours says:

    @SN,

    I'm glad you were happy with your arrangement. Mine was pretty good too. Many, many people have different experiences.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    ...and as I've mentioned here many times before, I *knew* that the pipeline for academic jobs was shitty, and *assumed* that I'd have to change fields when I completed my degree. That was always, for me, a given. Graduate school in a basic research is not and has *never* been a vocational program.

    People who think otherwise are, frankly, not using their eyes, ears, or brains.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I should also point out that compared to my peers graduating with Bachelor's degrees so many years ago and facing unpaid internships, minimum wage entry jobs or professional training schools which required going into mroe debt, the grad school deal sounded friggin AWESOME to me at the time.

  • bsci says:

    I don't complain and have been content with my salaries, but if you want to make an accurate comparison, you'll need to include changing opportunity costs.

    For example, assuming someone does the "traditional track to get to a standard faculty position:

    In the golden age of drugmonkey a scientist might have an average 5 years of grad school at $15.6K followed by an average of 3 years at $28.6K followed by faculty at $70K

    Now there's an average of 6 years of grad school at $22K followed by an average 5 years of postdoc at $39.3K followed by faculty at $80K.

    In these cases, in the 13 from the start of training to a few years of faculty, the drugmonkey cohort would make $514K versus a new cohort making $489K. These are obviously guesses at some numbers, but one could also model the average increase in student loan debt for people entering grad school.

  • drugmonkey says:

    Hazing is any activity designed to overburden, humiliate, exhaust or demoralize a person without power who wants to join an in-group.

    Sounds like tenure. and the Full professor pursuit. the GlamourMag game. Grant getting. The desire to be Chair or Dean or Head of Hoary Learned Society. HHMI. AAAS or IOM.

    Like I said, it never stops.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "Poverty level post-doc pay fits the description perfectly."

    2012 NIH stipend rates: http://grants.nih.gov/grants/guide/notice-files/NOT-OD-12-033.html

    2012 US poverty guidelines: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/12poverty.shtml

  • bill says:

    People who think otherwise are, frankly, not using their eyes, ears, or brains.

    See, nowadays I'd call that almost a fair comment. And it's possible you were just more on the ball than me, back in the day.

    But going in to grad school, I believed what I got sold -- that there was a career for me if I was smart and worked hard (and put up with modest pay for a while). That turned out not to be true at all, and I do harbour some resentment over having been misled, even if things have turned out OK-ish so far.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Can't speak to your experience but I started grad school in the early-mid 90s during the last NIH funding crunch, and anyone who read the front matter in Science or The Chronicle of Higher Education or The Scientist got the message loud and clear: there were many many more trainees than jobs.

    Thus, most people who got PhD's couldn't possibly get on the tenure ladder.

    I cannot fathom why people did and still do find these facts so difficult to interpret. It's not as though the data are in any way hidden.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I cannot fathom why people did and still do find these facts so difficult to interpret.

    It is because when we start grad school each and every one of use knows we are smarter, harder working and all around better than all those other clowns and so if anyone is going to make it, we will.

  • bill says:

    We're about the same vintage, SN. You were paying a lot more attention than I was, and I don't mean to deny all responsibility for my own downfall.

    I do, however, think you are atypical, and most of our cohort were clueless cannon-fodder like me. And that we were deliberately rallied for the purpose by people who knew better, who could have and did not point out to us all that data you are talking about.

    I know, I know. First world problems, whaaaa, nobody took me by the hand and let me past the pitfalls. Still and all.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    My last post was in reply to DM, not to bill -- sorry if there's confusion.

  • bill says:

    ...each and every one of use knows we are smarter...

    Not it.

    Not that I didn't suffer from the usual early-20's arrogance, I sure as shit did. I'd probably have fallen into that trap, but it was never laid for me. I never saw the deal in terms of a competition that I was going to win -- that's my point, the level of competition was never made plain to me.

  • drugmonkey says:

    I do, however, think you are atypical, and most of our cohort were clueless cannon-fodder like me.

    Also, many folks in my graduate school social circles (i.e., across departments/programs) came to a big research university from something else- smaller schools with less direct knowledge of the bleeding edge of the career paths. Our decision to go to graduate school was not informed by Professors bitching about how hard it was to get grants or by local senior grads/postdocs complaining about job prospects. Heck, I didn't even really understand what a postdoc even was until well into my first few months of grad school.

  • bill says:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect

    Probably it, for all that SN wasn't aiming at me. 🙂

  • Spiny Norman says:

    I had the advantage that I worked a couple of years as a tech before I started my grad program, so I knew grad students and postdocs and PI's and had seen many of the pitfalls before I started.

    Also, I'd already had a subscription to Science for 3 or 4 years before I started grad school. I've always been a news junkie, and I'm fundamentally pretty pessimistic, so I don't generally have unrealistic expectations about my own abilities or the likelihood that the system will be set up for my benefit...

  • becca says:

    DM- I really think the uncertainty is worse than ever. The only consolation is that I'm not sure the uncertainty in biomedical careers has gotten worse more quickly than the uncertainty in other careers. I mean, the odds are worse. But it is more certain than ever that you will not become an academic PI or get a fancy research job working for Big Pharma.

  • Annika does bring up an important point -- that stipends are pretty much a (natural) science-only thing. Grad students in English Literature, History, etc. are all supposed to be waiting tables besides working on their dissertation. Plus a "grant" to these people is pretty much just a few thousand dollars to fly coach to Europe and stay in a cheap hotel for a week while consulting rare books in the British or Vatican libraries and what not. Yes, compared to people in business (those who still have jobs, that is) grad students and postdocs in science may have it hard, but compared to the rest of academia, they are on easy street...

  • miko says:

    I have no trouble with the salary, really. I'm older than most postdocs (extremely late 30s) because of 6 years spend outside academia. During that time, I made about $40K a year, minus time spent travelling. In grad school, I made about $40K a year in a relatively low COL city. Yes, a little unusal. As a postdoc, I make $40K a year. After 17 years, I am pretty used to $40K a year. Though $40K goes less far than it did in the past, my spending habits have...matured.

    That's not really how income is supposed to work. If I had stayed with my first $40k job, I'd be easily making $150-$200K now. But with a spouse (who has made more the last couple years) and no kids, it's not that hard easy. We bought a house in a very high COL city with money saved during PhD and first 2 years of postdoc (and gutted it -- there was a reason we could afford it). We don't eat in restaurants very much, but we are not deprived, mostly because there isn't much that we want.

    I think the postdoc resentment is not that is an absolutely "low" salary, it's that it is a low salary for the amount of education and time required (both hours/week and years). It is supposed to be a tradeoff -- you make some sacrifices but you get do something you love as a career: scientific research. I am concerned about career path and "pipeline" issues, and how shortsighted the NIH and institutions have been in using up trainees who have little hope at a research career.

  • bill says:

    I'm older than most postdocs (extremely late 30s)

    No you're not. Average age of first RO1 is what, 42, 43?

    Of course, that only emphasizes your point about career path ("uncertainty" in comments upthread, "the deal" according to me -- we all seem to be on about the same page here, it's not the money per se).

  • chemicalbilology says:

    I think it's a health insurance thing more than a pay thing, too. The huge uncertainty in that factor (will the place you end up give you decent, affordable health insurance? will the coverage you have be enough if you get sick? have a baby?) acts as a barrier and affects who thinks going to grad school or doing a postdoc is possible. And selects for the young, single and fancy free (like the dudes in the Victorian era who got to do all this shit) and against the familially encumbered (and those who would like to be). So, just as the data show, the population demographics end up skewed.

  • Anders says:

    In Sweden most PhD students today have a salary of about 50 000 USD per year.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "I am concerned about career path and "pipeline" issues, and how shortsighted the NIH and institutions have been in using up trainees who have little hope at a research career."

    Now we arrive at the crux of the matter.

    By the way, I've been reading the blog spottily of late.

    Has DM or anyone else here spotlighted Henry Bourne's outstanding new blog?

  • miko says:

    Spiny Norman,

    You may have started your PhD in a crunch time where the outlook was obviously bleak. We did not. We've had this discussion here recently... I decided to go back to school during the HGP and the beginning of the "Decade of the Brain" where there was going to be an unprecedented expansion in basic research investment. Maybe I should have know this meant everyone would hire 10 times as many postdocs for a few years and then you're fucked, but I did not know this.

    And PhD program web sites and recruiting materials outright lie about the purpose and prospects of obtaining biomedical PhDs.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "In Sweden most PhD students today have a salary of about 50 000 USD per year."

    Most?

    As in, "the calculated median salary is >$50k US a year," or anecdotally, as in "I have 3 friends and two of them make that much?"

    Big difference.

  • miko says:

    "Heck, I didn't even really understand what a postdoc even was until well into my first few months of grad school."

    Yes. I went to a liberal arts college. There was no water cooler talk about this shit and no way to really know what grad school was all about (and the "internet" was a few Neil Young lyrics pages accessed via Mosaic).

