Research Scientist salary negotiation
Salary Negotiation
January 3, 2023

The Ultimate Guide to Research Scientist Salary Negotiation

What are Research Scientists? Are they well compensated at large tech companies such as Google, Facebook, OpenAI, and Deepmind? What is the average Research Scientist's salary? If you get a Research Scientist offer, should you negotiate?

The guide below aims to equip you with the essential information you need for your upcoming Research Scientist salary negotiation — based on our experiences across hundreds of Research Scientist negotiations across Google, Facebook, OpenAI, Deepmind, and more. If you’ve just received your dream Research Scientist offer letter, this guide will help you maximize your total compensation.

If your situation is unique or you want 1:1 support to ensure you maximize your compensation, please sign up for a free consultation with one of our expert negotiators.

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Table of Contents

What is a Research Scientist

What does a Research Scientist do?

A Research Scientist typically conducts research and development in a specific area of expertise, such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, computer science, or a related field. The specific responsibilities of a Research Scientist can vary depending on the company and the specific team or project they are working on, but some typical duties might include:

  • Conducting independent and collaborative research: Research scientists at FAANG companies typically conduct independent research and collaborate with other researchers and engineers on projects. This might involve designing and conducting experiments, analyzing data, and developing new algorithms, models, or technologies.
  • Presenting research findings: In addition to publishing their work in scholarly publications and conference proceedings, Research Scientists frequently present their findings at conferences, workshops, and other gatherings..
  • Mentoring junior researchers: Research scientists at Deepmind and other public companies might also be responsible for mentoring and supervising junior researchers, including postdoctoral researchers and graduate students.
  • Collaborating with external researchers: Researchers from universities, research labs, and other businesses may collaborate with researchers from Google, Facebook, etc. These partnerships promote the work being done at the company and the industry more widely by introducing fresh perspectives and ideas.
  • Participating in the product development process: At Google and Facebook, and other high-growth tech companies, Research Scientists are also involved in the product development process, working with engineers and other team members to turn their research into practical products or services.

Working as a Research Scientist at Google, Facebook, Amazon, etc., involves conducting and leading research in a specific area of expertise, collaborating with other researchers and teams, and contributing to the advancement of the field.

Differences between Startups and a Public company

Working at a startup versus a larger company like Google involves several vital differences. One difference is funding, as startups often need more funding which can affect the resources and support available to employees. In contrast, larger companies like Google generally have more financial resources and can offer their employees more comprehensive support and resources.

Another difference is the organizational structure, as startups tend to have flatter structures which can provide employees with more opportunities to take on responsibility and have a greater impact on the direction of the company, whereas working as a Research Scientist at larger companies like Microsoft tends to have more hierarchical structures with defined roles and responsibilities.

Startups tend to have a more laid-back and entrepreneurial culture focusing on innovation and taking risks, whereas larger companies like Amazon and Deepmind may have a more formal and structured work environment with a greater emphasis on process and stability.

Startups may offer more opportunities for employees to take on new challenges and responsibilities; this means that startups also have less structured career advancement pathways, whereas working as a Research Scientist at a large tech company like Amazon typically has more defined career advancement pathways and structured training and development programs.

Albeit, working at an established company like Google or Meta will be less risky as these large-cap companies tend to be more stable and offer higher job security to their employees. With high risk comes high rewards, so while working at a startup may be riskier, it is also well worth it if the startup is successful.

Research Scientist career paths

An individual's path will depend on personal goals, interests, and skills. Some common career paths for Research Scientists include:

  • Research and development: In the technology sector, Research Scientists may work in a research and development (R&D) environment, such as a tech startup or firm, where they research and create new technologies, goods, or procedures.
  • Academia: A career in academia is an option for Research Scientists interested in instructing and conducting research at the university level. This may entail applying for a faculty post at a university, where they can instruct classes, offer learners guidance, and conduct research.
  • Consulting: Research Scientists in the tech industry interested in applying their expertise to solve problems for tech companies and organizations can pursue a career in consulting. This can involve working for a consulting firm or starting their own consulting business.
  • Entrepreneurship: Some Research Scientists who are interested in using their skills and knowledge to start their tech-related businesses can pursue a career in entrepreneurship. Being an entrepreneur is only for some, as this involves broadening horizons to execute.

