Here’s how much money 25 types of scientists make

soil scientist ecologist
Soil scientists make a median of $66,120 a year.

  • There are dozens of career specializations in science, but some are more lucrative than others.
  • Physicists and natural-sciences managers were among the highest-paid professions.
  • Here are 25 select science jobs ranked from lowest to highest median annual pay as of May 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.
25. Conservation scientists had a median annual salary of $64,020.

conservation scientist oysters

Total number of employees in the US: 22,020

What they do, according to O*NET: Manage, improve, and protect natural resources to maximize their use without damaging the environment. May conduct soil surveys and develop plans to eliminate soil erosion or to protect rangelands. May instruct farmers, agricultural production managers, or ranchers in best ways to use crop rotation, contour plowing, or terracing to conserve soil and water; in the number and kind of livestock and forage plants best suited to particular ranges; and in range and farm improvements, such as fencing and reservoirs for stock watering.

24. Soil and plant scientists had a median annual salary of $66,120.

soil scientist ecologist
Soil scientists make a median of $66,120 a year.

Total number of employees in the US: 13,950

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research in breeding, physiology, production, yield, and management of crops and agricultural plants or trees, shrubs, and nursery stock, their growth in soils, and control of pests; or study the chemical, physical, biological, and mineralogical composition of soils as they relate to plant or crop growth. May classify and map soils and investigate effects of alternative practices on soil and crop productivity.

23. Anthropologists and archeologists had a median annual salary of $66,130.

Anthropologists and archeologists

Total number of employees in the US: 7,180

What they do, according to O*NET: Study the origin, development, and behavior of human beings.

22. Zoologists and wildlife biologists had a median annual salary of $66,350.

zoologist

Total number of employees in the US: 17,200

What they do, according to O*NET: Study the origins, behavior, diseases, genetics, and life processes of animals and wildlife. May specialize in wildlife research and management. May collect and analyze biological data to determine the environmental effects of present and potential use of land and water habitats.

21. Environmental scientists and specialists had a median annual salary of $73,230.

environmental scientist

Total number of employees in the US: 84,610

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research or perform investigation for the purpose of identifying, abating, or eliminating sources of pollutants or hazards that affect either the environment or the health of the population. Using knowledge of various scientific disciplines, may collect, synthesize, study, report, and recommend action based on data derived from measurements or observations of air, food, soil, water, and other sources.

20. Food scientists and technologists had a median annual salary of $73,450.

food scientist

Total number of employees in the US: 13,080

What they do, according to O*NET: Use chemistry, microbiology, engineering, and other sciences to study the principles underlying the processing and deterioration of foods; analyze food content to determine levels of vitamins, fat, sugar, and protein; discover new food sources; research ways to make processed foods safe, palatable, and healthful; and apply food science knowledge to determine best ways to process, package, preserve, store, and distribute food.

19. Epidemiologists had a median annual salary of $74,560.

epidemiologist

Total number of employees in the US: 7,500

What they do, according to O*NET: Investigate and describe the determinants and distribution of disease, disability, or health outcomes. May develop the means for prevention and control; oversee public health programs, including statistical analysis, health care planning, surveillance systems, and public health improvement.

18. Chemists had a median annual salary of $79,300.

Scientist

Total number of employees in the US: 82,940

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct qualitative and quantitative chemical analyses or experiments in laboratories for quality or process control, or to develop new products or knowledge.

17. Life scientists (all other) had a median annual salary of $82,000.

geneticist

Total number of employees in the US: 6,540

What they do, according to O*NET: This job category includes botanists, ecologists, geneticists, neuroscientists, immunologists, and microbiologists.

16. Hydrologists had a median annual salary of $84,040.

hydrologist

Total number of employees in the US: 6,170

What they do, according to O*NET: Research the distribution, circulation, and physical properties of underground and surface waters; and study the form and intensity of precipitation, its rate of infiltration into the soil, movement through the earth, and its return to the ocean and atmosphere.

15. Nuclear technicians had a median annual salary of $84,190.

nuclear power plant

Total number of employees in the US: 6,160

What they do, according to O*NET: Assist nuclear physicists, nuclear engineers, or other scientists in laboratory, power generation, or electricity production activities.

14. Microbiologists had a median annual salary of $84,400.

microbiologist microscope
Microbiologist Ashley Paulick looks through a stereoscope to identify bacterium in a blood plate in an anaerobe lab within the Infectious Disease Laboratory at the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Monday, Nov. 25, 2013, in Atlanta.

Total number of employees in the US: 19,710

What they do, according to O*NET: Investigate the growth, structure, development, and other characteristics of microscopic organisms, such as bacteria, algae, or fungi. Includes medical microbiologists who study the relationship between organisms and disease or the effects of antibiotics on microorganisms.

13. Biological scientists (all other) had a median annual salary of $85,290.

molecular biologist

Total number of employees in the US: 41,680

What they do, according to O*NET: This job category includes bioinformatics scientists, molecular and cellular biologists, and geneticists.

