Postdoctoral Associate vs Postdoctoral Scholar

All postdocs will start as a Postdoctoral Associate when they are hired and will be on the regular (Comp) payroll. Some fellowships (in particular NRSA) require postdocs to be paid through a different mechanism, using the Non-Comp payroll. Postdocs on the Non-Comp payroll will have the job title of Postdoctoral Scholar.

More information about this can be found here:

Many postdocs have encountered issues with benefits and parking permits when switching payrolls. In order for the payroll transition to move as smoothly as possible, we highly recommend you do the following:


Jamarcus will ask you to fill out new paperwork to switch to Non-Comp payroll, which will include re-selecting your health benefits option. After you do this, send an email to Jennifer Frazier ( and inform her that you are transitioning to the non-comp payroll and want to make sure there is no interruption in your benefits. Duke HR does not realize that you have switched to a new position that still comes with benefits, so they send you an automated email that says they think you are losing your health benefits and should enroll in COBRA. This is a mistake on their end, so don’t worry about it.


To make sure that your monthly parking deduction is switched to the non-comp payroll, send an email to Sierra Foxx ( and explain that you will be switching to non-comp and want to make sure that there is no interruption in the payments for your parking pass.

Compensation for increased tax burden:

Postdoctoral Scholars that receive an NRSA will be taxed on the amount of money that Duke contributes to their health insurance each month. This will significantly increase your taxable income, and as a result, Postdoctoral Scholars face an increased tax burden resulting in an overall decrease in the amount of money they take home. To address this issue, as of 2020, Duke University requires that postdoctoral scholars receive top-up pay to compensate for this loss due to tax burden. Jamarcus will fill out paperwork for your non-comp paycheck that will calculate this top-up pay. If your PI has any issue with compensating you, please contact Scott Soderling ( 

Foreign-Nationals Paid Direct

Some international postdocs receiving international fellowships may be designated a “Foreign-National Paid Direct.” Postdocs in this situation are eligible for health insurance, but not dental or vision insurance. Please discuss concerns about these issues with your PI, Mollie Sykes, and Scott Soderling.

Other Annoyances

Postdoctoral scholars are not considered Duke employees (but they are also not considered self-employed!). As such, they are not eligible for many employee benefits, including health savings account, retirement plans, etc. This is very frustrating for postdocs. Please refer to the link at the beginning of this section for more information.