Welcome New Postdocs!


UAW Local 5810 is the Union representing the 6,500+ Postdoctoral researchers (employees, fellows, and paid directs) at the University of California. Since ratifying our first contract in 2010, we have improved our compensation, health care, benefits, and overall working conditions (see here and here  for highlights and full language of our current contract), while advocating for policies like increased federal funding of science and comprehensive immigration reform.

A brief history of our Union can be found here. We have also been featured in the press, including Science Careers, Nature Cell Biology, New Scientist, HHMI Bulletin, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle.

The following checklist is designed to help you make a smooth transition to your Postdoc at the University of California. Please email us if you have questions, or feedback on how we can make this resource more complete and up-to-date.


Prior to arrival

  1. Congratulations on your new appointment! Every Postdoc should receive an appointment letter from their hiring department before starting. Review, sign, and return your appointment letter. Your appointment letter should contain, at least:
    • Your job title, funding information available to the University at the time of appointment including salary/stipend amount, supplemental compensation information, if any, funding source(s), and appointment percentage Note: As of December 1, 2016 your yearly salary should match or exceed the minimum for your years of experience as a Postdoc listed in the table below:
    • Postdoctoral Scholar Experience Based Salary/Stipend Minima*
      Postdoctoral Scholar Experience Effective December 1, 2016
      1st year (Step 0; 0 – 11 months of Postdoc experience) $48,216
      2nd year (Step 1; 12 – 23 months of Postdoc experience) $50,316
      3rd year (Step 2; 24 – 35 months of Postdoc experience) $52,140
      4th year (Step 3; 36 – 47 months of Postdoc experience) $54,228
      5th year (Step 4; 48 – 59 months of Postdoc experience) $56,400
      6th year (Step 5; 60 – 71 months of Postdoc experience), by UC exception $58,560
      * Article 4.A.1: “Nothing shall preclude the University from providing compensation to Postdoctoral Scholars at rates above those required in this Article. Such rates may be provided on appointment, reappointment, anniversary date, and/or as a merit increase.”

    • Your supervisor’s name, department or academic/research unit, and a brief description of the anticipated research project(s).
    • The beginning and end dates of your appointment.
    • Anticipated place of employment (location of work site – e.g., main campus, remote location, medical center).
    • A summary of benefits. Note: All UC Postdocs (Employees, Fellows, and Paid Directs) and their dependents (spouse/partner and children) are eligible to enroll in the Postdoctoral Scholars Benefit Plan (PSBP). Your health insurance coverage benefits start on the first day of your appointment.
  2. Learn about what’s going on by following us on Facebook and Twitter!

Upon arrival

  1. Join the Postdoc Union! We derive our power from the strength of our membership. Having a strong membership majority means a great deal in enforcing our current contract and winning improvements in the future! As a member you can also participate in decision making, elect leadership, and are eligible for additional Union Member Benefits and Discounts.
  2. Enroll in the Postdoctoral Scholars Benefit Plan (PSBP, “health insurance”) within 31 days of your appointment date. All UC Postdocs (Employees, Fellows, and Paid Directs) and their families are eligible to enroll in the Postdoctoral Scholars Benefit Plan (PSBP or “health insurance,” which includes medical, dental and vision coverage as well as short- and long-term disability coverage). Your health insurance coverage benefits start on the first day of your appointment. Please note that it is necessary to enroll in order to receive coverage. The monthly contributions rates for Postdocs in 2017 are below.
    • Essentially, you only have to make two choices:
      1. Who to cover: Yourself, you+spouse/partner, you+dependent(s), or you+spouse/partner+dependent(s).
        • Please note that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate based on your marital or family status. If you have any problems or questions about enrollment please email us.
      2. Which plans to choose (See chart below for monthly costs):

      Monthly Premium Rates
      (effective 1/1/2017)
      Medical HMO Medical PPO Dental Vision Long-Term Disability
      Postdoc only $10.02 $20.00 $0.00 $0.00 $9.00
      Postdoc + Dependent(s) $17.53 $40.00 $0.00 $0.00 $9.00
      Postdoc + Spouse/Partner $36.07 $40.00 $0.00 $0.00 $9.00
      Postdoc + Spouse/Partner + Dependent(s) $45.84 $60.00 $0.00 $0.00 $9.00