Leading companies to work for as a Research Scientist.

Many companies are known for being great places to work for Research Scientists, and the best one for you will depend on your interests, goals, and values. Some factors to consider when evaluating potential employers include the company's mission and values, the quality of the research conducted, the support and resources available to researchers, and the company's culture and work environment.

Here are a few examples of companies that are often considered to be among the best places to work for Research Scientists:

  • Google: Google is known for its cutting-edge research and innovation, and it attracts top talent from around the world. The company's researchers can work on various projects, from developing new technologies and products to exploring fundamental scientific questions. Google also has a strong culture of collaboration and support, with resources and tools available to help researchers be successful.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft is another company known for its strong research culture and support for its researchers. The company has several research labs worldwide where scientists can work on projects such as artificial intelligence and software engineering. Microsoft also has several programs and initiatives in place to support the professional development of its researchers.
  • IBM: IBM is a global technology company with a long history of conducting research and development. The company has several research labs worldwide, where scientists can work on projects in areas such as artificial intelligence, quantum computing, and health care. IBM also has a strong culture of collaboration and support, with resources and tools available to help researchers be successful.
  • Amazon: Amazon is a global e-commerce and technology company focused on innovation and customer obsession. Amazon also has a diverse and inclusive culture and a strong emphasis on work-life balance.
  • Any many more!

Ultimately, the best company for you will depend on your specific interests and goals, as well as your values and priorities. Understanding and carefully evaluating the culture, work environment, and opportunities available at different companies is essential to determine the best fit for you.

Research Scientist Compensation Components

Base Salary

Depending on your location, the base salary offered by companies like Google, Facebook, and Amazon will differ, along with the rest of the compensation components. Most companies compensate Research Scientists according to the cost of living in their respective location and the going market rate for engineers in the area, so it's essential to be mindful of how your location will affect your pay. If you are not in the Bay Area, NYC or Seattle, your comp will likely be lower than the numbers you find online.

With that being out of the way, base salary at Deepmind, OpenAI, and Google, unsurprisingly, is the component that moves the least when negotiating. The aforementioned companies have a small band for the base salary within each level, so you'll likely only see your base move by a maximum of $20k-$30k.

Annual Bonus

Annual bonuses are another component that can be coupled with the base salary. The annual bonus is usually non-negotiable and highly subjective to the company you are applying to. Here are a few examples of the Annual bonuses for companies that hire Research Scientists (for the same level L4 equivalent):

  • Google -  15%
  • Facebook - 15%
  • Microsoft - 10-15%
  • DeepMind - 15%
  • Amazon - 0%
  • OpenAI - 0%

Most FAANG companies offer performance bonuses; it is essential to be aware of the annual bonus when negotiating, especially when you have multiple offers. Companies such as Google and Facebook often apply a company multiplier to performance bonuses, which they also do for stock refreshers.

Of course, annual bonuses are non-negotiable, but if negotiating with a company like Amazon that doesn't offer them, you can always factor them into your counteroffer's base salary as your "yearly cash amount.”

Equity

Companies like Facebook and Microsoft follow a standard and linear vesting schedule of 25% yearly (typical initial grants last four years). Although, companies are starting to get very creative (to gain the upper hand) in how they vest RSUs.

At Facebook, Microsoft, OpenAI, and most other companies, RSUs are subject to a 4-year vesting schedule: 25% vests at the end of the 1st year (sometimes accompanied by a cliff), then 25% in each of the 2nd, 3rd, and 4th years. For example, if you were given a stock grant of 400k at Facebook over four years, the equity would vest as follows:

  • Year 1 - 25% $100k
  • Year 2 - 25% $100k
  • Year 3 - 25% $100k
  • Year 4 - 25% $100k

Google and Amazon do equity vesting a little differently. Google has a front-loaded equity vest (33-33-22-12), while Amazon has a back-loaded equity vest (5-15-40-40). They often use these vesting schedules to inflate your offer and make it look more substantial than it is. In Google’s case, the recruiters often quote the first-year number as your per year total compensation, while Amazon adds a ‘conservative’ 15% growth factor on your future equity. Knowing how the recruiters frame your offer is paramount, as it could be the difference between accepting a great offer and an outstanding one.

