I was recently contacted by a recruiter about a job opening. He caught me off-guard (mistake on my part) with the question, “What are your salary expectations?”
Like any excellent scientist would do, rather than giving him an answer, I turned his question into another question, “Well, what salary should I be expecting from this position?”
Perhaps, the most transparent of the various job sectors for salary information is the federal government. Here is the salary information I have found online and from talking to colleagues at the NIH:
In a federal government job posting on USAjobs.gov, the “Series & Grade” for the position are usually listed. Scientists are generally in the 601 series. The grade is on the General Schedule (GS), which dictates the salaries of federal career employees. In this GS system, there are 15 “grades,” with 1 being the lowest and 15 being the highest. There are 10 “steps” within each grade. The pay within each of these grades and steps may differ by location to adjust for the cost of living.
Positions that are appointed by the GS system require US citizenship. A new PhD graduate is expected to be in Grade 11. One year of post-PhD specialized experience places the employee at Grade 12. Those who have one year of specialized experience equivalent to functions at Grade 12 may possibly come in at Grade 13. Most new employees are hired at Step 1 of the applicable grade. Within-grade step increases are then based on performance and time.
An example of the GS pay scale for the Washington DC area for 2011 can be found here: www.opm.gov/oca/11tables/pdf/DCB.pdf
Some scientific positions use the Title 42 pay structure, which is considered “administratively determined.” Title 42 is the part of the US Code of Federal Regulations that deals with public health, social welfare, and civil rights. For example, Title 42 is a flexible hiring mechanism that allows the NIH to attract and retain staff with outstanding scientific, technical and clinical skills.
Title 42 positions have no citizenship requirements. This is usually used to hire temporary employees for indefinite appointments, usually scientists, clinicians, and individuals with certain technical skills. At the NIH, these positions may include Research Fellows, Staff Scientists, Investigators, and Senior Investigators.
An example of the Title 42 pay structure can be found here: sourcebook.od.nih.gov/personnel-appt/2009_T42-Pay_Ranges%20FINAL.pdf
Stipend information for postdoctoral fellows can be found here:oma.od.nih.gov/manualchapters/person/2300-320-7/Appendices/PD11.PDF
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the U.S. Government.
Wenny Lin, PhD, MPH, is a fellow in the Cancer Prevention Fellowship Program at the National Cancer Institute. Prior to joining the Nutritional Epidemiology Branch in the Division of Cancer Epidemiology & Genetics, Wenny earned her MPH from the Harvard School of Public Health in 2009 and her PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology from the University of Pennsylvania in 2008.