  • Nernst says:

    I would certainly argue that any amount of money given to graduate students represents a good deal for them, as they are getting training, a doctorate, free tuition, and a stipend.

    I would then argue that post-doc pay is more of an issue, since we are no longer earning a degree and have increased uncertainty, both in the present and the future. By increased uncertainty, I mean things like 1 year contract, relative ease of firing a postdoc, often decreased benefits compared to graduate school, and a lower likelihood of a TT job (which is what we are "training" for).

    In general, I'm okay with the 40K/year salary. The only financial problem at my current salary is that I had to finance my undergraduate education on student loans, which have now come due. I owe in the 40K range, which amounts to about a $400/month payment, which ends up being roughly 15% of my after-tax income. I would assume this is true about a lot of other grad students/post-docs today. I don't know how true this is of current TT faculty who went to college in the 80's or 90's.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    That was certainly true for me. I was paying about $300 a month on my student loans through my postdoc. That's after I'd already finished paying off one of my undergrad loans while I was in grad school.

  • Dynein says:

    Comparing salaries is pointless without comparing over all price increases between the two time periods. So what if salaries are up 39% if the price of everything went up 150%?

  • Ana says:

    Being a graduate student is not a job. Being a postdoc is not a job. It is training and meant to be a temporary state (even if it seems like forever) The fact that we can get trained *and* get paid to do it is already a bonus. The goal of grad students and postdocs is to find a more permanent position. Does it suck? Of course it does, but that just gives you some more incentive to finish and get out. Is it easy? Hell no, it is never easy. We are lucky because we emerge out of training without a debt in the order of a few hundred of thousands of dollars. If we play it right, we are even able to pay some or all debts incurred during college. A sweet deal for what you get, methinks.

  • bill says:

    Dynein, isn't that built into the calculation? That is, are we not all using purchasing power calculators (e.g. http://www.measuringworth.com/ppowerus/) to come up with the numbers?

  • toto@club-med.so says:

    The pay is pretty good. I get paid more than my dad ever was!

    The real problem ain't the pay though, it's the total lack of job security as well as the increasingly desperate prospects of ever getting any.

    Getting any job security, I mean. Of course.

  • boba says:

    "Being a graduate student is not a job. Being a postdoc is not a job. It is training and meant to be a temporary state (even if it seems like forever) The fact that we can get trained *and* get paid to do it is already a bonus. " Just like being in the military! And the bonus is if you come out alive, you might, just might, be treated fairly by society for the sacrifice you made. They won't appreciate it, but they may acknowledge it.
    BTW - excepting combat pay, your average E-5 with 6 years in makes the same as a postdoc here in NYC.
    Place this in Exhibit 1oE3 of DM trolling the front page of his own blog. Now I remember why I never come by here.

  • whimple says:

    Stop whining about your salary.
    Why? You don't listen anyway. You're the one whining about salaries being too high. It's a free-market system... why don't you just offer to pay less and see how many "trainees" sign up?

  • biochembelle says:

    Here's my viewpoint:

    Initially I had 'planned' to go to med school (meaning I thought that was the option for someone who liked science and wanted to do something more). I realized late in the game that I actually wanted to make a career out of science not medicine. When I started getting acceptance letters that said the school was going to pay my tuition and a stipend, I thought I was getting a pretty good deal.

    When it comes to postdoc level, I see it as another training phase, not so different than MDs doing residencies. MDs don't make that much more than postdocs (numbers I've seen are in the $45 to 48K range). And as a (science) PhD, I don't have $150K+ in medical school loans to pay off (so I don't really begrudge them the extra $5-$10k). I am fortunate to also have very good insurance at a minimal cost (though it's sometimes surprising how many people complain about paying $100 for health+dental). I also know some postdocs are not so lucky.

    I don't really see a problem with postdoc pay... so long as it is actually a short-term (which I define as 2 to ~5 yrs) training position. The emphasis is that is training, not cheap labor. Training involves getting postdocs ready for the next step, whatever that may be. It's not a golden ticket to the dream job - we still have to work for it. But PIs and institutions need to be (and some truly are) invested in our careers, not just data cranking.

  • Nernst says:

    @whimple,
    It's funny, another postdoc and I were just talking today about how academic science basically espouses a winner-take-all, free market capitalism attitude even though the majority of those within the field are liberal.

    And I agree. Offer postdocs 15K/year and see how many sign up.

  • Nice troll, bro! Now I'll go back and read the outraged comments.

  • Mordecai says:

    It's worth noting that those numbers are corrected for inflation, but not for real GDP per capita -- if your salaries have gone from $22.6K to $30K, while GDP per capita went from $22.6K to $40K, you're still falling behind. It's not the 70s anymore; the US is richer, and salaries need to be compared to that.

    (Of course, the growth in income inequality counteracts this somewhat, but either way that gives you something to be angry about.)

  • (Of course, the growth in income inequality counteracts this somewhat, but either way that gives you something to be angry about.)

    Not somewhat; completely.

  • dr_mho says:

    I am totally mystified by the view that twenty-something adults should be incapable of doing sufficient research into their prospective career plan to make an informed decision about the costs/benefits of that plan. If you weren't "with it" enough, or you went to a liberal arts school where they didn't discuss career issues over the water cooler, too fucking bad. Welcome to being an adult. You should have investigated more. If you don't like the pay and benefits, or you think science is a shitty life for the modest salary, get the fuck out. (also, @ miko, could you provide some evidence or specific examples where PhD program websites have outright lied about job opportunities?)

  • drugmonkey says:

    . If you weren't "with it" enough, or you went to a liberal arts school where they didn't discuss career issues over the water cooler, too fucking bad. Welcome to being an adult. You should have investigated more.

    The Bridges to Independence report came out in maybe 2005. Many of the data released at Rock Talk and NIGMS blogs over the past few years are received with enthusiasm on the web from even those of us pretty well tied in to some of the career problems for a reason. It is newly available. No matter how many water coolers there are, nobody really has a complete picture. Some profs at high falutin R1 Universities who head up a top graduate program in their field continue to insist as recently as, well right now, that *their* grads are going to be just fine because they are such an awesome program. Despite all the evidence that their grads from about the past 15 years have done no better than anyone else (and some would suggest worse).

    If you do review some of the relevant data and pick an entry timepoint before an inflection (like the doubling interval), I defy anyone to predict what was going to happen, how bad it was going to get, etc. NIH success rates sometimes have hung in their for a long time....until the shit really hits the fan. We've weathered downturns and sky-is-falling in NIH land on almost a decade cycle since the late 60s....so when the most recent one came along who could predict it would be so *much* more dismal? at first it seemed like the usual cyclic pattern.

    the sort of data (and commentary and blogs etc) that is available on the Interwebs right now was simply not accessible to people in decades past. The NIH was in total denial (say if you went to the "what's new at NIH" presentations at meetings). Established Profs were clueless because they were successful and everyone else simply deserved to wash out. (see this clown, h/t PP)

    So while you are correct that early 20 somethings need to put on their big kid pants and take some responsibility...they can only have operated on what was available to them in terms of data. Things are a lot more transparent now then they were even 5 years ago and certainly better than 10, 15 years ago. You know, when the current aging postdoc was making the decision to enter graduate school.

  • @ana and everyone else with this opinion "Being a graduate student is not a job. Being a postdoc is not a job. It is training and meant to be a temporary state (even if it seems like forever) The fact that we can get trained *and* get paid to do it is already a bonus. " yeah, you can eat it. i make $23.5K/year in a program which takes 6-7 years to complete and i am contractually obligated to NOT have an outside job. this means they can kick me out for waitressing to pay my bills. just because i signed on to be a grad student and a scientist doesn't mean i can default on rent or utilities and skip groceries (hey, eatings only an option right??). also the DM and other tenured profs, how long were you a student and post doc? until the past 5 years it was usually a 4-5 year studentship plus 1-2 years post doc then you started you're own lab. these days, 6+ years studentship (in the US) is the norm plus 3-5 years post doc.

    bonus, i'm NOT a 20 something with no clue, i'm in my 30s and worked for a few years before going back to gradschool. i did my homework. while i might be bitter about circumstances (care to calculate my hourly wage?) i did know what i might be getting in to (except the contract saying i wouldn't have an outside job).

  • rs says:

    late to the party. its all over agin. you like 300+ comments, don't you? and this is the best topic.

    anyway, I think grad school stipends are ok whatever they are (today or 20 years ago). You know it will be over in few years and you do get a training/new skills in some very specific field. Thoese who manage to get out after grad school and went to the Industry, they are making decent wages (I know people who made $100K right after grad school in biotech).

    The problem starts when some dreamy eye wants to go for post-doc, funding, TT cycle etc etc. These positions should be balanced by demand/supply as they do in business school. There are a lot more post-doc positions than avaibale academic positions of any kind, this is a vicious circle which should stop. By the time someone has invested many years chasing this dream, its too late to go to the Industry (Industry think you are useless after so many years in academia) and the post-doc is a bitter person with no security, saving or future.

