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Physics Working at Livermore or Berkeley Lab - Salary and Lifestyle?

  1. May 30, 2017 #1
    Hey Physics Forums,

    I have what might be a dumb question but I think it's one that a lot of professional physicists can answer. I also think it's one that a lot of people like me might be curious to know the answer. Context for me is I'm a graduate student trying to understand my future opportunities.

    I have tried looking for this answer around the internet. I have no idea how much a physicist could expect to be compensated in a national laboratory setting like Livermore or Berkeley Lab. A naive google search for "livermore salary physicist" says $118k to $176k according to Glassdoor.com. Are these actually reasonable numbers? Because if I search instead of "berkeley laboratory salary physicist" I see values that are more in line with my previous impression that physicists in National Lab settings made half this... Berkeley lab from Glassdoor says around $60k. And since I know the internet can lie to me and mislead, I wanted to ask here to an audience of physicists. Why could there be this massive discrepancy between the two?

    My second question is more specific to Livermore. I have worked at Berkeley lab so I know what that is like. What is life like working in Livermore? Do people commute from the rest of the bay area? There isn't quite a bart line all the way out there which makes it harder.

    Thanks for the insights. If I am not allowed to ask about salary information, I'm sure someone will tell me and I will delete it. I'm not asking for anyone's specific information of course. Just general orders of magnitude...
  2. jcsd
  3. May 30, 2017 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    The difference is between postdocs (although $60K seems a bit on the low side) and senior staff.
  4. Jun 2, 2017 #3
    The Glassdoor numbers are reasonable. You have to take into account that the Bay Area is the mecca of tech and startups. This makes the cost of living ridiculous. While the Livermore or Berkeley salary might be higher than other national labs they still can't compete with the private market in the area.
  5. Jun 2, 2017 #4


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    The last time I heard from my roommate in grad school, about twenty years ago, he was working at the Livermore lab and living in Stockton which is even further out from the bay.
  6. Jun 3, 2017 #5
    $60k-90k is the range I have heard from my friends working as postdocs national labs in the area (LLNL, LBL, SLAC). Scientists make more and that is what you are seeing, I think.

    I only know a few people who have worked at Livermore and all of them lived in Stockton or Pleasaton. I have a friend who works in Pleasanton and lives in Walnut Creek and her commute time is 35-45 minutes in her car pool lane approved car.
  7. Jun 3, 2017 #6


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    I have friends who live in Livermore and commute into Silicon Valley, which is a tough commute. But if you live and work in Livermore, I would think that would be pretty nice. Livermore is a nice town, and living already part-way out of Silicon Valley would make it a lot easier on "getaway" weekends when you want to head to Tahoe or up North. The cost of living in Livermore will be higher than Stockton, but lower than living in Silicon Valley. I think the slightly higher cost of living versus Stockton is definitely offset by not having to endure that commute, IMO.

    BTW, if you ride a bicycle, there are some nice routes around Livermore (are you familiar with the Iron Horse Trail?) :smile:
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