I live in France and I'm currently applying for postdoc positions in fundamental mathematics, at several universities in the US and elsewhere. For my application at the University of Denver, I'm asked to give my desired salary, and I have no idea what to answer... I don't know at all what are the standards in the US, I don't even know if it's homogeneous or depends on states... So two questions:

1) Do you have an idea of what could be a standard income for such a position? (To be more precise, it's a visiting assistant professorship with a teaching load of five undergraduate courses over three quarters during the 9-month academic year.)

2) I don't know if the desired salary is taken into account during the search process. Do you think I should ask for a lower salary in order to have more chances to be hired? Or should I, on the contrary, ask for a higher one and expect they will bargain?

Thank you in advance, I'm a bit lost since it doesn't work at all in the same way in France...

  • 2
    Likely the post doc position has a well defined salary. However, the application process asks for a salary for all positions. You could ask the professor the position is with.
    – Jon Custer
    Jan 1, 2019 at 23:14
  • 4
    That's a weird thing for them to ask at the application stage. One suggestion for where to look for information: Public Universities in the US are required to publish the salaries of their employees. University of Denver is not public, but you can look up the salary of a comparable position at a nearby public university.
    – Thomas
    Jan 1, 2019 at 23:18
  • I'll note that the cost of living in the US varies greatly from place to place.
    – Buffy
    Jan 1, 2019 at 23:31
  • 3
    I would not describe the position as a 'standard' postdoc: a teaching load of 5 courses over 9 months would leave you little time for research. At least in CS, postdoc positions involve little to no teaching. In that spirit, I would not compare your salary to that of a postdoc (those would be something like 60-70k per annum in CS, with some variation), but perhaps to that of an adjunct lecturer
    – Spark
    Jan 2, 2019 at 1:20
  • 2
    Looking at the ad, it’s clear that they’re having you apply through a web page that is used for all of their staff positions. For a VAP position like this, most applicants won’t currently be in a position with a salary that UD must beat. For more senior staff positions it makes more sense to ask this question. Jan 2, 2019 at 2:29

4 Answers 4


First, it is important to understand that a visiting assistant professor position isn’t a postdoc in the sense that you are being hired primarily for research and based on your research background. This position will be funded by the institution rather than by grants. Teaching will be an important part of the job, and your teaching experience will be important in the selection process.

The American Mathematical Society publishes an annual survey of faculty salaries. I’d encourage you to look at the survey to get a sense of the range of faculty salaries in the US. Figure that a VAP will be paid slightly less than a first year tenure track assistant professor. If I had to guess, I’d expect a position like this at UD to pay somewhere between $60K and $70K.


To give you a reference point: A postdoc salary is around 50.000 USD in your field, before tax. As you will be working on a J1 visa, your salary is exempt from certain significant taxes (social security and medicare) during the first two years.

  • According to the Wiki page you linked, However, they are subjected to other applicable federal, state, and local taxes.
    – Nobody
    Jan 3, 2019 at 9:51
  • yes, but j1 is exempt from 1 of them and the other is very low in amount
    – feynman
    Jan 3, 2019 at 10:02
  • According to this calculator, if you are a single person earning 50,000 a year, you pay $9,075 federal tax. which is not low in amount (18%).
    – Nobody
    Jan 3, 2019 at 10:04

This is not so strange. They want to get you at a cheaper price. NEVER quote a salary first for any job. Always let them make the offer. Just write in "TBD" or negotiable or leave it blank. In discussions, just say that it depends. If they really push you hard, just ask them to make a written offer and you will respond then.

Usually it is not a big drama and you can just brush it off. Don't put a number down...


I also recommend highly to do some research and find out what the going rate is for postdoc fellowships in your field in the US (and for your level of competitiveness). You still won't want to write down a number. But you need to know that when evaluating offers. As with any job there can be other factors like benefits, cost of living, duties, fun place to live, advancement. [All that said, the job with the higher $$ is almost always the best fit...they are showing how much they care with that. And it can affect future salary offers as well. Never go in low.]

  • I'm not sure this answers the question. OP is clearly trying to do some research (hence their post here), and they are in fact required to write down a number.
    – cag51
    Jan 3, 2019 at 17:11

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