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Salaries and Stipends Questions and Answers

Table of Contents

How does the salary cap apply to NIH-funded awards?

NIH caps the direct salary you can request using funds paid by a competing or noncompeting application, contract, or proposal.

When you prepare your budget, check the cap at Salary Cap and Stipends.

Where can I find information on stipends for trainees and salary caps?

Find current levels at Salary Cap and Stipends.

May I charge a higher salary to my grant than the cap allows?

No. If you're a PI on a grant or contract, you may not charge a higher salary than the current cap allows. If your institutional salary is higher than the NIH cap, you may use non-federal sources of funding to cover the difference.

Can my salary increase each year?

Each year, NIH sets a maximum for PI salaries, though your institution can use its own money to pay beyond NIH's limit.

If the limit changes, you can rebudget funds to pay for a higher salary without prior approval, but you can't get more money from NIH.

When NIH announces the levels in its Guide, we notify you in the NIAID Funding News and post the salary levels at Salary Cap and Stipends.

Can I increase my effort on a grant without increasing my salary and thus keep my budget the same?

Yes, but we expect you to budget for salary at a level that matches your level of effort, up to the salary cap.

Keep in mind that if increasing your effort will alter the scope of your research, you need NIAID's permission for the change in scope.

Read Putting Effort Into Your Application and Grant and What Constitutes a Change in Scope? in the Strategy for NIH Funding to learn more.

Does the salary cap apply to both grantees and contractors?


Does the salary cap pertain to every person on a research grant?

The salary cap applies to all people listed in the "Personnel" budget category regardless of his or her title or position, but does not apply to consultants, who are not generally employees of the grantee institution. Consultants provide professional advice or services for a fee and are listed in the "Consultant" budget category. However, consultant fees must still be reasonable and allocable to be allowable for the fee-based service rendered. For a graduate student on a research grant, additional National Research Service Award instructions govern the total compensation allowed .

See Salary Cap and Stipends on our Paylines and Funding page for information on salary caps and stipend levels. We use the cap level in effect at the time of the award.

Contact your grants management specialist for questions specific to your grant. For more information, see When to Contact an NIAID Grants Management Specialist.

How is training grant compensation determined?

Training grant compensation is determined by National Research Service Award (NRSA) guidelines. For NRSA, we don't consider the awarding of stipend, tuition and fees, training-related expenses, and institutional allowance to be salary compensation in the same sense as a research grant or cooperative agreement. Those limits are governed by the NRSA allowance guidelines based on person type and/or experience levels outlined in the NRSA guidance for the particular fiscal year when new or continuation awards are issued.

See Salary Cap and Stipends on our Paylines and Funding page for information on salary caps and NRSA stipend levels.

Contact your grants management specialist for questions specific to your grant. For more information, see When to Contact an NIAID Grants Management Specialist.

Is there a limit on the percentage of my salary that can come from my R01 grant?

As long as your salary does not exceed NIH's cap, all of your salary can come from your R01. See Salary Cap and Stipends on our Paylines and Funding page.

You should base your salary request on your actual salary, making sure it does not exceed the time and effort you are devoting to the research. Your effort cannot be more than 100 percent. Use the formulas on NIH's Usage of Person Months questions and answers.

On a multiple-PI application, does the $250,000 cap for a modular budget apply to each investigator, or are their direct cost amounts combined?

The budget is for the entire grant, not each investigator. For advice and information, go to Plan Your Budget in Strategy to Prepare the Forms and Just-In-Time in the Strategy for NIH Funding, and read the Modular Grants SOP.

If you anticipate a budget of $500,000 or more for any year of the grant, you'll need our permission to apply. For more information, go to the Big Grants SOP.

Should foreign PIs use salary caps?

Yes. For further details on caps, see the preceding questions.

NIH lists annual caps of $75,000 salary and $25,000 research support for K08 and K23 awards, yet NIAID's site indicates caps of $100,000 salary and $50,000 research support. Which limits are correct?

