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9 Highest Paying Science Jobs & Careers

The highest paying science jobs are within reach

If you are a curious person who wants to understand the world around you, one of the many lucrative science careers may be perfect. Perhaps you want to create the next innovation in technology, discover the latest cure for a devastating disease, or design a way to reduce energy consumption.

Regardless of your specific aspirations, a bachelor’s, master’s, or even doctorate degree in science may be the right choice.

Science is a diverse, far-reaching, challenging, and endlessly-fascinating field, one that requires dedication, commitment, and determination. It also requires the right education if you’re aiming for one of the highest paying science jobs available.

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Highest Paying Science Jobs: The Typical Education

To work in science, or at least to enjoy working in science, you need a curious mind that seeks answers to some of the most complex questions. But you also need patience, attention to detail, persistence, and creativity. Communication is an important trait as well, as you need to convey your theories and findings, in a clear manner, to the public, policy makers, and business leaders.

Regardless of your natural abilities and characteristics, you also need some form of education. A high school diploma, quite frankly, won’t get you very far in a science career. However, you also don’t need a doctorate to work in science. For many positions, a bachelor’s degree or even an associate’s is enough to land one of these excellent jobs.

Associate’s Degree (Two Years of Study)

While most science-based jobs, especially the ones where you get to call yourself a “scientist,” require at least a bachelor’s degree, there are also entry level science jobs that only require an associate's degree. These are often technician jobs that may not include experimentation and scientific development, but nonetheless involve science.

Food science technicians, chemical technicians, and environmental science technicians, for example, are all positions that require only a two-year associate’s degree.

Bachelor’s (Four Years of Study)

A four-year college degree has become the standard education for many industries. While this may change in the future, a bachelor’s degree is often the base requirement for numerous positions, including many of the best careers in science.

A science-based bachelor's degree not only provides a path to an interesting and exciting career, it can also bring an excellent salary. An atmospheric scientist, for example, earns a median salary of $99,740 according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, yet this position only requires a bachelor’s degree. Other high-paying bachelor-degree jobs in science include chemists ($79,300), geographers ($85,430), and microbiologists ($84,040).

Master’s (Two Additional Years of Study)

If you want to advance your career earnings, as well as your understanding of a particular scientific field, you may consider a master's degree. To enroll in a master’s program, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree and there will likely be GPA requirements as well. It will take an additional two years (most of the time), so you’re looking at roughly six years of collegiate study to complete your master’s.

Once complete, you’ll be eligible for numerous scientific positions that bring even higher pay. Master’s-level positions in science include epidemiology ($74,560), sociology ($86,110), and political science ($125,350).

Doctorate (Six Additional Years of Study)

If you want to take your career to the highest level, a doctorate may be the perfect choice. These advanced educations require significant, prolonged, and rigorous study, but once complete you’ll be one of the most respected and highly-regarded professionals in science. (Plus, regardless of your discipline, you’ll get to call yourself “doctor.”)

With a doctorate, you’ll have access to some of the most lucrative positions in science. Physicists and astronomers, for example, have a median salary of $128,950. Medical scientists, biochemists, and biophysicist all have median salaries over $90,000.

Science Careers: What are the Typical Salaries?

Science is a challenging, complicated, often frustrating career that requires a deep commitment to experimentation and discovery. Salary, to be frank, won’t keep you motivated throughout the challenges that come from research scientist jobs.

But salary is certainly a benefit for this career field.

A wide variety of science careers can be achieved with as little as a bachelor’s degree and limited experience, and many of these careers bring excellent salaries. There are numerous information resources available on salary, but one of the best is the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which provides median incomes on a vast assortment of careers, including science careers. According to their information, there are seven “Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations” that have a median salary over $90,000, including three that have salaries over $100,000.

Salaries in science occupations, like all industries, vary widely and will depend on your education, experience, and (above all) personal abilities. But it appears that most of the highest-paying science careers require a doctorate or master’s degree, or at least five years of professional experience. Physicists and astronomers, which have a combined median salary of $128,950, need a doctorate for most positions. A natural science manager, while only needing a bachelor’s degree, will need at least five years of experience to land this job.

