University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign
Graduate students are the workhorses and the lifeblood of academia. At most Universities in the United States, graduate students perform more than 50% of the total University teaching hours, more than 50% of the research hours (and much more than this if you include research hours performed by postdocs), and a host of administrative duties, but are paid much less than 50% of total academic salary allocations. Graduate students—who do most of the work—are, in fact, routinely paid below the living wage in the cities where they live [1-6]. This chronic underpayment problem leads to a host of ills for individual graduate students and for academia at large.
Graduate students in Physics are no exception [7,8].
 C. Woolston, Nature 605, 775 (2022).
 K. Langin, Science 376, 1033 (2022).
 C. Woolston, Nature 611, 189 (2022).
 Nature 611, 8 (2022). Editorial.
 M. Kirchner, J. Petzoldt, American Entomologist 68, 22 (2022).
 A. K. Glasmeier, Living Wage Calculator, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (2022).
 J. Acres, APS News 31 (2022).
 K. Shinbrough, Phys. Today 76, 10 (2023).
Below are two figures that explore the graduate pay problem in Physics. The first is a scatter plot of all responses to our crowdsourcing survey plotted against the MIT Living Wage for the cities in which the respondents to our survey live. More information on how the MIT Living Wage is calculated can be found here. We have also included the University-reported Physics graduate salary for several institutions. Any discrepancy between the University-reported and student-reported salaries may be an interesting subject for future study. The red line in this figure represents the condition when graduate salaries match the living wage. Graduate salaries are very often below this line, sometimes by a large margin.
The second figure below shows a comparison of the graduate salaries and living wages at the top 10 largest Physics PhD programs (by average graduating class size for 2019-2021 ), accounting for approximately 20% of all Physics graduate students in the United States. None of these programs offer a graduate salary commensurate with the living wage. This figure also shows the MIT Living Wage required for 1 adult and 1 child, which is often more than double the salary of an individual graduate student. This places graduate study in Physics far out of reach for nearly all single parents.
 Data graciously provided by the American Institute of Physics' Statistical Research Center (SRC).
Figure 1. Preliminary Physics graduate pay survey data.
Figure 2. Physics graduate pay data for the top 10 largest Physics PhD departments, compared to the MIT Living Wage for 1 adult, with and without 1 child.
Don’t see your College or University represented above? If you are a Physics graduate student at a University in the United States, please fill out our google form below!
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Please note that this data is updated periodically in batch form by overworked Physics grads. Please allow sufficient time for your data to appear.
If you find any errors in this data, please let us know via email at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This project is supported by Physics graduate students Kai Shinbrough and Jacqueline Acres, both of whom are members of the APS Student Ambassadors program and the APS Forum on Graduate Student Affairs (FGSA).
If you are interested in getting involved with this project, please contact us through email@example.com, or join the APS Student Ambassadors.