Possible Salaries for Science Jobs

Depending on your level of education and the setting in which you wish to work, salaries for jobs in science vary greatly. In general, entry level positions, such as technicians, will pay less. However, while holding a PhD will allow you to command a higher salary, the stipends during the 5-10 years of graduate training will not be very high. In general, those working in for-profit companies tend to have higher salaries than their counterparts in academic jobs. Work for local, state, and federal government often provides a good salary and excellent benefits. In addition, work in applied professions as compared to basic research is also better compensated. According to the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics, the top ten paid science jobs over the next ten years are expected to be: petroleum engineers, especially those working in oil and gas extraction; physicists working in industry; computer and information research scientists; computer hardware engineers; nuclear engineers; astronomers; computer software engineers, especially those developing system software; aerospace engineers; mathematicians working in industry settings; and other physical scientists. Those working in these science jobs can earn salaries beginning at $90,000 annually. However, many of these careers require a doctoral degree. Some other career options are discussed below.

Materials Scientist

Materials science is currently one of the hottest career areas in science. Professionals working in this field apply technologies from many scientific disciplines to develop new and better materials such as glass, ceramics, and polymers. Most scientists working in this field are trained as chemists and utilize their skills to analyze the structure and composition of materials and develop new applications and processes to synthesize better materials. There is a lot of overlap between materials science and polymer science - many materials scientists are employed by companies that synthesize polymers. Some products include or are made of metals, ceramics, and rubber. The applications of these products range from those in engineering (superconducting materials) to medicine (designing materials for implants that are compatible with human tissues). Materials science has a strong link to the marketplace, in that it is product-oriented. Thus, there are more science jobs in this area than in any other area of science. The demand for materials scientists is expected to grow, and the salaries for well-trained professionals will remain highly competitive. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, materials scientists working at colleges, universities, or technical schools make around $70,000 per year, while those working in scientific research and development areas make around $90,000 year. The Federal Executive Branch is the top paying employer with average salaries of $123,000 per year. Salaries also vary by state, with an average annual salary for materials scientists in Illinois of around $70,000 and in Connecticut of $120,000. The median country-wide wage for this profession is $80,000, with salaries ranging from $44,000 to $126,000 and higher.

Possible Salaries for Science Jobs

Environmental Science Technician

The career of environmental science technician has been ranked by U.S. News as one of the 50 Best Careers for 2011. An environmental science technician works with environmental scientists by collecting samples, for example. Most of the time is spent outside collecting water and soil samples to test for contamination or investigating the sources of contamination. These technicians may also work on assessing compliance of businesses with government-mandated environmental regulations or helping in the management and disposal of hazardous materials. In 2008, environmental science technicians in the U.S. held about 35,000 jobs, both with state and local governments and with private firms. The Labor Department predicts that employment for this scientific career will continue to grow, mostly with firms that provide support in environmental monitoring, management, and compliance with federal and state regulations. The Labor Department reports that median annual earnings for environmental science technicians were $40,790 in 2009. The range was from $65,000 for the top 10% of earners to $27,000 garnered by the lowest-earning 10%. Technicians receiving some of the highest wages worked for waste management companies and power companies. In terms of the career path for this science job, an environmental science technician will start out conducting routine and then more complex projects under the guidance of a scientist and possibly move into a supervisor position over time. Entry-level positions require an associate's degree or a certification in applied science.

Chemical Technician

Chemical technicians assist scientists in conducting chemical and physical laboratory tests in the research and development of new products (both chemicals and equipment) and control maintenance for application in chemistry and related sciences. Two general types of science jobs are available to chemical technicians: as research technicians working in experimental laboratories and as process control technicians who work in industrial plants. Chemical technicians may conduct a variety of procedures ranging from the routine to complex research projects. In addition to working in laboratory and factory settings, chemical technicians may work in the field collecting and analyzing samples of air and water to monitor pollution levels. The mean annual wage for chemical technicians is $44,000 with salaries ranging from $26,000 to $65,000. The top paying industry employing chemical technicians is the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution industry ($55,000), and the top employers are architectural and engineering companies ($36,000), pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies ($47,000), and scientific research and development institutes ($46,000). The chemical manufacturing industry, except for pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing, is anticipated to experience a decline in overall employment as companies downsize and turn to outside contractors and overseas production. However, there will still be a need for chemical technicians, particularly in pharmaceutical research.

Agricultural and Food Science Technician

Agricultural and food science technicians usually work with scientists conducting research, production, and processing of food, fiber, bio-fuels, and animal products. They may assist with conducting experiments with animal breeding, as well as with product development and quality control. Food science technicians may insure compliance with FDA regulations by testing food additives and preservatives in processed foods. Other technicians may have jobs helping maintain laboratory supply stocks and equipment. Most agricultural and food science technicians are employed by colleges and universities or by industry research and development companies. The average salary for these science jobs is $37,000 annually with salaries ranging from $22,000 to $55,000. The top-paying industries are chemical and allied products merchant wholesalers, companies that sell non-durable goods such as fiber and food-stuff, as well as local governments with salaries around $46,000 per year. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that employment for agricultural and food science technicians will grow by nine percent over the next decade. As developing new ecologically friendly ways to produce enough food for a growing population becomes increasingly important and as using agricultural products to generate bio-fuels becomes a high priority, employment in biotechnology research and other areas of agricultural science will continue to increase creating a greater demand for agricultural and food science technicians.