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Biochemistry PhD. Job posting asks for expected salary. Advice?


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I'm finishing my PhD by the end of the year in biochemistry and I'm starting to look at job opportunities. There's a job at a biotech company that I'm going to apply for, and in the description for the job they ask you to put your salary expectations.

I can satisfy most of the requirements. They do say that they're looking for someone with 5+ years experience developing assays/products.

Because of the 5+ year requirement, I'm thinking anyone who applies with that amount of experience and a PhD will be looking for somewhere around $80-100k. So perhaps my strategy would be to low ball myself (Maybe $50-60k range) to get some experience and then move up eventually or move on when I actually have valued experience.

Any advice is appreciated. This is in Canada BTW if that matters.

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Don't guess. Use websites which have salary data like Glassdoor to get a sense of what the salary is. If at all possible, use connections/contacts/friends to get a better sense of the salary you can expect. If you low ball on your offer, you may not be taken seriously or, and this is probably worse, you'll be given the lower salary which will affect your salary trajectory for the rest of your career.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Do NOT lowball yourself, whatever you do. That's the worst thing you could possibly do in this situation. See some reasons below, that are in line with what @rising_star said:

- It shows you don't have a lot of confidence in yourself and your value.

- It makes it seem that you expect them to give you this job in some sort of outreach/charitable giving situation to help you "get some experience". This is not how the work world is, this is something they tell you in academia and nonprofits to try and get you to work for less than you're worth.

- As a Canadian (which I also am), you're already self-effacing and lowballing yourself would lower that amount even more.

- There's something called the confidence gap, where certain people (more educated people, women, other groups) often don't apply to a job unless they meet 100% of the requirements. This is also the worst thing you could do for your career, because those posted requirements are just their dream applicant. And you should apply to jobs, even if you are not exactly their dream applicant. Their dream applicant probably does not exist.

- Any estimate you make probably won't be accurate for the industry. I would find some hard data on various companies (not just this one, but their competitors) and use those numbers. Or even increase it by a bit, and then they can negotiate down.


I know we are all scared of rejection, and we think that if we asked for a high salary, that it would ruin our chances of getting a job and they would just laugh us out of the room.

You have at least two degrees (maybe three) and you are an expert in your field. No matter where you are, 50-60k for an extremely highly skilled person with lots of potential in a high-paying field is about half of what you should put down (but still, check the data first).

I would aim a bit higher than you really expect, so personally I would put 110k or 120k down. But check glassdoor and other sites.

Remember, the company doesn't want the cheapest person. That's why they are hiring people with PhDs. They want someone who is good at what they do, and salary expectations are a way of signaling that.

It can be difficult to do this, and it might go against everything you're used to in grad school/academia, and against your (likely modest) character traits. But it's an important skill to learn, to know your value. Good luck!

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I agree with the above advice. I know several people who accidentally lowballed themselves and ended up with a salary that was much lower than they should be earning. Since annual merit/cost of living raises are going to be some percentage of your income, having a lowballed salary can add up to significant losses over time, as rising star said. Also, if you move on to different positions, your current salary factors into how much you'll be offered at a new place.

Fortunately for the people I know, after a year of work, they were able to renegotiate their salaries and got big raises that year (ranges from 25% to 40%) so that they are now back on track with expected earnings. They still missed out one year of salary though! I'm not saying that this is the right way to go about it, just saying that if you did happen to lowball yourself, it's not always irreversible. 

So, I second the advice to get data, especially from any contacts you might have in the field (maybe those working at different companies). The other way to think about answering this question is what is the most you could be qualified to earn? It's unlikely that any offer you might get would be higher than whatever you put here. So, instead of putting the lowest amount you're willing to take, put the highest amount that you could be reasonably offered. 

Finally, just as a starting point, the data I've seen for PhDs in your field moving onto industry jobs after graduation suggests that starting salaries are in the $100,000/year ballpark. I think someone with a PhD and 5 years of experience would earn much more than that. I agree with all the advice to check the data, but I think you might be severely undervaluing yourself if you were going to put down $50,000.

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