Moving from Australia to the US to work as a research neuropsychologist/neuroscientist

Note: There is now a google group for Australian (neuro)psychologists looking to work overseas, here.

If you want to work as a researcher in the neurosciences in the US, and you have trained in Australia, it’s pretty straightforward if you are happy to work as a postdoc. From what I know from training at University of Melbourne and seeing the degrees at Monash, Latrobe and (previously) Victoria Uni the training in Australia is at least world class.  This is all based on the experience of one individual, and will continually change, so be warned, and if you have any advice or suggested edits I'd be grateful if you emailed.

Your salary will typically be in the low 40s, which is enough to live on in the US (and well, well above what many people live on), and it may be $47,462 pending a recent legal increase (in the last months of Barack Obama's tenure as President) if you are not paid separately for overtime (you can read about this here). Visa information is covered at the bottom of the page on getting licensed clinically in the US. As in Australia, working as a researcher in the US long term has less-than-perfect job security. Your goal of course is to work up to a Professor in the long-term. You’ll find it easier to get a job here than in Australia (and it’s really great living here), but you will most likely be paid less than in Aus. Note that as a foreign national you will mostly be supported by and compete for institutional funding and private foundation funds, unless you get a green card. This is because foreign nationals are not eligible for the key NIH early-career grants (K awards, except for the K99/R01). Don’t let this deter you if you want to come over for research-it can work out, and it’s a lot of fun-but know that you’ll need to work hard. One tip – Californian postdocs are paid more than postdocs in most other states, at least in the UC system. This is because the postdocs unionized and so there is a standard pay scale (see some debate here and here if you’re interested). In Boston, in my limited experience, the hospitals were clearly trying to decrease chances for the postdocs to unionize as it would raise institutions’ costs. 

After you’ve been a postdoc for a year or two you might become an Instructor (salary usually 50-60k), then ideally an Assistant Professor. Salaries here vary widely, but in your first year they’re typically 75-90k+, and up to 110 for particularly good institutions if you are a star (according to some friends who are). You should also get a startup package for your lab. Salaries for federally-funded public universities are open, so google the university you are interested in and “salaries” or “pay” and you should be able to see what the range is for people at that institution. Private universities don’t list their salaries, and as a rule they pay more. As such you can take a salary from an equivalent public university as a lower bound in negotiating if negotiation is appropriate.

Note: written/first posted in 2014.