The F32 pays for my salary, and my benefits. This is going to be more than 58,500 dollars that my boss saves per year, for the next 3 years. That is a lot of money.

I think it is only right that I ask my boss for more money on top. She has 1 large non federal grant. And since she is relatively new, she still has start-up funds. NIH stipulates that the F32 can be supplemented with more money, given the money is not from a federal grant.

To start, i want to ask for an additional $15,000 per year.

Have any tips for me?

Thank you!

Update: I talked to my boss a 2nd time. She said supplemental funds were really rare and that she could not justify it. But she said she would give me retirement benefits starting July 1, 2019 (start of fiscal year). At this university, that amounts to 14%. I am relatively happy. My salary is going from 47.5k to 50.3k thanks to the NIH, and I do not have to pay FICA. This is an increase of almost 6,000 dollars from 2018 to 2019, not including retirement benefits. With retirement benefits, that is another 7,000 per year, approx.

I won't be able to get another car, but I'll be able to repair my clunker when it breaks down!

Thank you.

  • 3
    I think it is only right that I ask my boss for more money on top. I think it is appropriate, but whatever you do, be careful to not sound greedy/entitled.
    – Thomas
    Dec 10, 2018 at 5:08
  • 1
    But expect that she may also want to spread the money around to other unfunded students.
    – Buffy
    Dec 10, 2018 at 15:43

2 Answers 2


I have worked as a research administrator in the Boston area for 8 years, and thus have seen all postdoc salaries in the areas I work (natural sciences, engineering, and computer science). This is not how salary works for postdocs.

  1. It is set by location. Boston pays higher than other areas due to cost of living. They have to set a rate that is sustainable to meet future commitments as well.
  2. It is set by funding source. NIH has minimums that must be adhered to. If you don't receive NIH funding, you can pay less unless your institution says no.
  3. It is set by field. I work in a top research university, known for having high salaries in research positions, including graduate students. Within the same building, there is a $30k disparity in pay between postdocs. Econ CS folks pay $80k because the faculty have to compete with both finance and Silicon Valley stealing their postdocs. Bio-engineering postdocs get the NIH minimum. It's not personal--it has to do with the fields they are in and the competition for postdocs.

Of the hundreds of postdoc salaries I have personally managed, I have only seen PIs supplement if the fellowship pays below the department standard or NIH minimum. If that's not the case here, I would not approach the PI.

The point of you getting an F32 is three-fold:

  1. You learn how to write a grant on your own.
  2. You can spend time on your own project, promoting independence in research.
  3. You relieve the stress of procuring funding for the PI.

[Clarification on the compliance involved with this funding source: F32s are highly regulated; the grants policy statement defines supplementation and additional compensation differently, and it's important to make sure we are explicit about which words we are using.

A supplement, is additional stipend funding that provides no benefit to the PI. Because additional stipend funding must be consistent across the institution, frequently the policy is to use a department standard or NIH minimum as the policy to which a trainee is supplemented. This is paid out as a stipend and is not certifiable effort.

Additional compensation, is essentially a part-time job which allows the postdoc to work on other projects up to a total of 10 hrs/week. This is paid out as salary, and if on a federal grant is certifiable effort.

Unless they provide a part-time job for you (see policy statement), this leads to the conundrum of the PI spending more money on a postdoc who will not work on their grant. Furthermore, you can't work on a grant that overlaps with your own. This is probably why this method is less common than expected; if you request the raise of $15k, these additional funds (stipend, not salary) by definition must be of no benefit to the PI, because F32 Postdocs fall under the "trainee" definition of the Department of Labor. If your salary is $58,500 and you received $15k in salary instead of stipend at the same hourly rate; NIH could cite your institution for non-compliance, because it's technically above the 25% figure that they allow for additional compensation. The funding source is irrelevant. Your institution should have guidance on how they handle F32s. Here's one for UCSF.]

You are currently considered a bonus to the PI and a great relief. Startups don't last forever. They are great for bridging funding when data and results are difficult to procure; funding new research that sponsors won't fund; paying for expenses that cannot be allocated to a grant (e.g., general lab supplies or travel). She's not rich--there is plenty in her future to spend this money on, some of which could be on you (e.g., professional dues or travel).

Research funding is a rough game, so be supportive of her too. There is some risk for her as well, as her future funding is not guaranteed. Funding cliffs can be seriously painful for a PI, as they don't have personnel to procure data, do initial analysis, etc. Everything comes to a crawl, and it's hard to get published or funded when you can't pay students or postdocs. Should this happen, she may become a ward of the department, which will cause her reputation to take a hit with her peers.

If you are still going to approach her, definitely consider how tough her situation is, even if she wants to give you everything you ask for. In the end, you are both at the mercy of limited funds, and her responsibility is to make sure she has the funds to support everyone in her lab that she is committed to.

