Physical Scientists: Salary Overview
Physical scientists are involved in research projects in their field of study.
The term “physical scientist” may refer to chemists, biologists, geologists, biochemists, environmental scientists, physicians, material scientists, or astronomers.
Job descriptions vary depending on the scientist’s area of expertise but they are usually involved in conducting experiments, making observations, analyzing findings, and writing reports.
As a scientist, you may also write research proposals and you will have to apply for funding for your projects.
Salaries for this profession also vary depending on the specialty.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage reported by chemists was $77,630 as of May 2019 while materials scientists reportedly earned $96,810, on average, as of May 2019.
Biochemists and biophysicists reported a median annual wage of $94,490.
Physicists reportedly earned a median annual wage of $122,850 while astronomers were paid, on average, with $114,590 per year.
The median annual wage reported by physical scientists who had another specialty was $109,910 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
There are many other factors that influence a physical scientist’s salary and you may earn anywhere between less than $50,000 and more than $200,000 per year by pursuing a career in science.
Physical Scientist Salary by Industry
Physical scientists typically work for manufacturers, for laboratories, or in research.
Regardless of the physical scientist’s specialty, wages vary widely depending on the industry of employment.
For example, chemists who worked in testing laboratories reportedly earned $59,540 per year on average while those who worked for the federal government earned $111,840 per year.
Biochemists and biophysicists who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools earned $57,060 per year on average while those who worked in the field of wholesale trade earned around $120,240 per year.
Astronomers employed by colleges, universities, and professional schools earned around $86,850 per year on average while those who worked for the federal government earned $148,110.
Salaries for physicians also vary widely depending on the industry of employment.
Those who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools earned $78,800 per year on average while those who worked in the field of ambulatory healthcare services earned $178,690 per year- more than double the salary reported by those in a teaching position.
Physicians who worked for the federal government reportedly earned $120,370 per year on average while those who worked in the field of scientific research earned $131,870.
Physical scientists (all other) usually work for the federal executive branch, in research, for colleges and schools, or for state governments
Physical scientists who worked for colleges, universities, and professional schools reportedly earned $70,440 per year on average while those who worked in research earned around $127,890 per year on average.
Scientists who worked for state governments reportedly earned $81,260 per year on average while those who worked for the federal executive branch earned $114,590 per year.
In conclusion, as a physical scientist, your earning prospects will be better in the manufacturing or research field or if you work for a federal agency.
Salaries also vary depending on your level of experience level and education.
Although you may find entry-level employment with a bachelor’s degree in your field of expertise, earning a Ph.D. may help you get a higher-paying job in the research field.
As a beginner, your salary will most likely be close to the minimum for your specialty but as you earn a few years of experience you will receive have independence and responsibility.
Having experience in managing research projects may also improve your earning prospects as a scientist because it will qualify you for larger research projects which have a higher budget.
* Based on information from the May 2021 salary report from the BLS. The figures represent accumulated data for all states of employment for Physical 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.