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Salaries in the Life Sciences: the Chemical Industry Pays Best

By Heike Friedrichsen

Medical compounds found in the sea, cloned sheep and bathtubs that no longer need to be cleaned: the life sciences are a broad field: Depending on their interests, students can specialise in technological aspects, the molecular field or IT-supported data evaluation. All academics earn a good salary - provided they go into industry.

Salaries in the Life Sciences: the Chemical Industry Pays Best© Gianni Furlan - iStockphoto.comThe industry, role, doctorate title and size of the company play an important role for the salary
At the start of their career, life sciences and biotechnology graduates are faced with the question: academia or industry? When it comes to money, then the choice is clear: industry generally pays far higher salaries than those offered by research or higher education institutions.

According to an analysis conducted by salary consultants PersonalMarkt, career starters in industry can expect an annual salary of a good 54,000 euros, whereas at research institutes they earn an average of just 42,000 euros a year, and at higher education institutions a mere 39,000 euros.

The industry and position dictate pay

Those who choose the right industry in their search for a job may be able to negotiate an even higher salary. Bioscientists at chemical companies earn average starting salaries of almost 57,000 euros a year, for example; the top earners may even gain an income of almost 66,000 euros.

In the chemical industry, the highest salaries are paid in the life sciences: chemists earn an average of almost 63,000 euros a year. The spread is wide however: while a quarter of all chemists and process technicians whose data were analysed earned less than 54,000 euros a year, top earners made over 70,000 euros.

The job itself also plays a part in determining salaries: the highest starting salaries in the field of life sciences are paid in quality assurance. Graduates earn an average of 53,320 euros a year. By way of comparison: in research and development departments, the average salary is 50,000 euros a year. A whole range of jobs, most of which do not require a doctoral title, are available in sales, marketing and at management consultancies. There's good money to be made here too: in sales, for example, the starting salary is an average of approximately 51,000 euros.

Professional experience and postgraduate degrees pay off

Age and experience are further factors in determining salary levels. With three to six years of professional experience, the average annual income already lies at 55,000 euros. More than ten years of experience are remunerated with an average salary of around 76,000 euros.

The differences in salary between industry and research change little with increasing professional experience however: while the salaries of top earners in companies in the chemical industry or medical engineering lie at around 100,000 euros or more, a quarter of all employees at research institutes and higher education institutions earn less than 40,000 euros a year.

And then there's the doctoral title: a successful post-doctoral qualification not only yields enhanced career opportunities, but also to significantly more money. Doctorates are rewarded with an annual salary averaging almost 68,000 euros.

Salaries in the Life Sciences

While pay is an important motivator, it is by no means always decisive. Other factors such as the responsibilities you have, creative scope, perspectives, exciting tasks, and work environment should also be taken into account.

Personnel responsibilities pay off

The assumption of personnel responsibilities also has a positive impact of the salary. While employees without any personnel responsibilities earn an average of 55,000 euros a year, the salaries of management executives with personnel responsibilities are around 35,000 euros higher, lying at 90,000 euros. The salaries of the industry's top earners are higher still: according to a data analysis conducted by PersonalMarkt, one quarter of all managers in the life sciences earn in excess of 110,000 euros a year.

Size matters

The size of a life sciences company - in terms of its workforce - also has an impact on the salary. The rule of thumb is: corporations and large companies pay higher salaries than mid-market businesses and, in turn, these pay better than small companies or start-ups. Career starters at companies with over 1,000 employees earn almost 53,000 euros on average; while at companies with fewer than 100 employees, this figure is almost 12,000 euros lower at around 41,000 euros.