Sign-on Bonus

At Rora, we have seen Research Scientists get offered a small signing bonus without asking for it - recruiters often use this tactic to sweeten the deal. It’s often possible to increase the signing bonus substantially (this is where having leverage helps!). With the proper leverage and framework, Research Scientists can get up to $100,000 in Tier 1 locations (Bay Area, New York), which holds across companies like Google, Facebook, Amazon, and more!

Albeit, it's a common recruiter trick to leave a signing bonus out of the initial offer so they can add it as part of the negotiation (and avoid increasing the base or equity, which could require more senior-level approval). Some recruiters have claimed that the company does not offer sign-on bonuses, which isn’t always the case. Recruiters at Google and Facebook will not initially include a sign-on bonus. Instead, a sign-on bonus is often added when specific leverage/information is shared with them.

Most companies will reserve the right to “claw back” a portion of your signing bonus if you leave before the 1-year mark. This is normal for major tech companies, commonly only requiring you to repay the pro-rata amount — for example, if you leave after ten months, you would need to pay 2/12 of your signing bonus back.

Recent Research Scientist Offers

L4 Research Scientist Base Salary Equity ($) Annual Bonus Signing Bonus
Google $175,000 $1,000,000+ 15% $100,000
Facebook $170,000 $1,000,000+ 15% $95,000
Deepmind $215,000 $1,100,000+ 15% $50,000
Waymo $175,000 $600,000 15% $100,000
Cruise $240,000 $500,000 30% $75,000

These are some of the offers we helped negotiate in Tier 1 locations like SF and New York. Although the numbers mentioned above seem very enticing, the proper framework and leverage were used to achieve such strong results.

Research Scientist negotiation process

Before preparing for a negotiation, make sure you have a good understanding of both your financial and career goals. This will help you decide what you should be asking for and make you better prepared to negotiate effectively.

For example, if you hope to save a certain amount of money each month or save for a specific goal, you should make sure the salary you are negotiating will help you get there. This may mean you ask for more salary instead of a non-cash benefit like equity.

A clear goal of what a pay increase will help you achieve will help you feel more confident to ask.

If you haven’t yet received an offer, here are a few things to consider during the interview process:

  1. Do not share your current compensation. In many states (e.g., California), it is illegal for companies to ask for this. If a recruiter asks you, you are certainly within your rights to say, "I don’t feel comfortable sharing that information."
  2. Related - we do not recommend sharing your compensation expectations before receiving an offer. Most companies will pay very competitively and will be willing to negotiate after giving an initial offer. If you choose to throw out a high number when asked, that will increase the chance you are required to provide proof of a competing offer. Instead, if you’re asked for your pay expectations, we recommend you reply with, "I'm focused on the interview process and still researching market data. I am confident we will get to a number that works for both of us."

Negotiating a salary, equity, and signing bonus for a Research Scientist offer can be daunting. Still, with the proper knowledge and preparation, you can increase your chances of securing a fair and competitive offer. We recommend you:

