Recommended salary and benefit rates for student and non-student assistants paid from research grants
Revised: 29 May 2020 for the 2020-2021 university fiscal year
The tables below provide a summary. Please review the sections that follow for complete details. Note that this information is for budget preparation purposes only. Please consult Human Resources and/or Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs for specific hiring information.
|Assistant type||Level||Rate||Non-discretionary benefits1
and vacation pay
Graduate Research Studentship (GRS)
(e.g., thesis work)
|Masters||In applicable order
1) Department standard rate
2) GRA equivalent of $20,217/year
3) Minimum $12,000/year
|Not applicable2||Not taxable income|
|Doctoral||In applicable order
1) Department standard rate
2) Minimum $24,055/year
|Not applicable2||Not taxable income|
Graduate Research Assistantship (GRA)
|Masters||$6,739.20/term (or $42.12/hour)||14%||10 hour/week maximum|
|Doctoral||$8,019.20/term (or $50.12/hour)||14%||10 hour/week maximum|
General Assistants and Postdoctoral Fellows1
|Total estimated benefit rate|
|Employment term of <1 year3||Employment without Pension Plan participation4,5||Employment with Pension Plan participation4,6|
|$40,001 to $60,000||14%||21%||26%|
|$60,001 to $100,000||12%||17%||24%|
1 If the position is already filled, use the exact salary and benefit rate of the employee. If the person has not yet been hired, but the expected salary range and term of employment is known, use the appropriate rate listed in the table or generate your own estimate using Human Resource's Net Pay/Benefit Cost Estimator (see bottom of page). If a single (global) benefit rate is required, use 25%.
Graduate Research Studentships (GRS)
Human Resources has prepared a chart to help distinguish Graduate Research Studentships (GRS) from Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA). Graduate Research Studentships should be viewed primarily as support for students while they are working on their academic program(s) (e.g., thesis) under the mentorship and guidance of the faculty supervisor. These funds are paid through the Graduate Studies Office on a once per term basis, are not taxable, and do not have benefits or vacation pay applied.
Use the standard rates of the home department for the graduate students in your application budgets. If the home department does not have a set rate:
Master’s: use a rate equivalent to the Graduate Research Assistantship listed below ($20,217/year) is appropriate. At the very least, a $12,000 annual minimum* is required at Waterloo.
Doctoral: the Waterloo minimum* is $24,055/year.
*The minimum funding levels required for graduate students may be met through various sources of funds (e.g., Graduate Research Assistantship; Teaching Assistantship; other awards). Rates are subject to change May 1 annually.
Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA)
Human Resources has prepared a chart to help distinguish Graduate Research Studentships (GRS) from Graduate Research Assistantships (GRA). Graduate Research Assistantships support graduate students from university-administered accounts to perform a designated list of research duties under the supervision of one or more faculty members. The student is expected to complete tasks on a fixed schedule and reports progress to the supervisor(s) on an agreed schedule. Duties and assigned tasks may be routine or advanced but normally fall outside the scope of the student’s research. The relationship between supervisor(s) and student is similar to that of employer and employee, and income received by the student as a result of this service is taxable in the student's hands. Graduate students must be enrolled in a graduate program to receive these payments. Payments are processed on a monthly basis and reported as T4 Employment Income, and have non-discretionary benefits and vacation pay applied. There is a 10 hour per week maximum for a GRA. Rates are subject to change May 1 annually.
Master’s: $6,739/term or $42.12/hour ( + 14% in benefits and vacation pay).
Doctoral: $8,019/term or $50.12/hour ( + 14% in benefits and vacation pay).
Postdoctoral Fellows (PDF)
Postdoctoral fellows are paid through payroll, with taxes and benefits applied, depending upon the length of the PDF contract (see statutory deductions and benefits costs). Waterloo requires a minimum stipend of $30,000 per year, however PDFs are commonly offered a stipend of at least $40,000 per year (plus benefits). The Graduate Studies and Postdoctoral Affairs has more information about appointing a PDF.
A person employed to work on a research project is classified as a General Assistant when a faculty member hires someone to work full or part-time on a project who is not registered as a full-time student during the period of employment. For example, a student who has been employed as a Graduate Research Assistant during the academic term would be paid as a General Assistant for work undertaken during a non-academic term or in the summer. Normal Waterloo Human Resources policies must be followed for all General Assistants.
A job description is required for any General Assistant position which is more than 1/3 of a full-time position. This should be discussed with Human Resources well in advance of grant application deadline dates.