  • drugmonkey says:

    until the past 5 years it was usually a 4-5 year studentship plus 1-2 years post doc then you started you're own lab.

    HAHHAHAAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAAHAAHAAHAHAH!!!!!!!

    the bolded part has not been true for decades. at least in the US.

  • actually i know several profs for whom that was true in the early 2000s. but glad to provide entertainment!

  • Spiny Norman says:

    quietandsmall: PhD student for a bit over 5 years, postdoc for 4.5 years. 1-2 years has not, as DM said, been the case for a loooong time.

  • drugmonkey says:

    qands-

    While any subsubsubarea or job category or random small N group might reflect your suggestion, the broad biomedical PhD data do not support this idea.

  • SN and DM: dudes, i don't expect it, i'll be happy to get a postdoc (health insurance, yay!). but there is compelling data that post docs have increased 50% or more over the past 10 years and that the current rate of tenure for academics is ~26% compared to 34% 10 years ago. my pont is that all parts of the process are increasing, so we get stuck or get out.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Those are some of the central issues. I think everyone here (or nearly everyone) would agree.

  • arrzey says:

    There are costs & benefits to everything. The secret is to be smart enought to figure them out. I once asked my (second) husband (no kids at home) how a single parent could do his job in industry (well paid, but with only BS degree), which required him, with 24-48 hours notice to drop everything and go to China for 7 days. His short answer: they couldn't. I've had several single parent postdocs in my lab - it was tough, but feasible. If being a postdoc is "hazing" then so is the early years of any professional career.

  • postdoc says:

    Agree that the calculations are disingenuous. I'm a postdoc who recently won the lottery and secured a great position at a great place, so my complaints aren't coming from a place of mild desperation anymore. The pay really is too low. There's no way I'm paying my postdocs only $40k, and, yes, I budgeted for that in my startup.

    Most people here say something like, "The pay's all right--the problem is job uncertainty." The pay needs to compensate for the job uncertainty. Otherwise, risk-averse people (e.g., those planning families) and people without parents or significant others to support them will not see science as a viable career path. We're talking about roughly 10 years (PhD + postdoc) of time *not* saving appreciably for retirement, when it's unclear if a Great Retooling and career switch might have to occur at the end. If you're on a training fellowship, you literally can't save because you're not employed, and years of your work (and it is work) don't count toward Social Security. If you graduated several decades ago, not saving didn't pose the same risk that it does today.

    All the factors I mentioned affect women disproportionately. They're more apt to be thinking ahead about families; there was some report that measured this among single postdocs, and women were clearly more concerned than men. They're also more apt to be partnered with someone who is also not earning much in academia.

    It would be very interesting to do a survey testing people's goals and financial knowledge as they start undergrad, pick a major, decide whether to enter grad school, defend, etc. My impression is that scientists are among the least versed in personal finance, and I worry that a lot of the "But I can live fine now" comments come from a place of having no clue of how much they need to save. As others have mentioned, the fact that many other people in the U.S. seem to get by with less (and we can't call it much more than "getting by" at this point) doesn't imply that science is a remotely rational career choice from a financial perspective. There are too many biomed scientists for the positions available, yes, and hopefully people will begin their careers with full knowledge of the uncertainty--but we need to think about the way the low pay affects the kind of people who make it through the pipeline. A more humane solution that has been discussed on other threads is to limit the number of entrants, perhaps by raising salaries and available slots.

    "Some profs at high falutin R1 Universities who head up a top graduate program in their field continue to insist as recently as, well right now, that *their* grads are going to be just fine because they are such an awesome program."

    I came from one of these environments as an undergrad, and it continues to churn out trainees. This amounts to a lot of people with snowflake status. Even my econ prof was encouraging biomed, back in the NIH funding boom. I thought I was NSF track anyway and "safe."

    Finally, please note that many of the people from these environments are very aware what the bleeding edge career options are, and that's partly why pay seems extremely low. Approximately 40% of my class went into finance, and most who went are still there. Many others are MDs, lawyers, and in tech. I think their salaries can be more unjustified than scientists', but the dramatic differences are still plain at reunions.

  • arrzey says:

    Postdoc - much of what you say is true. BUT... the other options you mention are MUCH harder for women, especially single moms. Unless you have outside funding, the hours for medical residents, new associates in law firms, engineers, and most business people are far worse than those for a postdoc, with much less flexibility.

  • miko says:

    "But PIs and institutions need to be (and some truly are) invested in our careers, not just data cranking."

    I've never heard of this ever. At least not beyond lip service.

    @dr_mho: mostly what DM said.

    Another thread where I highlighted phd marketing material.

    http://scientopia.org/blogs/drugmonkey/2012/07/05/alternate-careers-is-just-the-next-exploitation-strategy/#comment-31542

    http://scientopia.org/blogs/drugmonkey/2012/07/05/alternate-careers-is-just-the-next-exploitation-strategy/#comment-31548

    http://scientopia.org/blogs/drugmonkey/2012/07/05/alternate-careers-is-just-the-next-exploitation-strategy/#comment-31581

    And that's the stuff that vetted. Imagine what they say when they've got kids in a a room with free Pepsi.

  • postdoc says:

    I'm not sure which professions are viable for single moms. That seems really hard without family help (e.g., to provide childcare), unless the mother is already quite established.

    I disagree that it's harder to be a partnered mom in the other professions. Many of my friends and family are medical residents, students, and attendings, so my impression is just anecdata. The hours are awful for a few years (though I know a few who had kids anyway), but afterward, they all have very secure, high-paying jobs. Many participate in loan forgiveness, and the income-based repayment plans are a small dent in their high salaries. That kind of security, including the very scheduled career progression, allows a lot of planning and optimization. I suspect these factors partially explain why medicine is getting increasingly dominated by women. Law is now bad, but there the money can compensate a little for the lost time. I suspect the hours put in by many postdocs and grad students are comparable with what associates invest, but they don't come close to the same total compensation.

    More broadly, there's the question of what kind of career path we want science to be. Currently, it needs to be understood as a very risky, extremely competitive, entrepreneurial activity. It might differ in fields with more options to slide into industry. For men and women, it's a *great* path if you have alternative means of supporting yourself and don't mind a big lateral move after a decade.

  • www says:

    "$23.5K/year in a program which takes 6-7 years to complete and i am contractually obligated to NOT have an outside job. "

    I am sorry, but what kind of place prevents you from having an outside job? I have never heard of this type of contract for graduate students. For international students, the visa status prevents them from working anywhere outside the university and within the university they can only work 20 hours (on paper) as the rest is supposed to be for coursework (again, on paper). However, I have never heard of anything resembling the restriction you mention applying to US nationals, who can moonlight at McDonald's or pump gas or whatever.

    This is not to say that student stipends should not be higher, but technically a student costs about $50K (in the physical sciences) of real money on a grant budget. Then the institutional overhead and tuition and fringe benefits (at RA rate) are skimmed off. At my place, if the student were to pay his/her own way, the tuition and health insurance alone would require them to earn more than $50K somewhere if they wanted to take home $20K or so after paying for education.

  • whimple says:

    I am sorry, but what kind of place prevents you from having an outside job?
    I have seen this several places. I think the idea is for students to spend evenings/weekends in the lab rather than moonlighting. To use NIH-speak, when you sign up for grad school you are contracted for 100% effort.

  • crystaldoc says:

    At my institution biomed PhD students have recently agitated for and won the right to take on outside employment. This is extremely misguided and short-sighted IMO. With the competition so tight for good PhD jobs after graduation or after postdoc, they would be foolish not to give their success in grad school (as measured by most/best publications and best references from advisors) their full effort and energy. How will they be able to compete for future jobs against the other serious and smart PhD grads who *did* give it their 100% effort? Is a little bit of extra income from waitressing or whatever really going to pay off in the longer term? I wouldn't think so.

    Oh, and those poor PhD students are getting a 28K stipend, which puts them in the 65th income percentile for U.S. taxpayers filing as single and 57th percentile for U.S. taxpayers filing as head-of-household with dependents. Not exactly poverty. Not exactly a bum deal considering they are getting the degree out of the bargain, as well.

  • anonymouse says:

    "How will they be able to compete for future jobs against the other serious and smart PhD grads who *did* give it their 100% effort?"

    I did 10 hours per week of non-edifying work throughout my postdoc while on a federal fellowship that forbade such activities. I managed to land a real TT job not giving "100%" (whatever that means), but it was lousy. Even with this extra cash, I still qualify for low-income housing.

  • miko says:

    "Stop whining about your salary."

    I think what's becoming increasingly clear is that most AREN'T whining about their salary, they are whining about their miserable, historically low career prospects. Also, their institution's (and often PI's) indifference to these issues and gleeful participation in perpetuating the pipeline problem.

  • anonymouse says:

    not to put too fine a point on it, but it's not possible to give 100% if you're worried about long-term financial solvency and actually realistic about job prospects

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "For men and women, it's a *great* path if you have alternative means of supporting yourself and don't mind a big lateral move after a decade."

