7 Jobs in Life Sciences (Examples and Average Salary)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 24 November 2022

Published 29 September 2021

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.

Life science is a broad field that involves work by various specialists. Generally, these roles are interrelated to a certain degree, and all of them require some sort of scientific training or education. Knowing what these jobs are and their implications can help you make a more well-informed decision about your career. In this article, we give you a list of jobs in life sciences, an overview of the field and some salary figures.

7 jobs in life sciences

Below is a list of seven different jobs in life sciences:

1. Pharmacologist

National average salary: £20,508 per year

Primary duties: Pharmacologists study how chemical substances, like drugs, affect various life forms. This could mean the effects on individual cells, entire organisms, particular species or the environment. These specialists do a lot of experimentation to derive insightful results and often use complex measuring tools and equipment to gather data and observations. They might also physically test certain substances in laboratory settings to ascertain their effects. This information can then be used to inform manufacturing processes. Pharmacologists also work to ensure that manufactured products are safe for consumers and the environment. They might work in laboratories or research institutes.

2. Laboratory technician

National average salary: £21,036 per year

Primary duties: Also known as lab technicians, these individuals offer support to scientists conducting experiments within laboratories and research institutes. A laboratory technician might also work to support researchers and others outside of the field of life sciences. Their responsibilities typically include setting up experiments, collecting samples, preparing cultures and specimens, ordering and monitoring stock levels, maintaining laboratory equipment and recording data. They typically wear protective clothing a lot of the time and may progress to become a lab supervisor or specialise in analytical work. Further experience and education could also lead to a research technician position.

Related: 8 Essential Laboratory Technician Skills

3. Biomedical scientist

National average salary: £33,673 per year

Primary duties: Biomedical scientists work most closely with doctors and other healthcare professionals. They help medical professionals with the diagnosis and treatment of various diseases and the analysis of patient samples. This can include checking for food poisoning, screening and testing for conditions like hepatitis, supporting blood transfusion work, employing specialist procedures like cell culture for detecting cancer and helping monitor organ system function. Biomedical scientists often work within the NHS, at universities, or in laboratories and research facilities. They can specialise in areas like neuroscience, immunology, anatomy, human genetics and others.

Related: How to become a cell biologist (with steps and skills)

4. Marine biologist

National average salary: £41,989 per year

Primary duties: A marine biologist is a specialist in the study of marine life. This involves studying the habits of marine organisms, breeding patterns, marine ecology and habitat preservation. They might actively work to protect particular species or habitats, monitor changes in fish stocks and ocean pollution, take measurements, track migratory patterns and investigate disease. Their work might be done from a university, research lab or physically within the world's seas and oceans. Many marine biologists are therefore also capable divers. They might also specialise in marine pharmacology, marine biotechnology, bioacoustics and more.

Related: How To Become a Wildlife Biologist: With Definitions and Steps

5. Biotechnologist

National average salary: £55,216 per year

Primary duties: Also known as biotech workers, biotechnologists use various forms of life to develop new products or improve existing ones. They might use microbes, plants, animals or marine life. Some of the solutions that biotechnologists develop could include biological processes for cleaning water, producing renewable energy sources like biodiesel, producing biodegradable packaging and plastics, making enzymes for manufacturing or genetically modifying crops for greater yields or hardiness. These are just a few of the various things that biotechnologists might work on. Broadly, the field can be split into environmental biotechnology, industrial biotechnology and medical biotechnology or biotherapeutics.

6. Epidemiologist

National average salary: £60,621 per year

Primary duties: Epidemiologists examine and record disease trends, such as infection rates and impact assessments. This also extends to ways of combatting the spread of infectious diseases, such as vaccination programmes and new drugs. A lot of an epidemiologist's work can involve clinical trials to ascertain the efficacy of particular interventions. They might also work to develop the protocols that dictate how analysis and trials ought to be carried out. Epidemiologists often analyse large amounts of data and present their findings to other researchers, government agencies and pharmaceutical companies.

