2020 Canadian National Postdoc Survey 

CAPS-ACPP is excited to release our 2020 national survey entitled “The Canadian National Postdoctoral Survey Report: Ten Years of Longitudinal Data Analysis”. This report presents ten years of data collection on postdocs in Canada and Canadian postdocs abroad – the most comprehensive dataset on postdocs’ experiences, protections (or lack thereof), outcomes and wellbeing around the world. The work carried out in this report was funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR), the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC), the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) and the Burroughs Wellcome Fund, with additional financial support provided by Mitacs.

Prior to the 2020 national survey, CAPS-ACPP conducted three national surveys in 2009, 2013 and 2016, in addition to other issue-specific surveys on health benefits, insurance, and immigration, collecting data on ~1000 postdocs on average in each national survey. While the issue-specific surveys provide deeper insights into particular challenges faced by postdocs, the national surveys represent a comprehensive data collective on postdoc demographics (e.g., age, gender, marital status, citizenship), salary and benefits, challenges faced, professional development and career opportunities, career outcomes, as well as postdoc experiences and satisfaction levels over time.

The 2020 national survey was conducted from January 15 to April 21, 2020, capturing data just prior to the full impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. This particular snapshot of postdoc life will better enable stakeholders to understand those impacts when compared to data collected during or after the pandemic (see reports at http://capsacpp.ca/en/resources/publications/surveys/impact-of-the-pandemic-on-the-canadian-postdoc-community-2020/), which will be crucial for formulating pandemic recovery plans.

Our report highlights several major findings:

  • While the national median postdoc salary in Canada in 2020 amounted to $52.5K (before tax), 25% of postdocs made less than $45K (before tax). Postdocs reported expenses to range from $27K – $39K/year, suggesting that many postdocs struggle on their current salaries to afford the cost of living and to support their dependents.
  • Although the median gross annual postdoctoral income (GAPI) in Canada has increased significantly over time, when adjusted for inflation, the increase in median income only translated to $312 – $2,742 since 2009. In sharp contrast, the median GAPI for postdocs working abroad has increased by $20,000 if adjusted for inflation since 2013, and by $17,000 since 2016. This discrepancy demonstrates that despite increases to postdocs’ incomes, Canada has failed to keep pace with the increase in postdoctoral salary observed in other countries over the past decade.
  • Salary and opportunities were the primary factors in postdocs’ decision-making on whether to remain in Canada or to move elsewhere. Increasing postdoc salaries will therefore play a significant role in retaining talent in Canada.
  • Increased unionization corresponds with increased benefits and protections for postdocs.
  • Mental health remains a severe challenge for postdocs, with 79% of postdocs reporting severe mental health challenges in 2020 (predating the COVID-19 pandemic).
  • Gender balance in postdoc numbers, duration, and equal pay for men and women was observed in Canada. However, our collected data signal that gender inequality manifests in the transition from the postdoc to the tenure track, which disproportionately eliminates women from the academic career trajectory. Although the data hint at general dissatisfaction with support structures, a greater necessity to secure additional income, and unequal caregiving responsibilities as contributing factors, further targeted inquiries should be performed to better understand and mitigate this phenomenon.

Based on these and other key findings, our report includes recommendations aimed at optimizing support and professional development of postdocs to help ensure Canada’s position as a global leader in innovation and discovery in the future. The report also summarizes data gaps that should be addressed by the broader research community.

2020 Canadian National Postdoc Survey – Full Report (Français, ici)

2020 Canadian National Postdoc Survey – Full Report (English, here)

Any questions, comments or concerns should be directed to survey[at]capsacpp.ca.