    This is an important point. Medicine is among the VERY few lines of work where there is what another poster called a "logical career progression." For *most* people who complete law school that is not the case, nor is it the case in almost any other field. Indeed, most Americans change careers several times in their lives. The career track in medicine is almost unique, and a great many doctors are overpaid (compare US versus Euro physician compensation), which is *entirely* why med school admission is so competitive.

    One can, of course, make a lot more money in the lucrative financial services industry. I imagine the same is true if one works in the lucrative human trafficking sector.

  • GMP says:

    I don't understand this, shaking your fist at the world for not guaranteeing you a comfortable future. Graduate school is not indentured servitude. You don't have to do it. You can cut your losses, leave, do something else. Smart people could go for an MD, JD, DDS, whatever.

    I was in year 4 of the PhD in my home country when I realized life was only going to suck more if I stayed, I would not be able to leave and get a good job elsewhere in the world with a PhD from my tiny country, and I had gotten really sick of my then boyfriend. So I decided to drop everything and start over in the US, but worried about the wasted time. One of my advisors rolled his eyes at me and said "Pish... I wish I had only wasted 4 years of my life..."

    I took the tests, emigrated, and started a new PhD in the US in a different discipline. Sure, wasted some time at first PhD, but made up for it by being fast and productive at the new place.

    You don't have to stick with things that don't work. You can leave grad school, or postdoc. You can start over. Choices have consequences, and you make one that doesn't work for you -- I'd much rather cut losses and get out early than stick with it just to see it through to the end.

  • miko says:

    "I don't understand this, shaking your fist at the world for not guaranteeing you a comfortable future."

    Who did that?

  • zb says:

    "I think what's becoming increasingly clear is that most AREN'T whining about their salary, they are whining about their miserable, historically low career prospects. Also, their institution's (and often PI's) indifference to these issues and gleeful participation in perpetuating the pipeline problem."

    But, the two are not independent problems. "Low" graduate/post-doc salaries (and it is valid to consider low compared to what) were justified as training/internship salaries (for which they are quite generous) with employment at the end of the training. If employment is now available only to a few, either the value of that employment has to be so phenomenal (professional athletes, actors, . . . .) or the work should be better compensated. Now, it's possible that the value of scientific work to the employees is worth the tournament (i.e. the opportunity to be creative and paid in science is worth the same as a million+ dollar salary in sports or acting, with slightly better odds).

    And, the pipeline can be effectively limited by increasing the salaries; in fact, admonitions are a poor way, while raising NIH training salaries and not increasing the NIH budget will very effectively decrease the size of the pipeline.

  • Alex says:

    It is no surprise to me that grad student pay has gone up as the prospects for stable, independent academic research careers have gone down. Higher pay will do nothing to brake interest in PhDs on the student side, but it might eventually push institutions to train fewer students.

  • Michelle says:

    Childcare costs us $1,350/month, which means every after-tax penny of my grad student stipend (and more!) goes to childcare.

    I guess it's my fault for being a woman of child-bearing age trying to get a degree in physics.

  • miko says:

    zb - agreed. Talking about increasing the cost of trainees to PIs as a way of limiting the # of PhDs is good. It is very different from "whining" that you don't make as much money as you deserve, which is how this discussion is often characterized.

    My preference would be to professionalize doctoral, non-PI researchers rather than continue the delusion that postdoctoring is "training" for anything but an academic research career. Whatever argument can be made that earning a PhD requires the development of generalizable skills that are valued in many non-academic settings, that argument is utter bullshit with respect to postdocs.

    By "professionalizing" I mean salaries, benefits, and performance-based promotions similar to other professional-class, non-faculty university employees. These people (who do already exist, usually in wealthier labs) would cost more in compensation but in principle be a much more efficient use of public resources to produce scientific output (which should be of interest to the NIH). Many PhD students produce nothing of value, or produce it much more slowly and less effectively.

    The costs of maintaining a large number of low-output trainees who will never become scientists using public money that is specifically earmarked for biomedical research is a waste. Even assuming this "training" is useful outside academic, should the NIH be funding the "training" of private sector management consultants? Quant traders? The NIH should be seeking ways to use its budget efficiently -- are underskilled researchers we don't even need trained a good use of public funds?

  • Dave says:

    God, what a fucking depressing time for scientific research.

  • drugmonkey says:

    God, what a fucking depressing time for scientific research.

    We have been getting some data recently that is very exciting to me.....shrug.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "Childcare costs us $1,350/month, which means every after-tax penny of my grad student stipend (and more!) goes to childcare."

    Which is unique to academic science... how?

    But, hey, we decided not to have kids long ago.

    My partner and I knew we were going into demanding, high-risk, poorly-compensated public service careers. We knew that both time and money would be limiting, and saw little point to having kids if they were mostly going to be raised by paid surrogates.

    We also looked around, and concluded that the planet was/is *not* suffering from a shortage of fat, happy, high-carbon-footprint first world babies.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    How's that for lobbing a rhetorical grenade, DM?

  • postdoc says:

    "My partner and I knew we were going into demanding, high-risk, poorly-compensated public service careers. We knew that both time and money would be limiting, and saw little point to having kids if they were mostly going to be raised by paid surrogates.

    We also looked around, and concluded that the planet was/is *not* suffering from a shortage of fat, happy, high-carbon-footprint first world babies."

    You lobbed a dud. First, it's obvious that any sustainable, long-term policy for science training should allow some amount of reproduction, albeit not at current levels. (Or do you want the eunuch thing in the Forbidden City of Fundable Truth?) Second, the fact that you adapted your life to the resources available shows laudable foresight, but that's not an argument for maintaining the status quo.

    The question, again, is what kind of people we want to make it through various stages of the pipeline. We have the choice to burn through unhappy trainees, who probably never reach efficient levels of productivity, or to invest more resources in fewer individuals. I suspect both scientists and the benefactors of science will be better off in the second situation.

    I also draw readers' attention to the CHE article noting grad students' financial concerns (#3 on the list). It's behind a paywall: http://chronicle.com/article/Colleges-Struggle-to-Respond/133699/ --I wonder how much comes from student loans.

  • drugmonkey says:

    How's that for lobbing a rhetorical grenade, DM?

    When I was growing up, changing the rate of population growth was a mainstream issue in the US, to my recollection. That all seemed to go away and now we never seem to hear any talk at all that perhaps the US should reduce birthrate*.. what happened?

    *save the occasional rightwinger** comments directed at "welfare queens" (read poor blacks, not the whites that numerically dominated the welfare rolls at the time) and, more recently, undocumented immigrants

    **really, why did the left abandon negative population growth as a theme?

  • zb says:

    I agree that the non-PI scientific work force in academia should be "professionalized." But, that goes against the trends we're seeing (less professionalization, more temporary, at will insecure employment in many fields, including academia).

    "The costs of maintaining a large number of low-output trainees who will never become scientists using public money that is specifically earmarked for biomedical research is a waste. "

    Maybe, but not necessarily, if the way the system works is that although most Ph.D trainees produce nothing of value, 1% of them produce 99% of the value of training Ph.D's, and it's difficult to determine who that 1% will be ahead of time. Then, the NIH might be making an economically efficient investment towards its goal of producing the most science for the least money. That is, if you ignore human costs. And, if the Ph.D's can be absorbed elsewhere, you can also argue that the human cost isn't too significant.

    The system fails if people stop wanting to enter the tournament (though the availability of non-Americans to enter the system skews the economic value of the tournament) or if it produces other costs (I personally, worry about the inducement to fraud, a more egregious parallel to doping in athletics -- when fraudulent science influences policy and scientific direction, it's worse, when it improves the career prospects of the fraud at the expense of the honest scientist, it is like doping) that impair the functioning of the science.

  • bill says:

    By "professionalizing" I mean salaries, benefits, and performance-based promotions similar to other professional-class, non-faculty university employees. These people [...] do already exist

    In business such positions are routine. It is a commonplace (everywhere but the rarified atmosphere of academia!) that you get what you pay for. Biotech and pharma have long since voted with their dollars that it's more efficient to pay professional scientists to do professional level work, than to create a "trainee trap" and deal with the turnover.

  • postdoc says:

    p.s. A better way to reduce your carbon footprint: Over the course of your courtship, convince a potential partner who wants n kids (n>0) to have n-1 kids. Then have them a few years late. No deception, just pressure.

  • miko says:

    bill, exactly. In a business, you don't want everyone except management to be a temp. It's just stupid. PIs should think of their labs like small businesses (within reason). But the expectations of academia and performance/grant assessment based in part on "mentorship" make this impossible.

    PIs are rewarded for producing more scientists we don't need instead of efficiently harnessing the abilities of the scientists we have.

  • miko says:

    Biotech and pharma have long since voted with their dollars that it's more efficient to pay professional scientists to do professional level work, than to create a "trainee trap" and deal with the turnover.

    Though they have the free benefit of the academic trainee trap. Law firms don't get lawyers trained with taxpayer money, they have to pay wages that allow lawyers to pay for their training.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "PIs are rewarded for producing more scientists we don't need instead of efficiently harnessing the abilities of the scientists we have."

