David Payne investigates the wide gaps in salary between academics.
The Office of National Statistics (ONS) issued its annual survey of hours and earnings last month. Scientists are conspicuously absent from The Guardian‘s subsequent trawl of the data to highlight the UK’s top 10 best paid jobs. These include brokers (1), CEOs (2), pilots (4) air traffic controllers (7), and doctors (8).
The survey, which is based on the tax records of a sample of workers from each category, excludes certain niche occupations (self-employed celebrities, professional footballers, TV presenters etc), and it would have been a challenge to list scientific careers as a single entry, since scientists straddle so many different sectors, industries and job titles.
The HR title Personnel Today also reported on the ONS data, finding that weekly pay in the UK rose by 2.2% in the 2015/16 financial year, up from 1.7% in the year prior. The gap between the earnings of men and women fell to 9.4% from 9.6% over the same period. The public sector has a gender pay gap of 11.3%. In the private sector, it’s 16.6%.
For the latest snapshot of salary levels in science, look no further than Nature’s biennial salary and job-satisfaction survey, from September 2016.
Almost 30% of the 3,292 full-time researchers who replied reported an income of less than US$30,000 a year. This group includes not only postdoctoral researchers and staff scientists, but also assistant professors and even full professors.
Just 13% reported an annual income in excess of $110,000, and only 6% make more than $150,000. Based on the current (and rapidly changing) $/£ exchange rate, this is slightly less than the average UK chief executive salary, no 2 in The Guardian’s top ten.
Among full professors and principal investigators, 28% of men but only 16% of women reported earning more than $110,000.
The Nature survey highlights interesting regional differences. Overall, almost one-quarter of the 1,300 respondents in Europe report earning less than $30,000, compared with just 6% of the 948 respondents from North America.
European salaries don’t seem to be growing: less than 40% of European respondents report a pay rise in the past 12 months, the lowest proportion of any continent. In comparison, nearly two-thirds of researchers in Asia and North America have enjoyed pay rises. If you’re hoping to catch up, Andy Tay on the Naturejobs blog has you covered.
If we’re in tougher economic times by then, it might be worth heeding the advice of Deb Koen. Interviewed as part of a Naturejobs salary toolkit article when president and CEO of Career Development Services in Rochester, New York, she urged scientists to seize control of salary negotiations and other perks during the recruitment process.
“Role-playing a negotiation will allow you to anticipate and work through potentially awkward moments, practice explaining your rationale and get comfortable listening to possible objections,” Koen says.
Otherwise, as an article published by Nature two months ago suggests, science might only be for the rich.
David Payne is Nature’s chief careers editor.