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Salaries in the natural sciences

By Heike Friedrichsen

Grades and a doctorate are not the only things that matter when it comes to starting salaries in research and development. Graduates of biology, chemistry or physics are in great demand on the labour market. Starting salaries are accordingly high.

Salaries: who earns what in research and development?© frank13 - photocase.comWhen it comes to salaries in the natural sciences, the educational degree and the field of study are decisive for the income
The first thing that counts is your degree: a university Diplom (approximately equivalent to a master's) in a scientific subject attracts a starting salary of approximately 48,000 euros, a master's degree 47,200 euros and a Diplom from a university of applied sciences 45,950 euros. At 42,400 euros, a bachelor's degree attracts a little less. A doctorate in natural sciences costs time and energy, but will bring in a few thousand extra euros a year, namely around 55,300 euros.

The degree subject itself also affects salary level: the highest starting salaries are commanded by graduates of subjects relating to pharmaceuticals, followed by engineers, mathematicians, medical engineers, physicists, chemists and biologists. Computer scientists bring up the rear. Those for whom a high salary is important should seek employment in industry. Above-average starting salaries for natural scientists are paid in the precision engineering/optics, automotive and chemical industries. Research institutions on the other hand pay significantly less.

Those who take up management responsibilities can increase their salaries further. Research takes place both at universities and at publicly funded non-university research institutions; the lion's share of research projects, however, is conducted in industry. In general, salaries at universities and research institutions are on average 30% lower than those in industry.

Where are salaries highest, where are they lowest? Where are particularly attractive salaries on offer? And how can academics improve their salary prospects? The current salary comparison conducted by PersonalMarkt based on an evaluation of 15,857 datasets highlights the following factors as decisive for a good salary.

The better the training, the better the salary

Different degrees already attract significantly different salaries, according to PersonalMarkt. A doctorate not only increases an applicant's chances on the labour market, it also guarantees significantly better salary prospects. While a bachelor's degree in the natural sciences is rewarded with on average 42,000 euros a year, a master's degree attracts on average 47,200 euros a year, a university Diplom almost 48,000 euros a year, and a Diplom from a university of applied sciences 46,000 euros a year. Researchers and developers with a doctorate see an additional jump in salary: natural scientists holding a doctorate can expect on average 55,266 euros a year; a quarter of natural scientists with a doctorate even earn over 63,200 euros a year.

Discipline determines salary level

The field you study is decisive for the salary graduates can expect. Natural scientists in the fields of pharmacy and engineering are especially well paid, on average 47,700 euros a year and 46,600 euros a year respectively. Medicine and medical engineering also offer attractive starting salaries of on average 46,000 euros a year. Salaries in the chemical industry have the broadest spread - here, a quarter of career entrants earn 58,000 euros a year, while the average starting salary is just under 45,000 euros a year.

To our landing page 'Spotlight on: Starting a career in the natural sciences'»

academics :: March 2013