    "the expectations of academia and performance/grant assessment based in part on "mentorship" make this impossible."

    Nope. PIs are rewarded for publishing scientific papers and obtaining grant support. If they do those things, no one gives a shit how many PhDs or Postdocs they train.

  • bill says:

    Nope. PIs are rewarded for publishing scientific papers and obtaining grant support. If they do those things, no one gives a shit how many PhDs or Postdocs they train.

    If you want to be cynical about it, PI's are rewarded for bringing in overhead money and very little else.

    But hiring and tenure committees do, or so I'm told, take note of such things as mentorship and service. Having never served on any such committees, I really don't know whether that's true or not. It's certainly true that one's CV or tenure dossier is expected to contain a lot of such material, but that may be merely a smokescreen.

  • miko says:

    I think mentoring is required by P&T committees at most places, maybe this is more varied than I think. Grants that will pay the salaries of people in your lab are explicitly for "training" (not "working"), and are in part based on past "success" and experience mentoring. How is that not an incentive to hire trainees?

  • Virgil says:

    Something that falls out from these numbers (in my opinion), is choosing to go to grad' school doesn't seem to be the harsh economic decision that it used to be. Is today's relative ease of the grad' school financial situation in part responsible for the glut of trainees we keep hearing about?

    FTR, when I was a lad getting my PhD ('93-97), grad' school stipends in the UK were about GBP4500, or $8k using historical exchange rates (the lucky few on Wellcome grants got GBP7k). This was payable in 3 intallments timed with the academic calendar. First (when the check cleared about 3 weeks late) you'd pay the rent, then do a big grocery shopping trip (bulk rice and pasta), and finally panic about how you're going to survive the next 4 months on 300 quid. Working evenings/weekends to supplement income was a given. Absolutely no way to afford a car. Eating out (chinese buffet) a luxury maybe once a month. Clothes and books from second-hand shops. Maybe a couple 'phone calls a week from a payphone. The lucky few had a TV, but could not afford the compulsory UK TV license fee. One person I knew had a playstation. On very rare occasions was taking the bus a luxury, as opposed to walking or biking year-round. Trips home were via the cheapest route possible (typically coach) maybe twice a year. Also stupid stuff like having to wait for a security deposit to clear on one rental property before you can take out a new lease for the next academic year. When I finally got out of grad' school I racked up a huge credit card bill just in the 2 months between getting the job and my 1st "real" paycheck - moving expenses, deposits, utility set ups etc. Here's another one - going to the supermarket and buying a pack of gum, to get 10 quid cashback because the debit card would release the funds 2 days before the ATM would give you any cash. All this stuff is just basic daily shit that poor people deal with. I just don't see much of this with grad' students today.

    Oh but you have student loans to pay off?
    Boo-frickin'-hoo.

  • Dave says:

    "In a business, you don't want everyone except management to be a temp. It's just stupid. PIs should think of their labs like small businesses (within reason)."

    I have mentioned before that our division operates much like this, where there is a shared attempt to get everyone's salary covered. We have fairly regular meetings where we discuss our divisions salary load and discuss what we need to do to address it. We have quite a large division and a huge wage bill. Unaccounted for faculty salaries were about 25% of our total costs two years ago (too much), so as a division we went after some large pharma grants (investigator initiated) and landed most of them. Everyone who needed help with salary got chunks on these grants and it has taken the pressure off. In the meantime, a lot of our faculty were able to get more RO1s and other smaller grants.

    We try and do this away from the prying eyes of the upper med-school admin and, so-far, it seems to be working. I think it has kind of happened by accident and necessity, rather than it being a well thought out plan. Of course, there is the problem of people not pulling their weight, but recently it has kept us very much afloat.

  • bill says:

    @Virgil: Oh, you had it slightly rough for a couple years in grad school? Boo-frickin'-hoo.

    See how that works?

  • becca says:

    Virgil- you got a job 2 months after graduation? You had the TIME to work extra jobs AND go home TWICE in a year??? You got out in HOW many years (not stated, but implied from the UK bit)?
    The baby Jesus is just sobbing for you. Just sobbing. Because you didn't have a car.

  • [...] recent comment from Spiny Norman waxes unimpressed with child-care cost complaints of those in the academic pipeline. My partner and I knew we were [...]

  • Lady Day says:

    I agree with DM's original post. Yes, there's job uncertainty, just like for most people who aren't in our field (except physicians and engineers, of course), but one big difference is that we come out of grad school (with pay, no grad school student loans, and health insurance coverage) with degrees.

    I feel most sorry for the the humanities grad students. Unless on scholarship, they work full time to make ends meet, while also doing their dissertation research. Sometimes, they don't even get health insurance coverage from their employers. Then, they come out of their programs with even more abysmal job prospects than science PhDs.

  • Virgil says:

    Becca - by "job" I was referring to a post-doc. Regarding how long it took to get out, the UK government cut the stipend at 3 years, but like most people I used the full 3 to do experiments, then wrote my thesis on zero stipend (writing by day, working to pay 100% of living expenses by night). So yeah, I got out in 3.5 years, bite me!

  • Juniper Shoemaker says:

    Okay, I admit that I couldn't help cracking jokes when eRA Commons gave me "$1trainee" as an example password on the day I created my account. I agree with you on this issue, though. The economy sucks. There are crazy-bad things happening in the world. Competition for jobs is growing ever fiercer in all fields. Trainees funded by NIH/NSF have many opportunities that a lot of other people don't. Opportunities aren't guarantees, but they are better than nothing-- especially in times like these.

    For what it's worth, I, as a graduate student, am much more worried right now about things like future job opportunities and lab safety/best practices issues than I am about my stipend. I make less than the stipend amounts you quote above, but I've never resented that because my tuition is paid for.

  • arrzey says:

    LadyDay - "Yes, there's job uncertainty, just like for most people who aren't in our field (except physicians and engineers, of course), " -
    Not true for engineers any more. Depends on the sub-field, of course.

  • anonymous says:

    @Juniper: You make an interesting point about tuition, and I think it might suggest a bit of the divergent views here. In some grad programs in the U.S., there's a very clear pre-candidacy period where one takes a ton of classes. In my (U.S.) grad program, I think I took three classes total in five years. Two were jokes... grad-student seminars where we chatted about papers and the prof was clearly ill-prepared. We were actively discouraged from doing most things that weren't research, so it felt a lot more like work the whole time. This was a top program in the field, too.

    I agree you get what you pay for. I hate that this is true, but I'm sure I would've worked harder if I felt like I was more of an investment and less cheap labor.

  • Anders says:

    "Most?

    As in, "the calculated median salary is >$50k US a year," or anecdotally, as in "I have 3 friends and two of them make that much?"

    Big difference."

    The median salary is 45 000 USD.

  • Dave says:

    @Virgil - I did my PhD in the UK on a BBSRC fellowship and I was getting 12,000 GBP a year in 2007. The lifestyle that you describe is not that different from what I experienced, but I am certainly not complaining. It was a great period of my life.

    I finished mine in 3 years flat so that I did not run out of funding!!! I was 25 when I was all done.

  • Jonathan says:

    Virgil - where were you a PhD student? I was at Imperial from 98-2002 and rather badly paid at £12k pa (other students in the same group were on £15k pa). And since you certainly went to university during the days when everyone got a grant on top of not having to pay fees, all told you probably came out ahead.

    I took an extra three months to finish up, but thankfully my mentor had the money to keep paying me.

  • Lady Day says:

    @arrzey: yes, you're right. I have to keep reminding myself that not all engineers are paid equally, but most of the engineers I personally know (I think I know at least one representative in each subfield) are getting great salaries and benefits with only a Bachelors, even with degrees from institutions that aren't highly ranked in engineering. For instance, I know one female engineer in her mid-30's who just got a job (in the oil industry, though) that pays well over $100/hour, and she only has a Bachelors....

    Other folks who get decent pay + benefits with much less training and relative job security, to boot, are nurse anesthetists, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants....

    Anyway, I don't think we scientists get the worst deal. In fact, outside of the lack of job security, I don't see any reason to complain. I love what I do and couldn't see myself doing anything else. I consider myself extremely lucky and privileged to be able to sustain myself in a job that I am passionate about. I suppose it's a matter of priorities, in some sense. Realistically, we can't expect a better funding climate in the short term, thanks to all the noise some folks are making about the deficit (without even wanting to consider cuts to our defense budget). So, we get to choose: rake in the money doing something you may not care particularly much about, or push through on a modest income until things improve, either nationally or personally.

  • drugmonkey says:

    LD,

    When I think what sequestration might accomplish with the DOD budget it makes me almost willing to tolerate what it would do to the NIH.

  • [...] had a post on postdoc salary that generated considerable blogorhhia. One of the comments from Spiny Normal [...]

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "The median salary [for Swedish grad students] is 45 000 USD."

    That's quite astonishing. Anybody have comparable numbers for other countries, especially in the Eurozone?