Salaries are often highest for scientist hired by the federal government. A microbiologist, as an example, has a median salary of $84,400. However, microbiologists hired by the federal government have a median salary of $112,940. All chemists have a median salary of $79,300 but the median annual wage for a chemist hired by the federal government is $116,990. It seems that if you are going into the sciences, the best employer (at least for salary) is not a private business but the United States government.

In Demand Science Careers

Science is advancing at a rapid pace, and many of these jobs are expected to grow faster than the predicted national average, which is 4%. Many are just slightly above the national average; physical scientists and chemists are expected to grow at 5%, while atmospheric scientists will grow by 6%.

The most rapid growth, as you may have guessed, is in technology and information sciences. Computer and information research scientists, who develop and test computing theories and software programs, are expected to grow by 15%. This may not be a traditional science like biology or chemistry, but robotics and computers are, without a doubt, some of the best science careers. When it comes to science careers in demand, the best options are likely something that involves technology, computing, or robotics.

Most of the typical science careers have expected job growth that is strong but moderate. The majority of these careers, especially the ones involving life sciences like biology, have moderate growth around 4% to 6%. Jobs will certainly be available, they simply won’t be rising at the higher demand experienced by technology-focused science careers.

The Most Lucrative Entry Level Science Job

Atmospheric Scientist

Median Salary: $99,740
Education: Bachelor’s
Experience: None
Growth: 6%

Although other science careers, ones that actually pay more, require no previous on-the-job experience, they often require advanced degrees. It’s hard to say that a job requiring ten years of post-secondary education is an “entry level” position. An atmospheric scientist, however, only requires a bachelor’s degree in meteorology or a similar field and no prior experience. Despite these relatively low requirements, the career has a median salary that is nearly $100,000!

These scientists study the weather and climate, using their scientific knowledge to predict changes, study conditions, and gather data on the atmosphere. From measuring temperatures to creating graphics, these important scientists help us understand the weather. Their work not only tells us what to where on a given morning, but it can literally save lives.

With a high pay, excellent career growth, low education requirements, and no required experience or training, this is the most lucrative of all entry level science jobs.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Science in Geosciences / Broadcast & Operational Meteorology from Mississippi State University

The Highest Paying Science Career

Natural Science Manager

Median Salary: $137,940
Education: Bachelor’s
Experience: At least 5 years professional experience
Growth: 5%

In many industries, the managers and leaders command the highest salaries. They have the most pressure, the largest responsibilities, and the highest levels of accountability. Science is no different: it’s the managers and leaders who earn the highest salaries. In this case, natural science managers often hold the highest paying science jobs.

These leadership-based scientific careers are found in all types of fields, including chemistry, physics, biology, anatomy, and astronomy. They usually work with top executives to develop goals, hire scientists to achieve those goals, review methodology, and monitor the progress of various projects. Essentially, they function just like other managers, except they are managing scientists.

For this career, only a bachelor’s degree is usually required. However, additional education or training in management will help. You’ll also need at least five years of experience or more to land one of these leadership positions.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Applied Science in Resources & Technology Management from Troy University

7 Highest Paying Science Jobs

#1 Physicist

Median Salary: $129,850
Education: Doctorate
Experience: None
Growth: 7%

Many of the most famous scientists in history were physicists. (Biologists, it seems, are the main competition.) Historically-famous physicists include Newton, Einstein, Tesla, Curie, and Hawking. If you want to join their ranks while also earning a tremendous salary, a physicist position may be perfect!

As one of the highest paying science jobs, these careers are not easy to land, and require dedication to both academic study and professional development. Physicists typically need a Ph.D for any job in research or academia, but a bachelor’s degree can land some positions, although pay will almost certainly be lower. That said, an undergraduate degree in physics or a related field serves as an important first step towards this fascinating, complex, and challenging career.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Science in Physics from Liberty University

 

#2 Computer Research Scientist

Median Salary: $126,830
Education: Master’s
Experience: None
Growth: 15%

Our society is becoming increasingly dependent on computers and connected devices for virtually every function of daily living. From work to connecting with family to buying groceries, it’s hard to think of an activity that doesn’t involve computers of some type. This is not only one of the highest paying science jobs, it’s also one of the fastest-growing research scientist jobs.