12. Medical scientists (except epidemiologists) had a median annual salary of $91,510.

pharmacologist

Total number of employees in the US: 126,110

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research dealing with the understanding of human diseases and the improvement of human health. Engage in clinical investigation, research and development, or other related activities. Includes physicians, dentists, public health specialists, pharmacologists, and medical pathologists who primarily conduct research.

11. Statisticians had a median annual salary of $92,270.

statistician

Total number of employees in the US: 38,860

What they do, according to O*NET: Develop or apply mathematical or statistical theory and methods to collect, organize, interpret, and summarize numerical data to provide usable information. May specialize in fields such as bio-statistics, agricultural statistics, business statistics, or economic statistics. Includes mathematical and survey statisticians.

10. Geoscientists (except hydrologists and geographers) had a median annual salary of $93,580.

Geoscientist

Total number of employees in the US: 27,890

What they do, according to O*NET: Study the composition, structure, and other physical aspects of the Earth. May use geological, physics, and mathematics knowledge in exploration for oil, gas, minerals, or underground water; or in waste disposal, land reclamation, or other environmental problems. May study the Earth’s internal composition, atmospheres, oceans, and its magnetic, electrical, and gravitational forces. Includes mineralogists, crystallographers, paleontologists, stratigraphers, geodesists, and seismologists.

9. Biochemists and biophysicists had a median annual salary of $94,270.

Biochemist chemistry biology

Total number of employees in the US: 32,010

What they do, according to O*NET: Study the chemical composition or physical principles of living cells and organisms, their electrical and mechanical energy, and related phenomena. May conduct research to further the understanding of the complex chemical combinations and reactions involved in metabolism, reproduction, growth, and heredity. May determine the effects of foods, drugs, serums, hormones, and other substances on tissues and vital processes of living organisms.

8. Materials scientists had a median annual salary of $99,460.

polymer scientist

Total number of employees in the US: 6,930

What they do, according to O*NET: Research and study the structures and chemical properties of various natural and synthetic or composite materials, including metals, alloys, rubber, ceramics, semiconductors, polymers, and glass. Determine ways to strengthen or combine materials or develop new materials with new or specific properties for use in a variety of products and applications. Includes glass scientists, ceramic scientists, metallurgical scientists, and polymer scientists.

7. Atmospheric and space scientists had a median annual salary of $99,740.

meteorologist

Total number of employees in the US: 10,210

What they do, according to O*NET: Investigate atmospheric phenomena and interpret meteorological data, gathered by surface and air stations, satellites, and radar to prepare reports and forecasts for public and other uses. Includes weather analysts and forecasters whose functions require the detailed knowledge of meteorology.

6. Physical scientists (all other) had a median annual salary of $107,210.

paleontologist dinosaur

Total number of employees in the US: 19,050

What they do, according to O*NET: This job category includes geologists, paleontologists, chemists, physicists, and astronomers.

5. Mathematicians had a median annual salary of $110,860.

Math professor

Total number of employees in the US: 2,460

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research in fundamental mathematics or in application of mathematical techniques to science, management, and other fields. Solve problems in various fields using mathematical methods.

4. Astronomers had a median annual salary of $119,730.

Astronomer telescope stars

Total number of employees in the US: 1,910

What they do, according to O*NET: Observe, research, and interpret astronomical phenomena to increase basic knowledge or apply such information to practical problems.

3. Computer and information research scientists had a median annual salary of $126,830.

Computer Science Coding Student
Miguel Chateloin uses a computer to write code that would allow people living in Cuba to use email to post to blogs during the Hackathon for Cuba event on February 1, 2014 in Miami, Florida. The hackathon brought together experts and programmers to devise innovative technology solutions aimed at strengthening communications and information access in Cuba. The event is organized by Roots of Hope with support from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Total number of employees in the US: 30,220

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research into fundamental computer and information science as theorists, designers, or inventors. Develop solutions to problems in the field of computer hardware and software.

2. Physicists had a median annual salary of $129,850.

Physicist_Stephen_Hawking_in_Zero_Gravity_NASA

Total number of employees in the US: 16,160

What they do, according to O*NET: Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.

1. Natural-sciences managers had a median annual salary of $137,940.

FILE PHOTO: A uniQure bioprocessing engineer shows a shaker flask where cells in growth medium are cultured in a laboratory at Dutch biotech company uniQure in Amsterdam, the Netherlands December 13, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Kooren/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A uniQure bioprocessing engineer shows a shaker flask where cells in growth medium are cultured in a laboratory at Dutch biotech company uniQure in Amsterdam

Total number of employees in the US: 75,870

What they do, according to O*NET: Plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, statistics, and research and development in these fields.

Method and data source

Depending on their specialization, scientists can earn a lot of money.

Using data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program, which provides an annual guide to median pay in the United States, we looked at the pay of different science or science-related jobs. We were especially interested in looking at those that are the highest-paying.

Physicists, computer scientists, and astronomers were among the most lucrative careers, earning six-figure salaries.

The above slides are the 25 highest-paying jobs from our list of science and science-related jobs, such as mathematicians, ranked in order of median annual salary. We also included the number of people employed as of May 2020 from the Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics program. We also added their job descriptions, according to the Department of Labor’s O*NET occupational database.

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