Life science salary Germany
What do life scientists earn?

A life scientist in a laboratory

What are the determining factors for salary in the field of life science? © Jacob Wackerhausen /

Whether in research, the biotech or pharmaceutical industries, or in environmental technology, life scientists have completed a challenging education and are focused on future-oriented issues – which has a positive effect on earnings.

Published: 2024-06-09

By: Gaby Köchel

From medical technology and energy supply to product development, life scientists – sometimes referred to as biological scientists – can be active in many different areas. But as varied as the jobs in the interdisciplinary life sciences may be, they have one thing in common: They are usually well paid. According to Germany’s Federal Employment Agency, median salaries are around 65,000 euros gross per year. The specialties with the highest salaries are:

  • Biotechnology
  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Chemistry

The relatively high salaries paid in the life sciences are rooted in the demanding scientific training that must be completed in addition to the future-oriented nature of the industry. 

Nevertheless, there are salary differences, which are primarily the result of the following factors:

  • Academic degree
  • Specialty focus
  • Work experience
  • Location
  • Employer
  • Level of responsibility
  • Negotiating skills – in positions without collective bargaining agreements


Salaries are predetermined in all jobs that are bound by collective bargaining agreements. That also includes university positions, of course, which are remunerated according to the salaries negotiated for civil service jobs. The following salaries can be expected (current as of June 2024):

  • Research assistant (PhD student, postdoc): between 52,000 and around 80,00o euros (TV-L, E13/E14)
  • Junior professors, depending on German state, between 58,000 and 66,000 euros per year (W1 level in the W salary scale for tenured professors)
  • Professors at the W2 or W3 level earn roughly between 75,000 and 100,000 euros per year (basic salary without extras)

In the private sector, some employers are also bound by collective bargaining agreements. In many cases, the labour union IG BCE (Industriegewerkschaft Berbau, Chemie, Energie) is responsible for companies in the life sciences sector. The union organises workers in pharmaceutical companies, energy suppliers, mineral oil processing companies and packaging companies, to name a few prominent examples. Because collective bargaining agreements apply in a significant number of large companies in Germany, those interested in taking a job in the sector should do their research beforehand.

Taking a job that is not regulated by a collective bargaining agreement generally means less security, but more flexibility when it comes to negotiating one’s own salary. Here, the factors listed above play a significant role in the level of pay candidates can request.

There aren’t many job advertisements out there for “life scientist”. Usually, companies are searching for natural scientists, engineers, pharmaceutical scientists, etc. with the position specifying the precise duties and expectations. Is it a research position or does it focus more on quality control? Project leader or assistant? All of that and more has a significant impact on the salary paid.

In general, though, earning a doctorate in the life sciences is worth it. For engineers, a doctorate is particularly impactful when it comes to the starting salary, boosting it by around 25 percent. Doctorates in biology can expect a starting salary that is around 10 percent higher than normal, while chemists with a PhD tend to earn around 10,000 euros more per year than their colleagues without a doctorate. 

There are also salary differences among Germany’s 16 states – and not just in the life sciences sector. As a rule, salaries in Germany’s south and southwest are highest (joined by Hamburg in the north) and there is also still a clear east-west divide in the country. The following is a ranking from top to bottom of average gross salaries earned in Germany (Source: StepStone Salary Report for Germany 2023):

  1. Hamburg
  2. Baden-Württemberg 
  3. Hesse
  4. Bavaria
  5. North Rhine-Westphalia
  6. Bremen
  7. Berlin
  8. Rhineland-Palatinate
  9. Lower Saxony
  10. Saarland
  11. Schleswig-Holstein
  12. Saxony
  13. Brandenburg
  14. Thuringia
  15. Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania
  16. Saxony-Anhalt

Don't miss a thing!

Create an account to benefit from all the advantages under “My academics”.

As is the case in other sectors, salaries in the life sciences rise along with experience. But even early career salaries are attractive in the sector. University graduates with a degree in the life sciences can expect salaries comparable to those paid in the natural sciences.

Salary differences within the natural sciences can be rather significant. And the same holds true for pay in the life sciences. Because of the interdisciplinary nature of degree programmes in the life sciences, career options for graduates are diverse, as are the salaries on offer.

Specialists who also take on leadership roles can expect significantly higher pay. According to the 2023 StepStone Salary Report, those in leadership positions are paid an average of 30,000 euros more per year than those who do not manage other employees.

Finally, company size is also a key factor in the salary earned by a life scientist. Broadly speaking, larger companies pay more. The only exceptions tend to be highly specialised operations, where small and mid-sized companies in the life sciences industry can also sometimes be in the global elite in their niche.

Graduates in subjects other than the natural sciences and engineering sciences can also profit from the life science boom. Marketing experts, for example, can generally earn far larger salaries working for an employer in the life sciences than their counterparts who take jobs with an agency.#

Some of the best annual salaries – at around 70,000 euros – are paid in the pharmaceutical industry. Sales professionals – even without management responsibilities – also earn well in the pharmaceutical industry and can likewise expect a salary of around 70,000 euros.

Share this article