What each main character’s salary would look like

The careers of the main characters of The Big Bang Theory play a key role in the series, and here’s what each main character’s salaries and wages might look like in real life. Part of the show’s success, which ran between 2007 and 2019, came from the thrill of watching them embark on their impressive career paths. Four of the five main characters, Sheldon, Leonard, Howard, and Raj, are all highly trained Caltech scientists. Meanwhile, Penny is going through the biggest career change of any other character on the show. It’s never explicitly mentioned in the show, but there’s enough on-screen information to estimate what The Big Bang Theory the average character salaries could be.


At first glance, none of the characters seem extremely wealthy. In the first season, Sheldon and Leonard share a two-bedroom apartment in Pasadena, which in 2007 probably wouldn’t have cost them more than $1,500 each per month. Both Raj and Penny have their own one bedroom apartment and Howard still lives at home with his mother. An early plot point revolves around Sheldon and Leonard’s lack of finances as they go to a sperm bank to earn money. However, the band generally don’t seem to be big spenders; aside from their geeky collectibles which are probably worth a good amount of money, they don’t have a lot of extravagant spending.

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Due to the success of the series, at the 2019 finale, each of the main cast would have earned $1,000,000 per episode. That’s way more money than any of their characters would have made home in twelve seasons of The Big Bang Theory. Here are the estimated salaries of the five main characters in the series.

Sheldon’s Salary

Sheldon with a bunch of cats in The Big Bang Theory

Dr. Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parson) is a senior theoretical physicist at the California Institute of Technology. He has two doctorates, obtaining the first when he was only 16 and the second four years later. This means that at the time The Big Bang Theory begins when Sheldon is 27, he’s probably left academia and has been working professionally for seven years. We see in several episodes that he can be quite generous when it comes to money; for example, he doesn’t mind stopping Penny from repaying a loan to him. This would suggest that Sheldon saved some money.

The average salary for a senior theoretical physicist at a top institute like Caltech is around $100,000. In order to move his research from string theory to dark matter, Sheldon was appointed junior professor in The Big Bang Theory season 8. This promotion would have increased his salary to around $140,000 per year. In the series finale, Sheldon and his wife Amy win a Nobel Prize which, alongside the $1.1 million in prize money, would surely have come with a higher salary, as he would be highly sought after by any institution.

Leonardo’s salary

Dr. Leonard Hofstadter (Johnny Galecki) is a senior experimental physicist at Caltech. He has a doctorate. from Princeton University, which he graduated at the age of 24. He did important work, including classified research for the military on rocket fuel and was part of Stephen Hawking’s expedition to the North Sea. In The Big Bang Theory season 6, Leonard is shortlisted for a permanent position at Caltech, along with Raj and Sheldon, which would have included a pay raise if he got it.

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Although on average experimental physicists are paid more than theoretical physicists at the same level, Leonard’s only doctorate compared to Sheldon’s two would likely result in him being paid less than his best friend. Moreover, in Sheldon’s judgment, most of Leonard’s work would be considered “derivative.However, it’s likely that Leonard’s salary will be around $100,000 a year and stay about the same for the entire series.

Penny’s Salary

penny pretends to be on the phone as she teaches sheldon how to act - on the big bang theory

Penny Teller (Kaley Cuoco) is an aspiring actress at the start of The Big Bang Theory. Her acting career never comes down to anything but low-budget horror films, commercials, and the occasional theater gig. His main source of income actually comes from his work at The Cheesecake Factory. Penny waitresses and bartenders at her job, earning minimum wage plus tips. Although tips can vary, Penny’s salary probably wouldn’t have exceeded $28,000 a year, as the California minimum wage in 2007 was $7.50.

However, later in The Big Bang Theory, Penny changes paths and becomes a pharmaceutical representative in her friend Bernadette’s company. She is said to be the third best saleswoman in the company. That’s a big difference in pay compared to his job at the Cheesecake Factory. With this job, Penny would earn around $75,000 a year, or even more than $150,000 if her job factors in performance bonuses.

Raj’s Salary

Raj Big Bang Theory

Dr. Rajesh Koothrappali (Kunal Nayyar) is an astrophysicist at Caltech and also has a Ph.D. He has achieved impressive accomplishments throughout his career, including discovering a planet, being featured as one of the People magazine’s “30 Under 30” and received the Newcomb Medal, worth approximately $25,000. The Big Bang Theory‘s Raj also has family living in India who regularly send him expensive gifts and even pay his rent since they are billionaires.

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At the end of his research, Raj takes a job with Sheldon at The Big Bang Theory in order to prevent his work permit from being canceled and deported. Later, he also got a job as a lecturer at the Griffith Observatory Planetarium. His combined salary would be around $100,000.

Howard’s salary

Simon Helberg as Howard in The Big Bang Theory

Howard Wolowitz (Simon Helberg) is an aerospace engineer at Caltech. Although Sheldon often despises Howard in The Big Bang Theory to have a master’s degree instead of a doctorate, his career was not hampered by this. Howard designed a satellite to orbit Jupiter’s largest moon and piloted the Mars rover. When NASA selects its design for a deep-field space telescope, Howard undergoes astronaut training and then goes into space. His experience as an astronaut opened up other career prospects for him, including writing books and speaking at the planetarium.

Howard’s wife, Bernadette, sometimes reminds him that she earns more than him since she earns a “butt loadmoney as a microbiologist. However, given his accomplishments, Howard likely earns more than the average salary in his field, which is around $85,000. Instead, Howard’s salary in The Big Bang Theory is probably closer to $100,000 per year.

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