  • bill says:

    The median salary [for Swedish grad students] is 45 000 USD.

    Wow. That brings a number of questions to mind:

    What about medians for postdocs, assist/assoc/full professors? What are the job prospects for these quite well-paid grad students? Is there a time limit on the stipend (e.g. does it stop after three years whether you have graduated or not)?

    And last but not least, how long does it take to learn Swedish?...

  • Lady Day says:

    @ DM: I highly doubt that the DoD will see cuts. Perhaps I'm just a bit cynical, but usually what happens is that new propaganda about a "looming national threat" comes along just in the nick of time to enforce the notion that our DoD budget should be *increased,* never mind the decrease. So, I'll only believe the cuts if and when they happen. Unfortunately, the NIH doesn't have such an important role in "national security," so it's far more likely to see cuts.

    Oh, for everyone keeping up the tally of more reliable, better paying jobs, let's also not forget that dentists and pharmacists make pretty decent pay + benefits for the time they put in their respective training programs. Lots of loan repayment options for pharmacists, as well as physicians, according to those friends of mine who chose such careers.

  • Lady Day says:

    @ Bill: two words for ya about Sweden: income taxes.

  • Lady Day says:

    Oh, and not that I have any problem with income taxes, but the pay in Sweden likely is that high because a good portion of it goes into income tax.

  • bill says:

    If you're going to talk about tax rates, you also have to compare what citizens get for their taxes. In Sweden, for instance, childcare, healthcare and education are free or heavily subsidized (at least for citizens, in the case of education). In the US, er, not so much.

  • Lady Day says:

    @ bill: yes. And that is an important difference to note. Our taxes go toward bombing and killing other people in other countries. I'm not opposed to income or any tax, if those taxes go toward domestic spending on social programs, education, and science.

    Our recent military forays overseas were meant to help boost defense spending, among other things. The Clinton years saw a relative low point in defense spending (while the NIH saw historic increases in its budget) that made our defense industry quite upset, says a friend of mine who used to work in defense.

  • Virgil says:

    @ Dave & Jonathan
    I recall toward the end on my PhD some fuss about increasing stipends for all UK grad' students, to avoid the double-standard that was established by the Wellcome foundation fellowships... i.e., two students working alongside each other but one earning ~50% more than the other. That ruffled a few feathers back in the day, but your numbers seem to suggest it went through, to the benefit of everyone. I was at Cambridge - no London weighting, which is a pity because being less than an hour from London by train, it became a bedroom community for London workers in the mid 1990s, with the astronomical property and other prices that accompany such status.

  • Juniper Shoemaker says:

    @anonymous:

    In my (U.S.) grad program, I think I took three classes total in five years. Two were jokes... grad-student seminars where we chatted about papers and the prof was clearly ill-prepared. We were actively discouraged from doing most things that weren't research

    Yeah, I'd be pretty frustrated, too, if that were my situation. It is easy to be grateful for free tuition when one's allowed to make use of it.

    Only three required classes in a U.S. PhD program? That surprises me. Do you mind if I ask if you ever tried to take additional classes? By "actively discouraged", do you mean that your program forbid you outright from taking additional classes? Did any of the grad students complain?

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Someone else wrote: "But PIs and institutions need to be (and some truly are) invested in our careers, not just data cranking."

    And Miko replied: "I've never heard of this ever. At least not beyond lip service."

    My undergrad, grad, and postdoc advisors were all invested in my career. In each case a point of pride was that their trainees had done really well in their subsequent lives.

    But then, I have been careful about who I chose to work for. That's a fundamentally important thing to do whether you're in the private sector or the public sector, in academia or in industry. If you're any good at all, you can choose who you will work for. Don't choose to work for assholes.

  • bill says:

    If you're any good at all, you can choose who you will work for.

    Bullshit. That's like saying if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?

    If you're any good at all, you can make it to PI.
    If you're any good at all, you can demand a higher postdoc salary.

    etc etc.

    I repeat: bullshit. "Try not to work for assholes" is good advice. "If only you were as smart as me you wouldn't have to work for assholes" is self-congratulatory nonsense.

  • miko says:

    SN, I should clarify... my mentors have been invested in my career as a research scientist. That comment was in the context of how part of mentoring should be to help people find an attainable, satisfying career that doesn't make their 10 years of training feel like a waste, given that "academic research scientist" is off the table for most.

    It is not even that they wouldn't want to help, it's that PIs (and institutions) have no clue how to help. How would they? The vast majority have never spent a day outside academia and are proud of it. PIs have very limited, very specialized career skills and advice to offer.

    I had choices of labs at both stages, and I chose the ones I did because I was interested in the science and I liked the PIs. Both happened to be junior faculty. I realize now this was stupid, because although I'm at a prestigious postdoc institution, I've discovered that job market pedigree is about PI, not institution.

  • Lady Day says:

    I have to agree with bill's response to SN. It is extremely difficult to choose a PI mentor who will be invested in one's career. The only way to do so is to know the PIs well before joining their labs.

    Also, just to help drive the point home a little more, 3 more anecdata for folks to contemplate:

    1.) an MD friend who is slated to be a hospitalist with a starting salary of $250 K. Her student loans equal about as much, but the job offers not only good starting salary and benefits and stability, but also a nice loan repayment program.

    2.) a pharmacist friend who, a few years after obtaining her degree, now earns $120 K + excellent benefits + job security, has almost finished paying off her loans, in part because her current workplace also offers a loan repayment program.

    3.) a peer who graduated with his MD/PhD (read: free education + living stipend and health insurance equivalent to that offered for PhD students, and the extra benefit of getting a timely exit to a PhD), finished his training and now does botox in LA. Never went on in research because the pay and job security weren't there. Botox offers job security and better pay.

    Thinking about this some more, I often wonder why we aren't pushing for our tax dollars to go toward opening up more government research labs? We have all of these PhDs trained on the dime of the NIH and NSF that don't end up using their hard-earned degrees for research.

  • Dave says:

    @Virgil: Looking at the current BBSRC studentships, it seems there are around 13 - 14K GBP so they have not gone up that much since I finished. I remember toward the end of my PhD seeing British Heart Foundation studentships for low 20K and some Wellcome fellowships for even more than this. I was at Nottingham and we had students on a range of stipends, some getting more than others. Nobody really cared all that much about it since the student really had little to do with which organization was funding their research after they were applied and were selected.

    Don't forget that these stipends were tax-free so it was not uncommon to take a pay-cut once you started a post-doc. This is a big problem in the UK and why a lot of talented students seek positions outside the country after their training.

  • drugmonkey says:

    LD-

    Like opening up NIH Intramural campuses elsewhere? What model? It is already spread around a bit...Baltimore has intramural labs I think. How about a Janelia Farms style outpost in North Dakota?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Or go to a biotech hub and wait for the collapse of a couple of larger ones, grab the real estate for cheap?

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "I have to agree with bill's response to SN. It is extremely difficult to choose a PI mentor who will be invested in one's career. The only way to do so is to know the PIs well before joining their labs."

    The passivity, infantilization, and lack of initiative here is simply astonishing. Mentors have other current and former trainees. Most programs have rotations. If you can't figure out that someone is a jerk after THREE MONTHS in their lab, you simply are not paying attention.

    Before I accepted a job from my Postdoc advisor I cold-called three of the lab's alumni and asked them about their experience in the lab. They were incredibly open and forthright, accurately describing the lab's strengths and weaknesses.

    And of course I had backup plans in case it didn't work out.

    It's your life. If you don't take some responsibility for it, who will?

  • Lady Day says:

    @SN: Rotations are for graduate students. Yes, I can agree with you, somewhat, on your point about rotations.

    Regarding finding postdoc mentors: you're assuming that everyone can just find contact information for mentees/former mentees of PIs. I joined my postdoc lab (no longer a postdoc, BTW) after only meeting the PI once. I was moving to a new state because my husband had a job there. Anyway, I got the position because my salary was covered by a T32 and my postdoc mentor had the space/research funds to accommodate me. I spent more time in interview with the directors of the training grant than at the PI's lab and had no chance to meet anyone in the PI's lab during the day that I spent on campus. Also, it was impossible to find contact information for anyone in that PI's lab. It was a nice position in a lab with an internationally well-known scientist, and so I stuck it out, through thick and thin. That said, no, the PI had no interest in my career, save that I was able to get funding that covered my salary throughout my time in that lab. That was it. All in all, we still have a good relationship. I won't deny that it was an excellent opportunity to work with the PI. The PI gets an absurd number of requests from people all over the world who want to join the lab, so it really was a privilege to work in that lab....

    @DM: I'm not sure if you're just humoring me or not, but, I really would like for the NIH, or even the CDC, to open up more campuses around the country. I don't care where they are... except preferably someplace with low cost of living to accommodate families living off of government salaries (which are actually not that bad; go by government payscale, and even postdocs would be making a lot more + benefits).

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "I spent more time in interview with the directors of the training grant than at the PI's lab and had no chance to meet anyone in the PI's lab during the day that I spent on campus."

