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I recently received a 1st-year physics postdoc fellowship offer at a university in Canada for two to three years. The annual salary is 55,000 CAD (44,000 in USD). I haven’t worked in North America at all. I was just wondering how good this salary is.

I vaguely remember some new law-enforced minimum postdoc salary of 47,000 USD in the US. Does it mean it’s not that good? Any information will be greatly appreciated.

  • This question is not about academia, it is about salaries and living abroad. Consider moving it to expatriates.stackexchange.com – Dmitry Savostyanov Feb 7 '18 at 8:56
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    @DmitrySavostyanov, On the contrary, the Academia SE community is probably better able to answer this question than the generic Expatriates SE community. As you can see, we have several appropriate tags for this kind of question. That said, there's no harm in double posting the question in both communities. – Tripartio Feb 7 '18 at 9:14
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    If I remember correctly, there were some lawsuits in the US about whether postdocs are entitled to overtime pay or not, which apparently depends on the base salay. Perhaps that is what OP is remembering. I was in California at the time, so I am not sure if this only relates to California or not. – Pieter Naaijkens Feb 7 '18 at 9:37
  • As I'm not in physics, but in biology, I won't make this an official answer: I think it is good, depending on which city you are in. Remember that the cost of life vary widly between USA and Canada, and among Canadian cities... – Emilie Feb 7 '18 at 13:53
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    @Tripartio Thank you, I retracted my vote to close. – Dmitry Savostyanov Feb 7 '18 at 17:54
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There are at least two aspects of your question: is $55000 good for a physics postdoctoral fellowship in Canada; and is $55000 a decent salary to live on in Canada (regardless of profession)? I will answer based on my past experience as a business professor in Montreal (though I will tailor my answer for physics). Right off the bat, though, I will note that your question has nothing to do with the United States, since cost of living issues vary widely not only between adjacent countries but even between cities in the same country. (Actually, I have lived in several different cities in both countries.) I will only answer for Canada.

Is $55000 good for a physics postdoctoral fellowship in Canada? A good point of comparison is the amount of the fellowship awards granted by NSERC (Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada), which is the government agency that grants postdoctoral fellowships in physics, among other fields. Here are two key points of comparison:

  • The most frequent amount that NSERC awards is for their standard Postdoctoral Fellowships Program. This should be considered "good", since that would be the standard point of comparison if a university were to fund its own program without a government grant. This amount is $45000. Although universities might pay someone less than this amount, the NSERC award amount is considered a benchmark.

  • An excellent amount is the one that NSERC awards for the extremely competitive Banting Postdoctoral Fellowships Program. This program awarded 23 fellowships in the last year (not in physics, but in all science and engineering fields). You would almost never see any university fund a postdoctoral fellow that amount, or anywhere near it, unless the recipient is a Banting Fellow. This amount is $70000.

Based on this, I would consider that, YES, $55000 is very good for a physics postdoctoral fellowship in Canada funded directly by a university.

But, is $55000 a decent salary to live on in Canada (regardless of profession)? This is a cost of living question. My best source for such information is Numbeo, which lets you compare cost of living city by city, which is the most meaningful comparison. I used it a couple years ago when I moved from Montreal to Paris, and I found its estimates to be very accurate and extremely helpful in my financial decisions and negotiations.

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