Life Scientists: Salary Overview
Life scientists are scientists who study living things such as bacteria, plants, animals, or humans.
This broad term includes may careers, including zoologists, microbiologists, plant scientists, and biologists.
Salaries and employment prospects vary widely depending on the scientist’s expertise.
For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), zoologists and biologists held approximately 19,300 jobs in 2018, the majority of them being employed by state governments and federal governments.
The median annual wage for zoologists and biologists was $63,270 in May 2019 but salaries for this profession range between less than $39,000 and more than $100,000 a year.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, life scientists(all other) held approximately 6,450 jobs in the United States in 2019.
The majority of life scientists (all other) worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools, for state governments, or for companies that provide scientific research and development services.
Other fields that hire life scientists include the federal executive branch, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers, navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturers, companies that provide scientific research and development services and medical equipment and supplies manufacturers but these sectors hand only a few life scientists on their payroll.
The average annual wage for this profession is $85,890 per year.
Salaries in this field vary widely depending on a wide range of factors and the median annual salary for this profession was $75,910 as of May 2019.
This is higher than the median wage of all occupations, which was, according to BLS, $39,810.
The top 10 percent of life scientists earned more than $145,510 a year while the lowest 10 percent made less than $39,380 per year.
The scientist’s level of experience, education, and the industry of employment are some of the most important factors that determine salaries in this field.
As a beginner, you can make a salary close to the minimum for this profession while experienced workers can earn more than the 90th percentile, which is $149,930.
According to the numbers published by BLS, 75% of life scientists earned more than $53,780 a year.
Life Scientist Salary by Industry
The average annual wage for life scientists who worked in for colleges, universities, or professional schools was $71,330 a year as of May 2019.
Life scientists who were employed by state governments earned, on average, $67,450 per year while those who worked in the field of scientific research and development services earned, on average, $93,470.
The report published by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics shows that the highest average annual salary was earned by life scientists who worked in the federal executive branch.
This field hired only 790 life scientists and paid them, on average, $116,330 per year.
Higher salaries were also reported by life scientists who were employed by pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers; they were paid, on average, $95,960 per year.
Biologists and zoologists who worked for the federal government earned a median annual wage of $78,090 as of May 2019, while those employed in the research sector made a median annual wage of $67,100.
Companies that provide management, scientific, and technical consulting services offered a median annual wage for zoologists and biologists of $66,940 per year.
The median annual wage was $62,550 a year for zoologists and biologists who were employed by colleges, universities, and professional schools and $56,320 per year by those who worked for state governments.
Holding a Ph.D. in your field of expertise will likely improve your chances of finding a better-paying job in research.
Your job prospects as a life scientist vary depending on your area of expertise, experience, education, and the region of employment.
For example, the employment of zoologists and wildlife biologists is projected to grow 5 percent from 2018 to 2028 but because most of the funding in this sector comes from governmental agencies their opportunities can be limited by budgetary constraints.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Life Scientists. BLS data represents averages and medians for workers at all levels of education and experience. This data doesn't represent starting salaries.
* Employment conditions in your area may vary.