    • The main difference between HMO and PPO plans is that with the HMO you have to choose a Primary Care Physician (PCP, or “your doctor”) who refers you to specialists as needed, whereas with the PPO you can self-refer to specialists. Out-of-pocket costs for HMO coverage are typically less than for PPO coverage, both in monthly premiums and procedure co-pays, but check the coverage summaries in the links above to see which plan best matches your needs.
    • Garnett-Powers has a comparison of the Medical HMO and PPO plans here.
    • Another factor when choosing between plans is the availability of doctors and dentists in your city. To see directories for the Medical HMO and PPO plans, Dental HMO and Dental POS plans and for the Vision Plan, click here. For the Medical and Dental HMO plans, you can change your PCP as frequently as once per month.
    • Enroll in Postdoc health benefits here: https://clients.garnett-powers.com/pd/uc/. Within a few weeks you will receive your proof of insurance cards in the mail.
    • Your coverage starts on your appointment date. If you need to go to the doctor before you receive your insurance card, contact Garnett-Powers & Associates at 1-800-254-1758, or by email at psbp@garnett-powers.com.
  3. You will be asked to fill out quite a bit of paperwork at your initial meeting with Human Resources. USCIS Form I-9 requires specific documents (see page 9). A cancelled check is often need for initiating direct deposit of your salary. You may also be asked to bring a photocopy of your degree or diploma.
  4. Meet with your PI to develop your Postdoctoral research and training plan.
    • Understand your mentor’s expectations and your own responsibilities.
    • Get information about success measures for your Postdoctoral positions and set some short-and long-term goals with your mentors.
    • Discuss how you and your PI will communicate – preferences, patterns, and frequency.
    • Ask questions about the lab, group, and department.

First month

  1. To receive health benefits, you must enroll within 31 days! It’s easy, please see above!
  2. Research and sign-up for mailing lists to receive announcements of events and talks from your lab, department, and other groups and organizations.
  3. We are all affected by politics, so we should all be involved in politics! Recently, we have advocated for policies like increased federal funding for science research and comprehensive immigration reform.
    • Email your campus leadership (see above) to get involved!
    • If eligible, register to vote in California and consider participating in V-CAP, a voluntary program to help support candidates and legislation that support Postdocs and other UAW members.
  4. Attending your campus’ Monthly Membership Meeting is a great way to learn about and get involved in our Union! Each month features a discussion on a different topic. Recently, we have discussed current policy initiatives, contractual rights such as pay and benefits, childcare resources, using time off and leaves, resolving workplace challenges, developing communication and mentorship skills, and getting teaching experience.
    • Learn about what the Union is doing! Get questions answered!
    • Meet other Postdocs!
    • Get involved! We are a democratic organization – your participation is essential! By contributing your ideas you’ll help shape the direction of the Union!
  5. Subscribe to UAW Local 5810’s calendar and check out our Forum page to post comments and questions about Postdoc life.
  6. If available, attend you campus’ New Postdoc Orientation.
  7. Receive & enjoy your first paycheck!

First three to six months

  1. Consider starting your Individual Development Plan (IDP). An Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a planning process that identifies goals for your research, professional development, and career, and engages your mentor to help you work toward these objectives. If you decide to do an IDP, your mentor must participate meaningfully in the process with you.
  2. Consider getting business cards through your department. These are great at conferences, big and small talks, and even professional/social encounters.
  3. Presenting your work at other labs or group meetings (perhaps linking your prior work to the Postdoctoral work you are now starting) is an easy way to connect with your local scientific community.
  4. Update your information on your lab’s website. This will be particularly useful while looking for faculty positions or jobs. If your lab does not have a web site, consider asking your PI to set one up.
  5. Plan ahead with your PI to strike the work/life balance that is right for you. We have 13 paid University holidays and 24 days of paid personal time off per year. If you do not use your personal time off within your appointment year, you lose it. We also have 12 days of sick leave per year, which do accrue from year to year.

First year

  1. Be informed about paying U.S. and State of California taxes
    • Federal and California State tax returns are due April 15 every year. If taxes are not being deducted from your pay, you are probably required to file estimated quarterly returns.
    • If you are an international Postdoc you might be covered under a tax treaty. Here are some resources for common postdoc tax questions:
  2. Meet with your PI to discuss the past year and plan next steps. If you are going to be reappointed, you should receive an offer at least 30 days prior to the end of your current appointment. Upon your annual anniversary date, your salary will either move up to at least the next Postdoctoral Scholar Experience Based Salary/Stipend Minima or increase by 2%, depending on your salary.

This document was last updated in December 2014. Please email us if you have questions, or feedback on how we can make this resource more complete and up-to-date.