Our site is correct for NIAID career development awards, but other institutes may have different caps. Get details on our awards at Quick Facts on Research Training and Career Development Awards, and use NIH's K Kiosk for information for NIH and other institutes.

Where can I find salary ranges for postdocs and whether fringe benefits are included?

Your institution's business office should have a pay scale for postdocs as well as information on fringe benefits.

Does NIH have a salary range for research associates who are employed by organizations receiving NIH grant funds? If so, do you have a job description for a research associate?

NIH does not have a salary range for research associates; however, it does establish stipend levels for undergraduate, predoctoral, and postdoctoral trainees. Applicants often use these stipend ranges as a guide for corresponding salary ranges for research associates, based on years of training. See the Salary Cap and Stipends.

Each grantee organization has its own institutional definitions and position descriptions for job categories and should follow these unless a funding opportunity announcement gives specific instructions otherwise.

For investigators with R01 funding, are there limits on the salaries of postdoctoral assistants and technicians?

There is no specific cap on R01 postdocs or technicians as long as the salary is consistently applied based on the grantee institution’s organizational policy for those employee types. Many institutions try to align their R01-supported postdoctoral salaries with the salary rates paid by NIH fellowship awards, depending on the post-graduate year status of the postoc. Keep in mind, the overall salary cap applies as well. See Salary Cap and Stipends.

For more information, see Salaries and Wages and related entries in Section 7.9.1 Selected Items of Cost in the NIH Grants Policy Statement.

How do the terms "supplement" and "compensation" differ?

See What's the difference between a supplement and compensation? in our Supplements to Grants Questions and Answers.

Can a university subcontractor charge tuition remission for a graduate student supported on its grant?

Yes, under some conditions. Here's the official policy from OMB Circular A-21—Cost Principles for Educational Institutions, Item #41, Scholarships and student aid costs.

Tuition remission and other forms of compensation paid as, or in lieu of, wages to students performing necessary work are allowed provided the following:

  1. There is a bona fide employer-employed relationship between the student and institution for the work performed.
  2. Tuition or other payments are reasonable compensation for the work performed and conditioned explicitly on the performance of necessary work.
  3. It is the institution's practice to similarly compensate students in nonsponsored as well as sponsored activities.

Can I include clinical practice compensation in my institutional base salary?

Yes, as long as your grantee institution sets the compensation, pays it or directs its payment, and includes your clinical practices in its payroll and effort reporting systems.

Can I rebudget grant monies for a pay increase without NIAID's permission?

Yes. You don't need our permission to rebudget your grant monies for a salary increase up to the allowed salary cap.

Can a PI receive a summer salary that differs from what was originally proposed, e.g., 1.5 months' salary this summer and 2.5 months next summer rather than two months' salary each?

Yes. If the award has automatic carryover, the grantee can carry over funds to the next year and use them for the additional summer salary. Without automatic carryover, the grantee would have to use current year funds. We would not award more money.

For more information, see our SOPs on Carryover Requests.

Does NIAID pay salary changes if I change grantee institutions?

See Are increased costs covered after I change grantee institutions? in the Managing a Grant Questions and Answers.

Can grantees pay a salary to a fellow or trainee?

In some cases they can. Read more in What's the difference between a supplement and compensation? in the Supplements to Grants—Administrative, Revision, and Research Questions and Answers.

Can my institution support trainees on non-federal fellowships if they are also receiving a stipend from an NRSA grant?

Yes. Your institution may supplement stipends from non-federal funds as long as there isn't any additional obligation for the fellow.

Your institution determines the amount of stipend supplementation it will provide based on its own established policies. Contact your grants management specialist if you have questions.

In my biosketch, should I list staff even if I don't plan to pay them a salary?

Yes. List all staff even if you aren't planning to pay them from grant monies. See Emphasize Expertise in Biosketches in the Strategy for NIH Funding.