    I'm sincerely glad it seems to have worked out for you, but if a grad student told me that story I would tell him or her NOT NOT NOT to join that lab as a postdoc. Not getting to meet with the lab personnel (especially in a setting where the PI is not present) is one of the most glaring red flags one can encounter on an interview.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    @bill, I'll repeat myself: If you're any good at all, you can choose who you will work for.

    This is absolutely true, at least at the graduate and postdoctoral levels. There are plenty of jobs and if you're any good at all, you should be able to choose among multiple offers. My grad student currently on the market applied to five top labs and unsurprisingly has (at least) three offers.

    Tenure-track faculty jobs are obviously a different case, and not only for the immediately obvious reasons.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    ...and the corollary: if you aren't good and motivated enough to attract multiple postdoc offers, how do you think you'll do in the vastly more competitive market for tenure-track jobs?

  • [...] who prescribe too many antibiotics: It’s not that simple (a bit of a strawman, but interesting) Scientific trainee pay is pretty dang good right now so stop complaining (get off my lawn you damn kids! It’s correct, although the BLS adjustment doesn’t [...]

  • Lady Day says:

    @ SN: Multiple offers doesn't mean that one will also get multiple accurate glimpses into those labs. You are lucky that you got honest feedback about your postdoc lab from alumni. Not everyone will give a stranger who cold-calls them an accurate picture of their former mentor's lab.

  • Not getting to meet with the lab personnel (especially in a setting where the PI is not present) is one of the most glaring red flags one can encounter on an interview.

    True dat. When post-doc candidates visit my lab, they spend substantially more time with my current trainees than they do with me. I don't want anyone joining my lab who doesn't have a clear view of how we operate.

  • Lady Day says:

    @ SN: Also, honestly, what graduating student WON'T get multiple job offers? Putting new postdocs on T32's or other funds isn't that difficult to do, so faculty typically like getting freshly minted PhD's. It's the more experienced postdocs that may have the most trouble getting beyond their first postdoc.

    I have yet one more anecdatum for you guys to contemplate: when I wasn't even looking for a job at the time, I was offered, in my second year of postdoc, a position as a pharmaceutical sales rep for a large company looking to establish a foothold in the region in which I currently live for some of their newer drugs that were in the pipeline. I knew right away that I didn't want the job, but I asked what the compensation would be like, out of curiosity, anyway. Based on my experience in the field, I was quoted $110 K + benefits + car + computer + blackberry (it was a while ago). When I declined the offer, the headhunter was shocked. In fact, most people I have told about the incident are shocked when I tell them that I turned down the offer. However, I really love research, and, frankly, those jobs aren't always the most secure.

    It says a lot about us as a society that our pharmaceutical sales reps make so much more than our trainees.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "Not everyone will give a stranger who cold-calls them an accurate picture of their former mentor's lab."

    I think you under-estimate people's willingness to dish.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "It says a lot about us as a society that our pharmaceutical sales reps make so much more than our trainees."

    Sure it does. It says that you don't have to pay people as much to take a job where you work on the most important project in human history (the advancement of scientific knowledge) than you have to pay them to push overpriced drugs that still happen to be under patent versus cheaper generics that are often just as good or better.

    Supply? Meet demand.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "Anecdatum" Oooooooh. Stealing that.

  • Lady Day says:

    @ SN: glad *someone* appreciates my choice of words. Just discovered that "anecdata" has an entry in Urban Dictionary, so I can't claim the rights to it. However, I invented "Toshibus Rex" as a pet name for my old computer. Feel free to use that phrase, too. : )

  • whimple says:

    you don't have to pay people as much to take a job where you work on the most important project in human history (the advancement of scientific knowledge)...

    Wow, if only that applied to the crazy high-priced administrators as well as the people with the boots on the ground...

  • Anders says:

    When I was a Phd student in Sweden I payed about 23% income tax. If you earn more money, the income tax is (much) higher. The marginal tax can be as high as 60%. Then we have to pay 25% VAT on most stuff, but only 6% on food.

    The biggest difference is that doing a Phd in Sweden is considered as a full-time job, i.e. you are not considered to be a student. Thereby you also have 5-6 weeks of fully paid vacation. On the other hand, you normally have to do 20% teaching or other type of administrational work. Normally you need a masters degree before you can start your Phd, then it takes 4-5 years to get the Phd. It is rather uncommon to have a Phd before the age of 30. Education in Sweden is free, so there are no tuition fees for doing a masters or a Phd.

    A full professor in Sweden earns about 100 000 USD per year. So the salary difference between a Phd student and a full professor in Sweden is only a factor 2, while the difference can be a factor 10 in the US. So get the Phd in Sweden, become a professor in the US...

  • Anders says:

    Postdocs in Sweden typically earn 50 000 - 60 000 USD per year, of course depending on the subject.

    I'm going for a postdoc in the US now, and I will get a lower salary than as a Phd student. That feels really strange...

  • antistokes says:

    "until the past 5 years it was usually a 4-5 year studentship plus 1-2 years post doc then you started you're own lab.

    HAHHAHAAHAHAAHAHHAHAHAAHAAHAAHAHAH!!!!!!!

    the bolded part has not been true for decades. at least in the US." (from a while up the thread, didn't read the rest as i gotta write a grant)

    Maybe for biomed, this is why I got a chemistry BA (4 years), a chemistry PhD (4.5 years) and did a postdoc in intra-operational brain tumor diagnostics (3 years). I have a better publication records than most of my biomed friends that are still in grad school (I'm 30 years old).

    My bio classes that I took for "fun" were full up, about 80-odd people in genetics/microbio/psychobiology etc. courses. Meanwhile my quantum chemistry, analytical chemistry, and physical chemistry courses had about 10 kids in them (it was a tiny liberal arts college on the west coast). I didn't care about my GPA, I cared about being "good in the lab". When I got to grad school at a huge research school on the east coast, I had the lab skills to hit the ground running. I was taking fewer courses and my GPA shot up by a whole point. I published multiple times within a few years. I got multiple offers for a postdoc at labs all over the world, and this was in 2008 when everything crashed.

    I proved I could publish in one field (biophysical chemistry), and then I proved I could publish in novel methods for brain tumor detection *independently* of my PhD adviser (I'm in a German postdoc, it's more like a staff scientist position. I am expected to design and coordinate my own projects, with co-authors that I recruit and students whose dissertations I am co-signing on, publish them, and write grants based on them. I love working with the Germans, they get mad at you if you *don't* take a vacation!)

    I noticed my adviser in grad school had a PhD in physical chemistry, but publishes and writes grants for drug discovery. So, it's PIs like him that are taking a reasonable amount of the biomed grant money. 'Cause it's easy, compared to what he used to do, and it helped to fund his smaller laser lab that I worked in. This is what good scientists tend to do: they start out in a hard field, and then make contributions to an easier one--- like physicists tend to do for the field of chemistry. Or mathematicians for physics.

    But, not everyone is me. A lot of my friends just want a stable lab tech job, they don't want to write grants and worry about editorial comments all day! I understand this, but the US science businesses have been slashing their R&D departments (and thus their scientists) since they are more focused on short-term, quarterly profits instead of sustainable, long term growth of a field. (Like killing Bell Labs.) So now the universities are picking up the slack by having longer and longer times for graduated and postdoc training.......basically, cheap lab labor......

  • drugmonkey says:

    SN-

    Total nonsense that if you are any good you can choose your graduate lab. Many, many programs get pie-eyed about undergraduate credentials. Yet many of the best scientists I know came out of liberal arts or small state college backgrounds. This means current top graduate programs are condiderably less open to "any good" students from particular undergrad institutions.

  • We accept PhD students from less prominent universities, but only if they have had substantial research experiences prior to applying (either during college or afterwards).

  • Lady Day says:

    @ DM: sorry I missed your reference to Janelia Farm. Yes - like that, but government funded. I wonder how many scientists, like me, would love to work in a collaborative research environment like that. The emphasis doesn't have to be on innovation, though. Just sound science. Build campuses in beautiful rural communities or close to wilderness - and there are plenty of places like that in this country that don't have high cost of living - and I'd be there in a heartbeat... if my significant other can find a job in the vicinity (which wouldn't be too difficult, I think).

    If folks are worried about quality of schooling for any kids they'd be bringing along with them: usually that improves when scientists/academics move into town (I've seen that happen before). Local communities would most likely benefit from this, as well.

    And, no, I'm not an urban snob - grew up spending weekdays in a small city and weekends in a more-or-less rural setting, all surrounded by vast, gorgeous wilderness. Miss it now, and would give anything to give any kids we have the same kinds of experiences I had, growing up - hiking and exploring the woods without parental supervision, visiting farms, etc.

  • Lady Day says:

    By "emphasis doesn't have to be on innovation," I mean that I'd like it if such hypothetical institute(s) *also* supported, for instance, epidemiological research that involved monitoring and reporting on effects of environmental contaminants, etc. on public health.

