There is very little information available on how much postdocs are actually paid in the U.S., beyond data on institutional salary policies gathered by the National Postdoctoral Association. Following on from recent discussions about postdoc salaries changing as a result of proposed updates to U.S. Federal labor law, we have gathered data from a selection of institutions through Freedom of Information Requests, asking only for titles and salaries of postdocs, to see if we can identify actual postdoctoral salaries. The aggregate data, and more information, can be found at out “Investigating Postdoc Salaries” Resource. Every day, we will be releasing a discussion of each individual institution or system from which we received data. Today: the Michigan State University.


Cost for FOIA Request: $0

Additional notes: None


Michigan State University is one of the institutions that cancelled salary raises for postdocs after the injunction against the updates to the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However they issued a memo from the Office of the Provost on December 21st 2016 stating that salaries for postdocs (which they call “Research Associates”) would change in the following way (it is not clear what AN/AY stand for):


“Currently, MSU’s minimum salary for Research Associates is $39,010 (AN) / $31,918 (AY). Going forward, I am raising the minimum salary for all Research Associates to $42,500 (AN) / $34,772 (AY). Additionally, we intend to raise all Research Associate salaries to $47,484 by July 2018.”


Michigan State is part of the Big Ten Conference, which was heavily represented in institutions who initially cancelled postdoc salary raises (several have since reversed that decision). We know from discussions with members of the Conference that the Big Ten is one of the more organized and coordinated institutional groups, and the swift response of members of this group to the injunction suggests there may have been some coordination.


We featured interviews with postdocs at Michigan State in our blog post series on reactions to the “FLSA fiasco”. Some even claimed that the affair had left them with the desire to leave academia all together.


The data received from MSU appears to be of a high standard – the number of salaries received very closely matched the NSF’s data on postdoc numbers, and the salaries were at least $31,000, which we take to mean that all the salaries are actual annual salaries. 226 out of 469 postdocs were at salaries below $47,476 as Dec 1st 2016. While the salaries for “Senior Research Associates” do tend to be higher than those for “Research Associates”, the ranges do overlap broadly. “Research Associate” salaries range from $31,000 to $79969.68; “Senior Research Associate” salaries range from $37,874 to $99184.83.