How much salary can I request for a diversity supplement?

See How much salary can I request for a diversity supplement? in our Special Populations Questions and Answers.

How much salary can I request for a reentry supplement?

Scroll to the "Salary and Budget" header in Reentry Supplements.

How much salary can I request for a primary caregiver supplement?

Scroll to the "Salary and Budget" header in Primary Caregiver Technical Assistance Supplements.

Where can I find more information on stipends and salaries under training (T) awards?

Go to Quick Facts on Research Training and Career Development Awards for stipend information. Funds for training-related expenses on training grant awards may be used to defray staff salaries of mentors.

Where can I find salary caps for career development (K) awards?

Find salary levels at Understanding Award Specifics in our Advice on Research Training and Career Awards or Quick Facts on Research Training and Career Development Awards.

What is the salary limit for the various career awards?

Find salary levels at Understanding Award Specifics in our Advice on Research Training and Career Awards.

What is person months, and how is it calculated?

Person months is the metric for expressing the effort that PIs, faculty, and other senior personnel devote to a specific project.

To calculate person months, multiply the percentage of your time associated with the project by the number of months of your appointment. See Percent of Time and Effort to Person Months Calculator for further instruction and examples.

Do any career development awards allow you to receive a salary from a second NIH-funded grant?

Yes, but only if the career award is a non-mentored one. When you have a non-mentored career award, you may receive salary from an NIH-funded research grant that is scientifically different from your career award, e.g., another investigator's R01 grant.

For mentored career awards (K01, K08, K23, K22, and K25), you can obtain salary support from NIH or another federal agency's grant in the last two years. Read more at Career Development Awards.

For a career award, must I get NIAID approval to rebudget salary and fringe benefit funds?


As a PI of an R01, if one of my investigators receives a K and no longer requires salary from the R01, do I need NIAID's approval to use those R01 salary funds for another purpose?

No. You may rebudget salary dollars into other categories without prior approval.

If I have a K08, can I receive an R01 and hold the awards simultaneously? What about salary?

That depends. See Can I apply for and receive an R01 after I receive a K01, K08, K23, or K25? May I then hold these awards simultaneously? What about salary? in Career Development Grants Questions and Answers.

If I have a K08, can my salary be supplemented from other sources?

Yes. Read more in Can I have my salary supplemented from other sources if I receive a career award? in Career Development Grants Questions and Answers.

If I receive an HHMI award for salary and fringe expenses, can I rebudget excess funds to avoid a reduction in my NIH award?

No. You cannot receive two sources of funding for the same items. Since a Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) award pays 100 percent of salary and fringe expenses, we must reduce your NIH award if you had previously requested funds for those same costs.

Do you have information on salary ranges or averages for people from varying disciplines, e.g., Ph.D. and M.D.?

We don't have that information, but here are some Web sites that may help.

Must trainees receive stipends at NRSA levels, or is it up to the PI's discretion? What about benefits?

Stipends must be paid at the appropriate NRSA level; a lower or higher level than is appropriate may not be paid. Also, a portion may not be paid from the training grant and a portion paid from another source. Check with your PI on items such as health insurance, scientific travel, and research supplies.

Can stipends be used to pay for tuition, books, and fees?

No. Stipends are designed to defray living expenses during the research training experience.

NIAID provides separate funds for tuition, fees, books, and other training related expenses. 

Can I list HHMI as other support in my application and ask for salary or fringe expenses?

No. If you list Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) as other support in your application and ask for salary and fringe benefits, we will reduce your award after contacting your business office to confirm your HHMI funding. We will reduce salary, fringe benefits, and associated F&A costs as appropriate.

What if my question wasn't answered here, or I'd like to suggest a question?

Email with the title of this page or its URL and your question or comment. We answer questions by email and post them here. Thanks for helping us clarify and expand our knowledge base.

Last Updated June 06, 2016

Last Reviewed August 27, 2013