  • bill says:

    SN -- I'm glad for you, that you never had sick family to care for in the US, with no safety net, and had therefore to grab the first fucking job that came your way. But as to the imputation that this makes me less competent as a scientist, up yours.

    So I, too, will repeat myself: everything you said about "if you're good you can choose your job" is utter and pernicious bullshit.

    Tell me how it differs from "if you're so smart, why ain't you rich?". This bass-ackwards belief that success implies that it was deserved and so does any measure of failure is precisely why the USA is headed rapidly down the shitter today.

    Here's the thing, o gilded one: lots of times you do everything right, have all sorts of good qualities, take all the Responsibility (you're supposed to capitalize that, I think, to really go with your apparent beliefs) in the world for your own life -- and still get shat on by the system. I'm glad it hasn't happened to you, but it still pisses me off to hear you prescribing twee little aphorisms as a prescription for how everyone less fortunate should live.

  • stunning fonts you sharing and most of them are in no way seen before. thanks for sharing

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "I'm glad for you, that you never had sick family to care for in the US."

    Well, that sure as shit proves that you don't know me, at all.

  • gingerest says:

    Australian post-doc salaries are pretty sweet. Junior post-doc packages start at 69K for a project grant through NHMRC (equivalent to NIH) and ARC fellowships (which are kind of like NSF fellowships except the same mechanism funds the humanities) are funded for 67K plus 28% on-costs. Both packages include paying into superannuation (retirement) as part of the on-costs. AUD and USD are basically at parity and have been for some years.

    Mind you, there's no such thing as an Assistant Professor here. You're a post-doc and then you're an Associate Professor or a Lecturer, or you're a post-doc forever.

    I have been friends with Spiny for over 20 years (cheezus) and he's telling the truth, but I think his explanation of how everything comes together for people skilled enough and willing to make the right sacrifices is a bit Panglossian. "My partner and I decided not to have children, because there are enough children and we wanted to live within our means, which are limited because we chose to be public servants; this is the best of all possible worlds, comme Dieu le faut, so it was the best possible choice to have made. Tout est pour le mieux."

    It leaves aside the fact it's not reasonable to require that those who serve the public choose not to have a family. I am, myself, in love with the idea of the cloistered life of the scholar (we all even have the outfits - regalia are designed for unheated stone halls), but it is a highly outdated model, especially for an atheist.

  • gb says:

    Late to this, I guess, but I wanted to say briefly that humanities grad students often are paid, sometimes well. I have spent the last 5 years in a top-ranked humanities program receiving mostly fellowship funds with very little teaching; gossip suggests that we're paid less than grad students in quantitative fields, but it still feels like a shocking amount of money. My impression is that graduate study in the humanities is most often funded by TAships: not always "assistant teaching"/grading but also being the instructor of record for university service courses. Indeed, students have to do so much teaching to fund their degrees that the degrees often take close to a decade; at later stages a lot of them look for adjunct work at nearby universities, or else they moonlight. I wonder how loans came to seem like the norm, though. Maybe I've got it wrong.

  • Lady Day says:

    @ gb: I hung out with humanities grad students back when I was in grad school (also at top-ranked institution for some of the humanities departments), and there were some who were paid nice fellowships/on scholarship. However, that wasn't the case for all of the students, just a few. The rest found odd jobs, besides TA'ing, to get them through their programs. Time to graduation was extended for many of them, as you point out, because of this. Most of them took student loans (even the ones on fellowship) to help pay costs of living. And, some just came from wealthy families who helped them out., financially (like purchasing homes for the students to live in, paying for extras here and there).

    I don't mean to sound discouraging, though. My husband graduated from a humanities program (yes, we met in grad school), was able to get a tenure-track position right off the bat, and is now chair of his department (it's been less than a decade since he graduated). However, he's one of the lucky ones. Most of his friends had a hard time finding tenure-track positions. He was the only one I knew who got such a position right out of school.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "I think his explanation of how everything comes together for people skilled enough and willing to make the right sacrifices is a bit Panglossian."

    Re-read my other posts in this thread, G. My assumption was *always* that things wouldn't "come together" (in the sense of me ending up as a tenured professor), and I've *always* assumed that raw luck was a huge, even dominant factor in this game. If you start with low expectations, you're less likely to end up disappointed.

    However, there are ways to improve the odds, and there are ways to make them worse. A passive approach to choosing a grad program or a grad or postdoctoral lab is a simple way to make your odds a *lot* worse. And it's truly astonishing how passive many people are about these decisions.

    Now, with respect to kids, please understand that I know many, many successful male and female faculty who have 'em. So it's clearly possible to do so. But it's also harder, and that is true in essentially every profession.

    The question is to what extent graduate and postdoctoral salaries and programs should be expected to support expensive and time-consuming hobbies* such as motor yachts, children, and caring for sick parents. One *might* be tempted to argue that the latter two issues are not best addressed by graduate or postdoctoral training programs, and especially not through the funding mechanisms for these programs.

    Benefits are another issue. Grad students and postdocs should be getting full medical, dental, maternity leave, and some form of retirement benefit. But, then, so should *all* workers.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    *Broadly construed. I engage in only one of these "hobbies."

  • rs says:

    SN, I am surpriced how uninformed you are. Yes, all other workers, "your office secretary, janotors, IT workers, administrtors, etc. etc in the university" do get allowable benifits and leaves except graduate students and post-doc. This is ridiculous.

  • rs says:

    sorry for typos.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    "SN, I am surpriced how uninformed you are. Yes, all other workers, "your office secretary, janotors, IT workers, administrtors, etc. etc in the university" do get allowable benifits and leaves except graduate students and post-doc. This is ridiculous."

    My family has a rather long history in the American labor movement. I fucking teethed on books about the history of that movement. I still have immediate family who do labor organizing for a living. Let's just say that I am not uninformed about labor practices in the United States.

    You clearly don't know what the fuck you're talking about: For example, how systematically the custodial staff at our university have been fucked over by the private contractor that employs them. Moreover, you clearly have not spent a great deal of time in the real wold of union-busting employers, temp agencies, part-time employment, etc.

    The sort version: Some have benefits, a great many don't. Everyone should.

  • Anon says:

    I’ll be getting my PhD soon in electrical engineering – my areas of expertise are, broadly speaking, signal processing and physics/optics. Alums from my lab get postdocs at 50-65K in US unis; some get “postdocs” at national labs for even more. I am really interested in biomedical optics. I could take a 40K postdoc in a biomed lab to further my training in this area. Or I could try for a K25 (Mentored Quantitative Research Development Award) once I’m a postdoc to cover my higher salary and get the same training making 33% more money. How efficient is it for the NIH to have K25s, but at the same time, to discourage me from proceeding directly to this stage by setting salaries for biomed postdocs that are significantly lower than what others with similar skills make in their training programs?

  • gingerest says:

    "Motor yachts." Hee. I am imagining my father at the wheel of one, hospital gown flapping in the wind, IV stand with digital pumps and Foley drainage bag to the left, my training program director to the right. (BTW, since Spiny's mentioned it, bill, so I'm not violating any confidences: if there was a graduate degree in care of critically ill parents, Spiny'd have been awarded it three times over by now. His desire to be provocative and compassionless is completely at war with his own experience.)
    At some of the MRUs in the US, including the two where I trained, grad students and post-docs are (technically) organized, but the people paid from federal funds (e.g. training grants) are exempt from collective bargaining.

  • Spiny Norman says:

    Anon -- with your skill set you should seriously consider a postdoc or junior scientist position @ Janelia Farm.

  • [...] on the perennial topic of underpaid postdocs who want more money. [...]

  • Confounding says:

    So you adjusted for inflation, but not increases in cost of living?

  • drugmonkey says:

    Yep. Care to supply a rate calculator?

  • drugmonkey says:

    My jeans cost about half what they would have in grad school, btw.

    Gas is up but then I barely drove in grad school.

    I'll have to check on bulk Ramen next time I'm at the store.

    Rentals in my old grad school neighborhood...actually look similar in inflation adjusted dollars, can't access the student housing numbers though..

  • Confounding says:

    Can't find one, but I know the CPI doesn't account for food prices or fuel prices. Nor will it account for the education debt many trainees will be carrying.

    Housing is tricky - the bubble collapsing has done a number on housing prices, but they were staggeringly high a few years ago. And rent is an odd beast depending on where you live - not a big deal in some places, shockingly expensive in others. And also under pressure in some markets where people are no longer buying homes.

    I don't even necessarily disagree with you - just noting that "Stop whining, you were just spoiled as kids" based on a mediocre proxy for things cost is hardly an iron-clad argument.

    Personally, I more think the fact that scientific trainee pay *isn't* appalling, and that what we pay graduate students in the sciences counts as a decent job says more about what's happened to the rest of the country than anything else. The statement shouldn't be "You're not poor, stop complaining" as much as "Holy crap, you're *not poor*. What happened to everyone else's wages?"

    Similar to the arguments about unionized vs. non-unionized workers. Ask not to take away their benefits - ask what happened to yours.

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