NIH Salary Cap

Every year since 1990 Congress has legislatively mandated a provision limiting the direct salary that an individual may receive under an NIH grant.

Salary Limitation

Salary Cap Limitations - Effective January 01, 2024 $221,900

For the purposes of the salary limitation, the terms "direct salary," "salary," and "institutional base salary" have the same meaning and are exclusive of fringe benefits and facilities and administrative (F&A) expenses, also referred to as indirect costs. An individual's institutional base salary is the annual compensation that the applicant organization pays for an individual's appointment, whether that individual's time is spent on research, teaching, patient care, or other activities. Base salary excludes any income that an individual may be permitted to earn outside of the duties to the applicant organization.

NIH grant/contract awards for applications/proposals that request direct salaries of individuals in excess of the applicable RATE per year will be adjusted in accordance with the legislative salary limitation and will include a notification such as the following: None of the funds in this award shall be used to pay the salary of an individual at a rate in excess of the applicable salary cap.

An individual's base salary, per se, is NOT constrained by the legislative provision for a limitation of salary. The rate limitation simply limits the amount that may be awarded and charged to NIH grants and contracts. An institution may pay an individual's salary amount in excess of the salary cap with non-federal funds.

The salary limitation does NOT apply to payments made to consultants under an NIH grant or contract although, as with all costs, those payments must meet the test of reasonableness and be consistent with institutional policy.

The salary limitation provision DOES apply to subawards for substantive work under an NIH grant or contract.

Examples on how to calculate NIH Salary Cap amounts.

NIH Cap on Graduate Student Compensation

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and other DHHS (Department of Health and Human Services) agencies' policy provides that the maximum amount that NIH will award to support the compensation package for a graduate student research assistant remains at the zero level postdoctoral stipend as specified on the latest Ruth L. Kirschstein National Research Service Award (NRSA) scale. Dartmouth College calculates the NIH cap for graduate student compensation (salary plus tuition remission) as the minimum compensation level for full-time, first year postdocs at the current zero-level NRSA stipend plus the annual costs of graduate student health insurance and graduate student health access fees.

Current postdoctoral stipend levels can be found on the NIH Website, and current annual costs of student health insurance and health access fees can be found on the Dartmouth Finance site.

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