Two ways postdocs can prepare for salary conversations with their PI

Emma Bell, Ph.D.
1 min readMar 14, 2024

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Are you trying to muster the courage to talk to your PI about a salary increase? You’re not alone. Many postdocs struggle with this conversation. Some even encounter retaliation from their PI. But that doesn’t mean you should feel discouraged. Educating and protecting yourself is key to negotiating with confidence.

A coffee cup sits on a desk in front of a potted house plant. The side of the cup reads ‘Go get ‘em’.
Photo by Kyle Glenn on Unsplash

First, educate yourself. Review your employment contract and relevant documents and policies from your employer. Find out how much other postdocs in your lab earn and what happened when they asked for a raise. This knowledge will help you approach the conversation armed with confidence.

Second, protect yourself. Maintain a log of contentious interactions with your PI, as well as a shared record of meetings. Write a bullet point summary as close to the event as possible. The log should detail any communication in person, by phone, text, and email. Send a copy to yourself by email or instant messaging to date-stamp each entry. The shared meeting record benefits you both by circumventing misunderstandings and promoting accountability.

Remember, every year inflation increases the cost of living. Without a matching pay rise, our quality of life becomes harder to maintain. Don’t be afraid to ask for better — you deserve it.

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Emma Bell, Ph.D.

Postdoctoral Research Fellow @ University Health Network | PhD, MRes