  1. Research the market: Before beginning negotiations, it's essential to understand the current market for Research Scientist’s salaries. This will give you a better idea of what to expect regarding salary and benefits and help you understand what other companies offer similar positions. Aipaygrad.es is a great resource (and a partner of Rora’s). We also have thousands of data points from negotiations we’ve supported and up-to-date data on how the market is trending.
  2. Understand your value: As a Research Scientist, you bring unique skills and expertise to the table. It's essential to understand the value of your skills and experience and to articulate this value to potential employers during negotiations. Asking your recruiter/hiring manager questions about the scope of the role and responsibilities is a great way to understand how companies like OpenAI, DeepMind, and IBM value you. This will help you negotiate a salary that reflects your worth and the value you can bring to the company. A few great questions to ask are:
    1. What are some of the challenges and opportunities the team is currently facing? How does that translate into initiatives for the team?
    2. What are the main KPIs for the team this year?
    3. What are the major projects the team is working on this year?
  3. Remember you can walk away: Given the long process it often takes to secure a job offer, it can be tempting to sign the first offer you get. However - if negotiations aren’t going well and you’re not excited about the offer you’re receiving, it can be worth considering walking away. Your skills are in demand, and - more than likely - you’re a few weeks away from a better, higher offer that better reflects your value and skills.‍
  4. Try to see if the company will go above the band: Since the demand for Research Scientist is high, many companies will go above their standard pay band to get the right candidate to join. We have successfully secured above-band offers from Google, Facebook, and Amazon. Having another offer or even speaking to another company can create some leverage when making your counteroffer. Additionally, we have seen that patience and slowly moving through the negotiation can help make the company wonder if you’re considering other opportunities.
  5. Ask for specific yearly compensation:We have found that being clear in your request is very important since it communicates confidence and implies that you have deeply thought about your market value. To show flexibility in your ask, you can ask for a total compensation number instead of mentioning a specific breakdown of the base, equity, and signing bonus you want to see. This gives employers such as Google, Facebook, and TikTok a chance to determine how to meet your request using a combination of base, bonus, and equity. However, this is where expertise in negotiating is crucial. Remember to make sure what you’re asking for is above band to maximize the offer!
  6. Ask for support from the hiring manager: Having a great relationship with your hiring manager is critical for successful negotiation — and, more broadly, ensuring that you’re being set up for success within the company. Suppose your hiring manager is disrespectful or not supportive during the negotiation. How can you expect them to advocate for exciting projects for you to work on or get a promotion in a year or two?

    Often, during negotiations, we help candidates speak with their hiring manager about expectations for the role and the impact they hope to drive. This can help ensure that the hiring manager is 1. someone you want to work with and 2. excited for you to join.

    Once you know you have their support, you’ll have more confidence going back to the recruiter to make an ask for higher compensation.

Research Scientist Negotiation Tactics

Employers commonly use a handful of sneaky tactics to help pull the negotiation in their favor — and it’s essential to be aware of them to avoid being taken advantage of. The most common tactics include putting time pressure on you with an exploding deadline, mentioning that the initial offer is non-negotiable (even though it is!), selling you on company growth and saying that your equity value will increase substantially, and promising to revisit pay in the near future.

Some of the most common negotiation strategies that we use in rebuttal are:

  • Putting pressure on the employer – Employers are often pressured to fill a position quickly. You can use this to your advantage by pressing them to offer you a higher salary by saying, “I know you’re trying to wrap up the negotiation - here’s what I’d need to sign.”
  • Standing in a stronger position – If you have a competing job offer (or are currently employed), you are in a stronger negotiating position. You can use this to your advantage by asking what you want regarding salary, benefits, and equity.
  • Sharing outside information – You can also use outside information to strengthen your position. For example, you could talk with a competitor about the compensation they might be offering. Recruiters can be great resources for this information, too!

Research Scientists in tech play a crucial role in driving innovation and solving complex problems. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Research Scientists’ offers are projected to grow 21% from 2021 to 2031, much faster than the average for all other occupations.

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1:1 Salary Negotiation Support

Negotiation strategy

Step 1 is defining the strategy, which often starts by helping you create leverage for your negotiation (e.g. setting up conversations with FAANG recruiters).

Negotiation anchor number

Step 2 we decide on anchor numbers and target numbers with the goal of securing a top of band offer, based on our internal verified data sets.

Negotiation execution plan

Step 3 we create custom scripts for each of your calls, practice multiple 1:1 mock negotiations, and join your recruiter calls to guide you via chat.

Frequently Asked Questions