I am going to join a PhD position in one of the TUs in the Netherlands. This question pertains to the salary I can expect. I have worked 2 years after my bachelors and 3 years after my masters. For the doctoral candidates, according to Collective Labour Agreement by Dutch universities, the initial salary step is P0 and it climbs to P3 in the final year of a 4 year PhD program.

I think I am entitled to start at P1 (or P2 if I can stretch it), based on my experience, which is one of the reasons I got selected. Can I push the HR and ask to start at higher level (P1 or P2 instead of P0)? Any insights will be welcome.

  • 4
    Your final (net) salary will largely depend on whether you're eligible to 30% ruling, a significant tax benefit for incoming employees. Specifically, your residence address in more than 16 of the 24 months before the start of the work contract needs to have been further than 150 km from the Dutch border. Sep 16, 2020 at 8:14
  • 1
    I will not be eligible for the 30% ruling as I have been working within 150 km of the Dutch border.
    – Zero
    Sep 16, 2020 at 12:40

2 Answers 2


Short answer, no.

Every PhD student starts at the same level, I have never heard of anyone negotiating a higher salary (I did my PhD in the Netherlands). The only two exceptions I am aware of are a) medical doctors doing a PhD - they start at a higher salary - and b) people funded by an outside source like a foreign government or company, where the outside source stipulates and pays the salary.

But a higher salary based on work experience: no. I don't suppose there's any harm in asking if you have already accepted the PhD position, but don't get your hopes up. I actually know one PhD student who has tried it, but she got shut down fast by HR.

  • Quite possible but I was of the opinion, from a good source might I say, that they will give you more if you have relevant experience and would benefit the project. I am going to give it a try.
    – Zero
    Sep 16, 2020 at 12:42
  • Also speaking from (one of my PhDs') experience no. All phds start on the same scale, even when it means making less than you did on your previous job within the same university. Apr 14, 2022 at 4:42

Actually, I know of one PhD student who tried and succeeded to negotiate a higher starting step at a Dutch TU. It is very difficult. Universities have a vested interest in broadcasting the message that this doesn't happen. However, in exceptional circumstances, it is possible.

  • What tipped the scales in his favour? Work experience? Our something else?
    – Zero
    Sep 16, 2020 at 12:43
  • Vast amounts of research experience, both in their prior academic career and in industry.
    – user116675
    Sep 16, 2020 at 12:48
  • Well I wouldn't call me experience vast, but all 5 years of my work has been in a research firm... The last 3 years have been in the same application domain as the PhD...So there's that... Lets see what they have to say
    – Zero
    Sep 16, 2020 at 12:57
  • If you have already accepted the position then unfortunately you have little leverage. Sep 18, 2020 at 15:53
  • I have verbally accepted excluding the discussion on the contract. There has been no written/formal acceptance to the terms persented from my side yet.
    – Zero
    Sep 21, 2020 at 9:34

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