  • thanks for your feedback. So you have not seen any bio sciences postdocs get more funding after receiving a fellowship from NIH or another private institute? I find that hard to believe. Have you heard of anyone asking, and being rejected?
    – illynewb
    Dec 10, 2018 at 7:14
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    I disagree. Your PI is not your family member. They may not even be your friend. You owe them no help they do not pay you for. It does not matter one bit how tough it is for the PI to get funding. You can always ask for more pay. Your PI can always say no. The answer says they have never seen a postdoc paid more than the standard amount, but how many postdocs have been promoted to research assistant professor so they can get paid more? I know that happens. And how many times have requests for pay raises lead to a change in the standard pay? Dec 10, 2018 at 9:39
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    A promotion is not related to receiving an F32, as an F32 is for postdocs. And my point is not that you can't ask, it's just that postdoc salaries are not as individually determined as people think. The question as phrased implied that the PI has the money therefore can afford it. If you want to negotiate for more money though, my advice is to use a strategy that doesn't assume they are rich. Focus more on why you are worth the extra money and they should want to afford it, knowing that the ask costs them more than just cash. I find compassion and thoughtfulness go a long way. Dec 10, 2018 at 13:46
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    For what it's worth, I upvoted both current answers to this question. I agree with StrongBad that OP definitely should ask for a raise, but sometimes it may just not be in the cards (and OP should be aware that simply getting a grant does not necessitate a raise, just like completing a successful project in industry does not automatically mean that one is entitled to a higher salary).
    – xLeitix
    Dec 10, 2018 at 15:59
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    The point of an F32 is that the postdoc is devoted to their own project. It creates a protected space for the postdoc with no additional expectations. This is why it's uncommon for PIs to supplement postdocs working on their own project--they aren't necessarily contributing to the PI's projects. If a postdoc felt that their own work was particularly beneficial to the PI, that might be an argument for a raise. However, as presented, once you factor in fringe, I don't know how I would recommend the PI spend $58k in their discretionary funds for someone who is not working on the PI's grants. Dec 10, 2018 at 23:59

In contrast to this answer I can tell you that supervisors can and do supplement the salaries of postdocs funded by an F32. My F32 was years ago and I don't remember the exact amount of additional funding I was provided, by my guess was it was close to 15k a year. I was earning more than the other two postdocs in the lab who were R01 funded and other F32 funded postdocs in the department. I believe I was the highest paid "postdoc" in the department, although determining who is/isn't a post doc is non-trivial.

For me, it was a relatively easy subject to broach. I had been working in the lab for 6 months prior to getting the F32 award letter and was being paid more the the NIH scale. Sometime soon after the letter, but before I even knew what was up, the department grants person sent an email to my supervisor and me saying that we had to make a decision about my salary. My supervisor suggested that if I was willing to devote some of my time to other lab projects, she could pay me more.

I think the NIH limited my outside commitment to 20% of my time. She had a pot of about 15k a year of non-federal funds (essentially the only money she has to supplement my salary). This meant my outside commitment of 20% was paid at about 75k a year which was close to the max we could justify with the department grant administrator. So I got all of the available money and was more than happy and didn't really have to say anything. She also agreed to cover all my consumables and travel from her federal funds since the work of the two projects was related closely enough.

I think it is only right that I ask my boss for more money on top.

Sure you can ask, but the non-federal grant probably has work that needs to be done and paying someone from that pot of money not to do that work is illegal. Even if there is overlap between the research, you cannot double dip. You would have to agree to do extra work for that grant specifically.

Startup funds are another story and do not generally have any/many restrictions. As for the likelihood of the PI supplementing your pay, all you can do is ask. You might be better off asking for an increased travel budget or money for consumables (the F32 does not provide much in terms of non-salary support).

  • 2
    This is a good answer because it touches on the restrictions that are placed on many funds. The money may "belong" to the professor, but there are generally serious constraints on what they can do with them. It can happen that with the best will in the world the professor could not legally use money that would otherwise not be spent to supplement a post-doc's salary.
    – iayork
    Dec 10, 2018 at 16:06
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    Your answer is confusing from a research administration perspective. Stipend fellowships and salaries are not the same thing. This is why you were limited to low effort on other projects (it's actually 25% in ADDITION to your F32, i.e. 10 hrs). What you received was not a supplement. A supplement is when you get additional funds for no extra work. Additional compensation is subject to regulations and should be tracked--if it ends up on a federal grant, it would be subject to effort reporting, because it is salary and not stipend. You can read the policy in the grants policy statement. Dec 10, 2018 at 23:51
  • Hello everyone, Thanks for the comments. I asked my boss for a pay increase, and she definitely is willing to give me more. She did smile when I asked. She laughed when I asked for $15,000, and then said when she got her fellowship she did not get a dime. (Did she ask? I am guessing not.) She said she thinks she can definitely get me retirement benefits, which is better than nothing, but I am going to insist she gives me $10,000 more per year, because that is only about $3000 above how much retirement benefits would cost her. She said she would talk to other faculty.
    – illynewb
    Dec 11, 2018 at 14:44

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