Sunday, March 25, 2007

Latest salary statistic.

Was reading Jane the other day... how do they do that?

It always arrives, quite magically, the day I get my period.


Anyway the most striking statistic, and one that stayed with me all week, was from a sidebar on the average price of a car, how much you should spend on one, etc.

Factoid of the week: The average salary of a car salesman (or sales person, if you will) is ~$45,000. This is with no educational requirements, maybe a high school degree, but maybe not even that.

Forty five thousand a year is more than I make now.

I guess I'm thinking about this because it's tax time, and looking at my YTD totals for 200x always makes me want to cry.

Is this really all I'm worth? I know it's a quintessentially American worry, as if a person's worth were measured in dollars alone. But it does send a message that I should be grateful for the hell I'm in, like I'm some kind of lower caste citizen.

And it's looking more and more like I could and probably would have to stay in a postdoc-ish position for another 1-3 years before I can get out of here. Not sure how much postdoc and how much "ish" I would be required to put up with, or how on earth I will last that long.

I'm trying not to think about it, just take it one day at a time, but it's hard to function that way, especially when my experiments usually take at least a couple of days, if not weeks, from start to finish.

And considering this was actually a pretty good week, I'm trying hard to forget that there are likely more bad weeks soon enough, on the horizon.

Meanwhile, some of my "colleagues" have been coming back from faculty interviews lately, with varying reports. There are the ones who say it went horribly and expect to have to do it all again next year. Bad for them. Bad for me if I apply then, since I'll be competing with that many more people, and they will have had a year of practice run interviews.

There are years and years of these backlog people, still looking for jobs. So it just gets harder and harder for everyone... and you can see why search committees start to be tempted to take these people with nearly a decade of experience over someone with half that much. They have nothing if not tenacity.

Then there are the ones who already have ranked all the schools in order of where they'd like to go, and are now trying not to lose sleep while waiting to hear if the schools ranked them similarly, like med school match game.

My heart goes out to them, it really does. At least they made it this far.

Then there are the ones who had several interviews, but refuse to reveal any opinions about how it went or where they'd most like to be. Can't learn much from them. I guess I'll just have to wait and see where they go, and assume that was the best fit for them, for whatever reasons, but I likely won't hear much about the places they didn't choose.

So I am sitting on the sidelines, feeling like the third string player cleaning out the gatorade buckets while everyone else is in the game.

Oh wait, those guys get paid more than I do, too.

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At 2:15 AM, Anonymous Ontheoutsidelookingin said...

Don't think about the money. Do you make enough to live? Then you make enough.

If I wanted to be rich through work, I'd have gone into the building trade. Had I done that, I could be making 5x as much as I'm earning just now.

The overriding question has to either be 'are you happy?' or 'will you be happy?' with your current career path. If yes, keep your head down and you'll get there. If not, then it's time for a bigger re-think than something so trivial as earnings.

Aim for happiness, not money. I'm willing to bet that you enjoy your career path enough that you'd otherwise have already quit by now.

At 10:37 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Do you really think Ms. PhD is happy??? She seems quite unhappy to me (no offense to you Ms. Ph.D, that's just the impression I get from reading this blog regularly).

At 1:40 PM, Blogger Jenny F. Scientist said...

Our secretary makes more than the postdocs. I'm pretty sure the janitor makes more than us grad students.

I just keep repeating "Long term deprivation for long term gain..."

At 7:49 PM, Blogger Ms.PhD said...

It's funny, I never minded it as much in grad school, because I assumed it was finite and that things would change (this was when they were talking about raising everybody's salaries in huge jumps, before the stupid war starting sucking up government money for killing instead of healing).

But I resent that I work with a bunch of slaves who don't think they deserve to make what they're worth. Why does the MD making a royal mess at the bench next to me get paid more than I do, when he's only doing the same research I am? Because MDs get respect, even when they're not seeing patients.

I think as long as we perpetuate this myth that we don't deserve it, things are not going to improve. We deserve to be treated like adult members of society for work for a living, not like we're in some state of perpetual studenthood, arrested development not worth of monetary compensation.

At 3:16 AM, Anonymous Ontheoutsidelookingin said...

"Do you really think Ms. PhD is happy??? She seems quite unhappy to me"

It's difficult to get the bigger picture from mere words, which only carry one corner of a much larger story.

"We deserve to be treated like adult members of society for work for a living, not like we're in some state of perpetual studenthood, arrested development not worth of monetary compensation."

Then you need to find at least one reasonable escape route you would be comfortable with. Do you have a sustainable way out? Having that safety net makes the idea of "I could quit tomorrow" sound way less frightening.

You're right though. Too many people learn to "be happy with what you have to be happy with."

At 6:56 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The people you work with with don't think they deserve to make what they're worth? I don't know any postdoc who thinks that way. I do sometimes justify my lack of pay by saying to myself that 1. I make my own hours and have a lot of freedom, 2. I am doing what I want to do, not what someone else wants me to do, 3. I enjoy what I'm doing, and 4. I am learning a lot more about science than I learned in grad school, and making myself a better scientist. That all being said, I resent the hell out of the fact that car salesmen, cell phone salespeople, retail store managers, and all manner of other people who don't have a fraction of the education I have, all make more than I do. I guess its a matter of how long one is willing to put up with being underpaid, as well. 2-3 years is the absolute maximum that we should have to labor for postdoc pay.

At 7:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At least you get paid more than you did for graduate school. Although my annual income is higher, I'm making less per month (after taxes/healthcare) for my postdoc than I did in graduate school :(

At 9:49 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

MDs are typically further along in their education (as measured in years after the doctoral degree) when they're at the bench. That's what the NIH uses as its salary scale, not number of years of bench experience. You should know that. Again, I repeat that you can always negotiate with your advisor to have your salary supplemented by non-NIH funds. If you didn't do that up front, it's probably too late to do it now, with this advisor.

You are right that money is important. It's important in a number of ways. First, the primary reason that MDs have a leg up in the job search is that they can generate clinical income to pay to keep the lights on while they're struggling to get a K08 or R01. You can't do that. Second, if they fail at getting funded, their protected time for research can be taken away and be 'forced' to assume a greater clinical burden. Again, you can't do that. The "NIH-funded at a tier 1 research school" paradigm is set up to the significant advantage of the clinician researcher.

Finally, you have options outside of academia. If you don't embrace those, you are in a state of perpetual studenthood.

At 7:09 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

obviously, academic research is not the best career track if you want to make money... you're in it for different reason

At 7:16 PM, Blogger jicnacho said...

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At 12:00 AM, Blogger vishnuprasath said...

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