How much do scientists make? (And 12 ways to earn more)
By Indeed Editorial Team
Updated 10 January 2023
Published 29 April 2022
The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.
While the term 'scientist' still makes many people think of someone wearing a lab coat and conducting experiments, it now refers to a much wider variety of professions. Thus, scientists' earnings vary considerably. The field of science is an ever-changing one in which there are numerous career opportunities. In this article, we define what a scientist is and where scientists work, reveal the average salary of scientists, list 12 ways scientists can increase their earnings and outline the salaries of some types of scientists.
What is a scientist?
The term 'scientist' encompasses a broad range of professionals who strive to increase knowledge through scientific research and study. The current definition of a scientist refers to a person who systematically gathers, studies and analyses information. Modern scientists range from people who conduct research in a lab to those who work with technology or people working in space.
How much do scientists make?
The question of 'How much do scientists make?' is a broad one, as there are many different types of scientists. The national average salary for a scientist is £33,793 per year. The type of employer greatly impacts scientists' salaries and some areas are more lucrative than others.
12 ways scientists can increase their earnings
Some of the ways scientists increase their earnings include:
1. Get a postgraduate degree
Entry to scientist positions is possible with just an honours degree in a related science subject but many jobs are only available to candidates with a research-based MSc or a PhD. Having a postgraduate degree can enable you to attain higher-level and better-paid roles. A PhD is often essential for scientists seeking a career in academia.
2. Specialise in a lucrative area of science
Some areas of science are more lucrative than others. Scientists with skills in biochemistry and pharmacology tend to earn much more than the national average salary and command higher salaries than other scientists. Data scientists are currently in high demand and their pay reflects this.
3. Build your experience
Experience is key to getting better-paid jobs in science. Gaining experience in both academia and industry can help you decide where you would like to pursue a career and make valuable contacts within the scientific community. Research-based placements are an excellent way to gain practical laboratory experience in the early stages of your career.
4. Publish scientific papers
Publishing original, high-quality scientific papers can lead to senior positions within research institutions. Getting published can facilitate professional recognition and lead to more opportunities with higher financial rewards. It can also improve your chances of getting academic positions.
5. Get a job in management
Within the industry, many senior scientists take on managerial roles to develop their careers and increase their income. Management positions within the scientific sector are highly sought-after and command significantly higher salaries. Having experience in management can help secure a managerial role.
6. Work for a large company
Large organisations generally pay more than small and medium-sized companies. Pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, for example, have the resources to offer excellent benefits packages. Scientists who work for large multinational organisations may also have the opportunity to travel and attend international conferences.
7. Negotiate a pay rise
If you feel you're underpaid, you can negotiate a pay rise with your employer. It's always better to focus on your achievements and how you can contribute to the company rather than wanting to earn more. When asking for a rise, be prepared to back up your request with evidence of your skills and achievements.
Related: How to negotiate a better salary
8. Work as a consultant
Providing scientific consultancy on a freelance basis can be a good way to increase your income. Consultants provide specialist knowledge and opinions to a range of clients, usually on a short-term basis. Consulting also provides the opportunity to work on a range of different projects.
9. Be an expert witness in court
Appearing in court as an expert witness can be a profitable and interesting way to increase your earnings as a scientist. Independent expert witnesses give their expert opinion based on the factual observations they make. They don't advocate for either side and maintain a high sense of honesty and integrity. Expert witnesses can appear in a variety of cases in the courts of England and Wales.
10. Join a professional scientific body
There are several professional bodies that all aim to support your professional development. Some focus on a scientific discipline, such as The Royal Society of Biology, whereas others focus on specific industries and types of employment, for example, The British Association of Sport and Exercise Sciences. Joining a professional body can give you access to a range of benefits, including opportunities to network with other scientists.
11. Become a Chartered Scientist
Once you have joined a licensed professional body, you can apply for the status of Chartered Scientist. Chartered Scientist status demonstrates that you have met the high standards required and proven your competence in your field. Becoming a Chartered Scientist entails showing professional leadership qualities which can help you obtain higher-paid leadership roles.
Relocating may enable you to secure a better-paid job. The greatest numbers of science industry jobs are found in the South East and East of England and this coincides with the highest average national salaries. If you're willing to relocate, it's important to research the cost of living before making a decision.
Where do scientists work?
The majority of scientists work in academia and research institutions or in the private sector for industries that conduct scientific research and development. Scientists can also be found working in government agencies, hospitals and increasingly within media and communications. In most cases, the private sector pays more.
Scientists often work in the following places:
national and global charities
media and communication companies
Examples of scientists and their average salaries
Here are eight jobs in science ranked from the lowest to highest average salary:
National average salary: £26,888 per year
Primary duties: Analytical chemists study substances and their properties. They work in labs, often as part of a larger research team. Analytical chemists work in a range of industries including pharmaceutical companies and environmental agencies. Within medical industries, they may work to develop new drugs and ensure the quality and safety of current pharmaceutical products.
National average salary: £30,443 per year
Primary duties: Ecologists study the relationships between living matter and the environment. They work in areas such as conservation and environmental cleanup. Ecologists often advise local authorities and private consulting firms. Their tasks may include conducting tests and experiments and giving advice about the impact of development to nature.
National average salary: £31,305 per year
Primary duties: Geophysicists study the Earth's structure. They use seismographs and other equipment to conduct seismic exploration. Geophysicists often work in the mining or oil industries to ensure the safety of projects. Duties involve collecting and analysing data to understand the geophysical structure and identify geophysical hazards.
National average salary: £32,844 per year
Primary duties: Environmental scientists are experts in the environment and how humans affect it. Environmental scientists work in energy industries, manufacturing and local authorities to reduce hazards. Their duties also involve conducting environmental audits and researching ways to reduce an organisation's carbon footprint.
National average salary: £35,430 per year
Primary duties: Biologists study living organisms and their relationship with the environment. Biologists work in a wide range of places from zoos to research laboratories and usually specialise in a particular area. Within medical research, they may work on developing new treatments and cures for diseases.
National average salary: £35,713 per year
Primary duties: Meteorologists study the weather, its formation and movement. They usually specialise in weather prediction or research. Meteorologists work with a variety of organisations, including the media and the transport industries. They take measurements and conduct surveys to get a detailed picture of weather conditions to ensure the safety of people and transportation.
National average salary: £40,910 per year
Primary duties: Statisticians gather, analyse and present data to solve real-world issues. They use mathematical models to identify patterns within data to and make predictions to help organisations make informed decisions. Statisticians work in a range of industries and their work can focus on anything from climate change to the economy.
National average salary: £49,022 per year
Primary duties: Data scientists interpret and analyse vast quantities of data. Companies use their findings to improve their operations, products and services. In health care, data scientists may work with patient data to detect problems and find solutions. Data scientists may also develop new data-driven products.
Please note that none of the companies, institutions or organisations mentioned in this article are affiliated with Indeed.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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