What physicists earn: Salary and influencing factors
Physicists working in the private sector can expect a salary significantly higher than average. If physicists remain in teaching and research, diverse opportunities are available, but are associated with a fairly average income.
For a long time, physicists were predominantly involved in research and teaching at universities and research institutes. But for years now, things have been changing: Physics graduates are less interested in classical research and focus more on the economy. This is due to the emergence of new sectors such as information technologies, energy generation and energy trading. Depending on the industry, the salaries of physicists also vary. Factors such as holding a degree and areas of specialisation also determine the payroll amount at the end of the month.
Physicists – salaries in the field of research and teaching in Germany
In the civil service, physicists receive a salary which is based on binding collective agreements and the completion of a bachelor's degree. A bachelor's degree entitles the holder to enter the senior service. As a Master of Science, a professional can begin their career at a higher level, earning up to €500 more gross per month. A doctoral degree does not change the salary prospects in the civil service, but favours the chances of success in the application process.
In classic research, your career usually begins as a research assistant at a university. In state institutions such as universities, the salary for physicists is governed by the collective agreement of the federal states (TV-L). According to oeffentlicher-dienst.info, physicists with a bachelor's degree are appointed at executive level with a salary of approximately €3,000 to €3,100. Things are different for applicants with a master's degree: After studying and entering at an executive level, these professionals can earn a starting salary as high as €3,489. The salary of professors is determined according to the salary levels of each state (see table Basic salaries and salary adjustments of the German University Association (PDF)). According to the German University Association, the following gross monthly income has been determined with those on the W pay scale:
W 1 for junior professors between €3,891 and €4,514
W 2 for professors between €4,556 and €5,684
W3 for professors in management positions between €5,508 and €6,452
Participation in research projects, the publication of textbooks and even research and performance bonuses increase the basic salary and vary depending on the pay grade.
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Higher salaries in companies for physics specialists in Germany
While specialisation in areas such as quantum, atomic, particle or even experimental physics has no influence on salaries among civil servants, physicists with a specialisation are particularly in demand in commercial enterprises. Knowledge in the field of renewable energy sources, laser technology and other modern technologies will in particular help physicists to earn an above-average salary. In general: Physicists working in the private sector can expect an average annual salary of €40,000. With increasing professional experience, annual salaries increase correspondingly – the annual salary after five years is around €50,000–€55,000.
The title of Doctor certainly also boosts salaries in the private sector. According to gehaltsreporter.de, private companies often pay a higher salary for physicists with a doctorate, who receive annual income of €50,000 as early as at the start of their career. The exact salary for a physicist in the economy depends on the specialisation of the industry, the size of the company and, in particular, the location of the company. The differences are considerable: While the average salary of a physicist in Saxony-Anhalt is around €3,190, they receive almost twice as much at approximately €6,235 in Hamburg, according to gehaltsvergleich.com. The size of the company can also result in significant differences. Gross monthly salaries in companies with up to 500 employees amount to €3,711, in companies with up to 1,000 employees €4,242 and in companies with more than 1,000 employees €4,919 (as of 2014).
The salary increases significantly with increasing professional experience. With a starting salary of approximately €3,395 gross per month, physicists earn on average €5,078 per month after 25 years of in their profession. Differences within the industries are common due to the general salary levels in the respective economic sectors. The income rates are particularly high, for example, in the electrical and metal sectors as well as in the banking and insurance industries.
academics - November 2015
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