Related: 12 jobs for epidemiologists (plus duties and salaries)

7. Microbiologist

National average salary: £69,569 per year

Primary duties: Microbiology itself is often defined as its own branch of life science and is concerned with the study of micro-organisms like bacteria, viruses, algae and fungi. Consequently, a lot of microbiologists are involved in researching infectious diseases, including how they spread, how to control them and the development of treatments, cures and vaccines. They might also specialise in the assessment of the microbes used in food production and agriculture. Microbiologists also investigate and test the uses of microbes for controlling pollution and the disposal of waste. The work might predominantly be in a lab, research institute or university.

Related: How To Become a Microbiologist

What are life sciences?

The life sciences refers broadly to the study of life. This could be plants, fungi, animals, microbes or humans. Life science overlaps very heavily with biology, and by some definitions, these two are essentially the same thing. Some definitions would list life sciences as falling under biology. Life science is also distinct from medicine or health science, which are primarily focused on the treatment, cure and prevention of diseases and injuries. Their responsibilities do overlap extensively, especially when a life sciences professional provides complementary research to the work of a doctor. Some sub-specialisations of life sciences include:

Epidemiology

Epidemiologists study the life cycles of various diseases. Life forms like bacteria cause many diseases, and therefore have their own life cycles and biological needs. Epidemiology studies how they reproduce, live, transmit, affect humans and die. The work of doctors and other medical professionals is very reliant on the work of epidemiologists, who work on new cures, treatments and vaccines to combat the diseases caused by microbial life. Epidemiologists also frequently work closely with physiologists.

Physiology

This branch of the life sciences studies how living things stay alive. Physiologists study organisms at the cellular and sub-cellular levels, their organ systems and the chemical processes that support their existence. The way a physiologist views a living organism is often as a series of interconnected chemical reactions and biochemical processes. These specialists study animal, plant, human and microbial life forms, and they can even specialise further to focus solely on one of these. Physiologists' work is closely related to that of epidemiologists, healthcare professionals and pharmacologists.

Zoology

Zoologists focus on studying animals. They consider and analyse almost all aspects of animal life, including their biological structure, migration patterns, habitats, reproductive habits, behaviour and nutritional needs. Zoologists also seek out and identify new species. Their work overlaps with that of other life science specialists like physiologists, epidemiologists, palaeontologists, entomologists and botanists.

Related: Top 20 Popular Jobs for Animal Lovers in the UK

Botany

A botanist dedicates their energy to the study of plant life. This encompasses everything from ferns to trees and seaweed. Botanists can also study plant-like organisms, such as algae and fungi. Like many life science specialisations, botany also has its own sub-specialities. A botanist might decide to focus on plant genetics, their evolution or morphology.

Entomology

Entomologists predominantly study land-based arthropods like insects. In addition to insects, they often also study arachnids, snails, slugs, myriapods and other small creatures that crawl on the ground. Some people would define entomology as a sub-branch of zoology, as all of these creatures are technically members of the animal kingdom.

Ecology

Whereas many life science specialisations focus on a particular type of organism, ecologists study how these life forms interact within their environments. They study food chains, symbiotic relationships and biodiversity. Ecologists also examine biomass and population numbers. The sorts of ecosystems that an ecologist studies can be as small as a pond or as large as an entire rainforest.

Marine biology

Marine biologists are specialists who study forms of life that inhabit the world's seas and oceans. In a sense, marine biology overlaps with almost all the other life science specialisations, with the condition that the life forms in question live in the sea. Marine biologists, therefore, often specialise in the study of particular marine life, such as phycology and ichthyology (the study of algae and fish, respectively).

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing. Salaries‌ ‌may‌ ‌‌vary‌‌ ‌depending‌ ‌on‌ ‌the‌ ‌hiring‌ ‌organisation‌ ‌and‌ ‌a‌ ‌candidate's‌ ‌experience,‌ ‌academic‌ background‌ ‌and‌ ‌location.

Explore more articles