Computers and information technology are in constant development, and it’s up to computer research scientists to create the next great innovation. The demand is so high that, not surprisingly, this career is expected to grow by 15% between 2019 and 2029. A master’s degree is typically required, and you’ll need an understanding of research, experimentation, results analysis, and other essential scientific skills.

Sponsored Pick: Master of Science in Computer Science from Grand Canyon University

 

#3 Political Scientist

Median Salary: $125,350
Education: Master’s
Experience: None
Growth: 6%

Don’t be mistaken; a political scientist is a scientist. They use research, experimentation, theory testing, and evaluation to reach accurate conclusion. The subject matter may not be plants, animals, planets, or molecules, but they apply scientific principles nonetheless. Their subject matter instead is politics at the global, national, and local level.

Political scientists typically need a master’s degree, although certain high-level positions will require a doctorate. During your education, you’ll learn skills in methodology, experimentation, and data analysis, but you’ll also learn about philosophy and political theory, areas that often have more art than science. (Philosophy, for example, rarely includes hard, data-driven experimentation.)

Sponsored Pick: Master of Arts in Political Science from American Public University System

 

#4 Astronomer

Median Salary: $119,730
Education: Doctorate
Experience: None
Growth: 7%

If you are the type of person who stares at the stars and night, wondering how they exist while contemplating the vast distances between us and them, you may be perfect for an astronomer career. This is one of the highest paying science jobs, and it’s also one of the most interesting, as it involves distant planets and interesting celestial bodies, as well as some of the most advanced technology currently used by humans. (Particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers, just to name a few.)

Astronomers generally need a Ph.D in astronomy or a related field, although some positions are available with only a master’s degree. Astronomers help us understand the universe that surrounds us, and they often plan and complete experiments that test our knowledge of both the outer universe and our own planet.

Sponsored Pick: Master of Science in Space Studies / Astronomy from American Public University System

 

#5 Biochemist or Biophysicist

Median Salary: $94,270
Education: Doctorate
Experience: None
Growth: 4%

By studying the basic chemical and physical processes of living things, biochemists and biophysicists create products and processes that improve our daily lives. Medicine, for example, can be significantly improved through the research of biochemists. These scientist careers can also improve agriculture, energy, and health.

A Ph.D in research and development is often required for these advanced careers. A bachelor’s degree in chemistry, biology, or physics creates a great start to this excellent career.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Science in Science & Technology Multidisciplinary Studies from California University of Pennsylvania

 

#6 Geoscientist

Median Salary: $93,580
Education: Bachelor’s
Experience: None
Growth: 5%

What do scientists do? Some study the earth!

The Earth is a complex, ever-changing planet, one that needs to be studied and analyzed by people who understand scientific processes. To achieve these ends, we rely on geoscientists, one of the top positions and one of the best entry level science jobs. This is one of the most popular bachelor of science jobs, and it brings a strong pay as well as strong, consistent growth.

Geoscientists plan and execute field studies that focus largely on the earth. Research can include aerial or satellite images, laboratory tests, ground digging, and more. There are also many types of science jobs under the umbrella of a geoscientist. Specialty positions can include geology, geochemistry, geophysics, and oceanography. Geoscientists also study aspects of the earth in different locations, which makes this one of the best science careers with travel opportunities.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of Arts in Geology from University of Florida

 

#7 Medical Scientist

Median Salary: $91,510
Education: Doctorate
Experience: None
Growth: 6%

Few types of science jobs are more important than medical scientists. These highly educated professionals create the next development in healthcare and wellbeing, helping us not only understand our bodies and minds, but also how to improve them.

While this is closely related to a science degree, some medical scientists also have degrees or qualifications as a Medical Doctor (M.D.). Undergraduate students who want to move into this exciting career can start their journey with bachelor’s degrees in physical science, math, biology, chemistry, life sciences, and more.

Popular Pick: Bachelor of General Studies / Science, Technology, Health & Society from University of Arizona

Launch Your Science Career

Whether you are a busy parent or want to restart your professional life, the perfect science program to fit your hectic schedule and tight budget DOES exist! In a faster process than you may realize, you could be working in one of the highest paying science jobs featured in this article. Begin comparing degrees now in our accredited online degree finder.

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