The Postdoctoral Position
Postdoctoral Associates and Fellows are valued members of MIT’s community, playing critical roles as trainees and partners in our academic and research enterprise. As postdocs transition from the role of advanced student to young professional, this postdoctoral experience at MIT is a major step in their careers.
Working under the supervision of MIT faculty members, postdoctoral scholars come to MIT to develop their scholarly competence. Postdocs are appointed with the title Postdoctoral Fellow or Postdoctoral Associate depending on the type and source of funding. MIT Policies and Procedures provides detailed descriptions, including terms and conditions, for postdoctoral associate and postdoctoral fellow appointments. The Statement on the postdoctoral training period at MIT provides additional guidance. In addition, the Vice President for Research periodically communicates MIT’s responsibilities regarding the postdoc salary rate, health benefits for Postdoctoral Fellows, mentoring plans, and annual reviews, summarized in the Vice President for Research Update.
What is the difference between a Postdoctoral Associate and a Postdoctoral Fellow?
What benefits does a Postdoctoral Associate receive?
What benefits does a Postdoctoral Fellow receive?
What are other differences and considerations?
MIT is engaged in on-going efforts to equalize provisions for Postdoc Associates and Postdoctoral Fellows wherever possible. Many resources are in place for all postdoctoral scholars; see for example Resources and Information for Postdocs and Athletics membership information.
Federal and state laws and the way MIT benefits are funded create distinctions between salaried and unsalaried postdocs. An MIT salary is a payment for services that is paid through MIT’s payroll system. Every salary is subject to withholding taxes and Social Security deductions (see below). In addition, for each MIT salary paid by the hiring department to the employee, there is an additional “fringe rate” (currently 26%) for the MIT “benefits pool.” This rate is negotiated annually with the federal government. It funds employee benefits and must be charged to the same MIT source- often federal grants- that pays the salary. In contrast, a Postdoctoral Fellow’s stipend or fellowship is considered non-salary support, and is not subject to withholding taxes, Social Security deductions, or a fringe rate. Because the benefits pool does not support fellowship appointments, other arrangements are made for comparable provisions when possible.
What time off provisions are in place for Postdocs? See details here.
Postdoctoral Associates are taxed as employees and have taxes withheld from their paychecks (federal and state income taxes, as well as Social Security and Medicare, or FICA). They need to submit the necessary withholding forms to MIT online, following HR/Payroll instructions.
Tax regulations for Postdoctoral Fellows are different, including regarding tax withholding. Fellowship stipends disbursed by MIT, except for foreign sourced fellowships, are subject to federal and state income taxes but not to Social Security or Medicare taxes. The stipend income is referred to as “unearned” income by the Internal Revenue Service, and Fellows are required to pay taxes on it.
Additional tax and benefit Information is available through MIT’s Office of the Vice President for Finance (HR/Payroll) and MIT Employee Benefits. See in particular Payroll Information for Postdoctoral Fellows and Associates and Impact of switching from a Postdoctoral Associate to a Postdoctoral Fellow appointment (or vice versa).