Thursday, July 26, 2007

Science Salary Survey

The results of a survey on scientist salaries was just released in the current issue of Microscopy Today:

I’m always leery about these surveys. Not because I think they are inaccurate somehow, but because I always seem to fall at the lower end, or less, of whatever bracket fits me. That just makes me angry at my cheapskate company. But, seeing as how this particular survey is most suited for me, given it falls in my particular line of work, I took the bait. As usual, it makes me none too comfortable to see the results.

First they compared salaries by discipline. I’m in the biological sciences. Naturally, they fall lower than either physical sciences (like nanotechnology) or traditional sciences (like chemistry and physics). Bio peaks around $51-60K, where the others plateau at higher salaries. Okay, I’m used to it. Next!

Then they looked at salary by institution type. Academic falls lowest, peaking around $51-60K. I’m glad I left academics. I don’t enjoy starving for my hard work. But Industry scores only slightly higher at the next bracket, $61-70K. Fine. I’d live with that. But Industry also has a second peak, much higher, at $91-110K. Those would be the “Big Talking Heads” who run the company. Yay them. Government work earned a bit more, but the best of all were vendors and suppliers. Their salaries just keep going up up up. I’ve had a few chances over the years to take positions with some instrument manufacturers selling and being a tech for their products, but I just couldn’t stomach the idea of traveling all the time.

When they looked at salary by title, there weren’t any real surprises. Students earn slave wages, while corporate managers get the biggest slice of the pie. You should see the graph! Professors earned a pretty good salary, peaking in the $91-110K bracket. Pretty good, if you can weather the process to get there.

The kicker came with the comparison of salary versus educational degree. No surprise that doctorates earn more than bachelor’s, which earn more than high school. But what surprised me is that there is really no difference between bachelor’s and master’s level. So that extra two years I spent earning my master’s degree didn’t really do anything for me in terms of potential salary. So if you’re going beyond a batchelor’s, skip the master’s and head straight into a doctoral position (which most folks seem to do anyhow, it seems). And what about post-docs? Forget it. If you think you’re going to get more money by earning your doctoral then post-doc-ing around the country, there was no significant difference there, salary-wise. Maybe you’ll be more hire-able in certain careers, though.

Years of experience only mattered for the lowest and the highest pay brackets. All those in the middle were pretty mixed, meaning that if you’re a newbie, you ain’t getting’ squat, and if you hang in there long enough, at least 26 years, there’s a slim chance you’ll move up in the pay bracket. But given the volatile nature of science careers, I laugh at your chances.

So there you go. If you’re a scientist, now you’ll know approximately how much you’re worth, or not worth, compared to 624 respondents to the survey. Now go buy a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and make yourself feel better about the years you spent in academics and the loss of social life to get you to your lab bench. Then use this info to ask for a raise. You can do it!

Image taken from HERE.


Anonymous said...

Hey Grumpy- but, you see lots more masters at higher pay ranges than the looser who only went for 4 years.

Anonymous said...

If it makes you feel any better (betting that it won't), science writers/medical writers are in the same boat! The annual American Medical Writers Association (AMWA) survey shows very similar results! Yeah....we even break out the freelancers vs. the employees and still see the same differences across the board - if you are in management with a PhD you make the most; have a Master's degree and you are slightly better than a Bachelor's holder. However, we also saw that the more years of experience, no matter what the degree, allows you to make more $.


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Some of these surveys maybe are not totally reliable specially because I don't have facts here, 'd like to get the links in oder to giving my opinions.