Thursday, January 18, 2007

Question from a commenter

"Tethys...... said...

... I hope you wont mind taking a moment and helping me with an issue. I'm about to graduate w/my Ph.D. and am looking at post docs. I've been offered one in So Cal but think the salary is too low to live in that area. Can you tell me what you or anyone else might think is a good salary, its Orange County. Thanx!"

I've never lived in So Cal., so I have no idea how to answer this question. Can any of my readers help?


Jenny F. Scientist (aka JF) said...

The current NIH minimum starting postdoc salary is $36 K (see this) but many places including here consider $42K the minimum a new postdoc should be paid.

I have a friend who lives in La Mirada, a little north of Orange County; they get by on about 50K and they save, but they both have to commute, they only have one car, etc. I think it would depend on how frugal one is willing to be and how many people one is supporting.

Best of luck.

Sonnjea B said...

I do not work in academia and cannot offer an opinion on a reasonable salary for a postdoc, but I have lived in Orange and Los Angeles counties for 20 years, and I agree with aka JF -- it depends on many factors.

Are you single, do you intend to commute, how many cars do you have, do you have child care to consider, what do you do to socialize (ie, movies, clubs, or are you happy to hang out at the beach).

Something people who aren't from California don't realize is that our insurance costs are exorbitant. I pay over $1600 a year for homeowner's insurance for a 1600-sq-ft home; my sister in Oregon pays $309 for the same size house. Car insurance rates are based in part on how far you commute and where your car is parked at night (inside a garage? open apartment carport? street?) and most people I know pay between $1,000 and $1,500 per year per car.

You don't say where in OC, but that also makes a difference. Irvine, for example, is MUCH more expensive to live in than, say, Anaheim or Buena Park or Westminster, which requires many people who work in Irvine to commute from further out. Newport Beach and south Orange County (the beach communities) are also very pricey. Factor in the price of gas if you intend to commute and don't assume you can take public transportation. It exists, but not in a form that most people find convenient. Currently gas is around $2.50/gallon.

A movie costs $9.75 or $10. There are good farmer's markets throughout the area (year-round) which offer excellent prices on produce (some of it's organic). We have Trader Joe's and Costco for inexpensive shopping options. Also Wild Oats and Whole Foods for pricier options.

Rents obviously vary. In my neighborhood, a one bedroom apartment is around $1200 - $1500/month.

That's probably more info than you wanted, but I hope it's helpful. Good luck with your postdoc!

Hypatia said...

There are some good cost of living calculators online (try They allow you to consider how much more or less you would need in one location to live in the way you've been acustomed in your current location (e.g. I live on $10,000/yr in location X. I need $500 more in location Y).

Also it's useful to compute the average cost per square foot of housing (look online at ads for houses) in the area where you intend to live and compare it to the cost per square foot in a similar house where you live now (or where you have alternative job offers).

mapletree7 said...

It depends on where you live in OC. Four years ago I knew someone who was making about $40k and qualified for assisted housing in Irvine bc of low income.

Tethys...... said...

Thank you all for the help, much appreciated. The salary calculator really helped.

PhD Mom said...

I was offered 50k for a postdoc at USC (which I declined).

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