Salary rates for General Assistants must fall within University salary (USG) scales. Researchers should contact the Human Resources Partner for their department for help with determining suitable rates of payment for specific research staff positions.
Salary rates for some General Assistants may be determined according to the following guidelines provided by Human Resources. USG level information can be found in Policy 5 and the scale is subject to change May 1 annually. The rates below are based on a 35 hour work week:
- Salary rates for assistants at the undergraduate level may range from $20.72 to $29.88 per hour (USG range: low-3 to mid-5)
Example: Research Assistant performing clerical work or secretarial work on a project
- Salary rates for assistants who hold an undergraduate degree or equivalent may range from $23.90 to $36.08 per hour (USG range: low-5 to mid-7)
Examples: data collection or survey data work
- Salary rates for assistants who hold a graduate degree or equivalent may range from $31.53 to $42.91 per hour (USG range: low-8 to mid-9)
Examples: data analysis or report writing
- Those wishing to hire Co-op Students should contact Co-op Education
- Professional positions such as Research Engineer should be discussed with Human Resources
When preparing a budget, if the position is already filled then use the employee's specific salary and benefit rate. If the person has not yet been hired, but the expected salary range and term of employment is known, use the appropriate rate listed in the statutory deductions and benefit costs and pension plan participation sections below. If a single (global) benefit rate is required, use 25%.
In addition to the salaries of research personnel (excludes studentships), the employer’s share of the cost of benefits is to be paid from research awards. The precise total cost of benefits is difficult to predict as many factors affect the calculation, however the suggested rates serve as reasonable estimates for budgeting purposes or you can generate your own estimates using Human Resource's Net Pay/Benefit Cost Estimator (see bottom of page). The statutory non-discretionary deductions, which apply to all employees, are Employment Insurance, Canada Pension Plan, Workplace Safety and Insurance, and Employer’s Health Tax and are payable by the employer. Also, if the term of employment is less than one year, the employee will receive vacation pay at or time off in lieu thereof. Research staff who are employed for less than 30 hours per week are entitled to these basic benefits to a maximum of 14%.
Full-time research staff, including Postdoctoral Fellows, who hold a minimum of a one-year full-time appointment are also eligible for insured benefits (Life Insurance, Extended Health Care). Total estimated benefit costs depend on salary: 23% for annual salaries of $40,000 or less; 21% for annual salaries of $40,001 to $60,000; 17% for annual salaries of $60,001 to $100,000; and 12% for annual salaries of more than $100,000. Note that Postdoctoral Fellows and Research Associates with an appointment that exceeds one year and all other staff with an appointment that exceeds two years are eligible for Pension Plan participation which increases the total estimated benefit costs (see pension plan participation). For full-time research staff, vacation entitlement is two weeks during the year after one year of employment, and is not to be taken as vacation pay. Postdoctoral Fellows with appointments of one year or more are entitled to one month vacation at their normal monthly rate as per Policy 56. Please note, graduate students are not considered full-time appointments, but are considered temporary employees hired on a per term basis, and therefore are not eligible for these insured benefits. (If they are registered as full-time students, they will be billed the premium for student health insurance on their tuition fee statement.)
For further details on benefits eligibility, visit Waterloo Human Resources.
After an employee’s one year temporary authorization has been renewed once for a total of two years or if they are eligible, in accordance with their T4 slips, the Waterloo Pension Plan may be an added benefit. Postdoctoral Fellow and Research Associates with an appointment that exceeds one year are also eligible for Pension Plan participation. The cost of Pension Plan participation increases the total benefit cost to approximately: 28% for employees with an annual salary of $40,000 or less; 26% for those with an annual salary of $40,001 to $60,000; 24% for those with an annual salary of $60,001 to $100,000; and 22% for those with an annual salary of more than $100,000.
Annual increments for continuing staff
General Assistants may be eligible for increases annually as of May 1 per normal University policy. Researchers applying for multi-year grants should include, if permitted in their budgets, an adjustment factor for salary expenses, as well as for consumables and travel to offset the effects of inflation in the subsequent years of the grant. For salaries, it would be appropriate to allow for an annual increment of about 3%. (This is assuming that the employee’s starting salary was well below the maximum level allowable for the position). While in most cases granting agencies do not recognize inflationary (cost of living) increases, applicants should take into consideration, when planning their budgets, the likelihood of increasing costs in subsequent years.