Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists. They direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.

Duties

Natural sciences managers typically do the following:

  • Work with top executives to develop goals and strategies for researchers and developers
  • Make budgets for projects and programs by determining staffing, training, and equipment needs
  • Hire, supervise, and evaluate scientists, technicians, and other staff members
  • Review the methods used in their staff’s work and the accuracy of the work produced
  • Ensure that laboratories are stocked with equipment and supplies
  • Monitor the progress of projects, review research, and draft operational reports
  • Provide technical assistance to scientists, technicians, and support staff
  • Establish and follow administrative procedures, policies, and standards
  • Communicate project proposals, research findings, and the status of projects to clients and top management

Natural sciences managers direct scientific research activities and direct and coordinate product development projects and production activities. Research projects are aimed at improving manufacturing processes, advancing basic scientific knowledge, or developing new products.

Some natural sciences managers are former scientists and, after becoming managers, may continue to conduct their own research in addition to overseeing the work of others. These managers are sometimes called working managers and usually have smaller staffs, allowing them to do research in addition to carrying out their administrative duties.

Managers who are responsible for larger staffs may not have time to contribute to research and may spend all their time performing administrative duties.

Laboratory managers need to ensure that laboratories are fully supplied so that scientists and students can run their tests and experiments.

During all stages of a project, natural sciences managers coordinate the activities of their unit with those of other units or organizations. They work with higher levels of management; with financial, production, and marketing specialists; and with suppliers of equipment and materials.

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Work Environment

Natural sciences managers held about 51,600 jobs in 2012. Most of the time, they work in offices, but they also may spend time in laboratories. Like managers in other fields, natural sciences managers may spend a large portion of their time using computers and talking to other members of their organization.

Natural sciences managers have different requirements, based on the size of their staff. Working managers who have research responsibilities and smaller staffs may need to work in laboratories or in the field. Managers with larger staffs spend their time primarily in an administrative role and little time doing research or working in the field or in laboratories. Field and laboratory work may require traveling, sometimes to remote locations.

Although natural sciences managers work in many industries, about 1 in 3 natural sciences managers was employed by federal, state, or local government in 2012. Many others worked in industries and businesses that rely on public funding through research grants or on other types of public and private funding.

The industries that employed the most natural sciences managers in 2012 were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 24%
Federal government, excluding postal service 21
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 9
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 8
State government, excluding education and hospitals 7

Work Schedules

Almost all natural sciences managers work full time. Natural sciences managers may need to work longer hours to meet technical or scientific goals on a short deadline or within a tight budget.

Education and Training

Natural sciences managers usually advance to management positions after years of employment as scientists. Natural sciences managers typically have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or Ph.D. in a scientific discipline or a related field, such as engineering. Some managers may find it advantageous to have an advanced management degree—for example, a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA).

Education

Natural sciences managers typically begin their careers as scientists; therefore, most have a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, or Ph.D. in a scientific discipline or a closely related field, such as engineering. Scientific and technical knowledge is essential for managers because they must be able to understand the work of their subordinates and be able to provide technical assistance when needed. 

Natural sciences managers who are interested in acquiring postsecondary education in management should be able to find master’s degree or Ph.D. programs in a natural science that incorporate business management courses. Those interested in acquiring general management skills may pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA).

Sciences managers must continually upgrade their knowledge because of the rapid growth of scientific developments.

Work Experience in a Related Occupation

Natural sciences managers usually advance to management positions after years of employment as scientists. While employed as scientists, they typically are given more responsibility and independence in their work as they gain experience. Eventually, they may lead research teams and have control over the direction and content of projects before being promoted to an administrative position.

Personality and Interests

Natural sciences managers typically have an interest in the Thinking and Persuading interest areas, according to the Holland Code framework. The Thinking interest area indicates a focus on researching, investigating, and increasing the understanding of natural laws. The Persuading interest area indicates a focus on influencing, motivating, and selling to other people.

If you are not sure whether you have a Thinking or Persuading interest which might fit with a career as a natural sciences manager, you can take a career test to measure your interests.

Natural sciences managers should also possess the following specific qualities:

Communication skills. Natural sciences managers need to be able communicate clearly to a variety of audiences, such as scientists, policymakers, and the public. Both written and oral communication are important.

Critical-thinking skills. Natural sciences managers must carefully evaluate the work of others. They must determine if their staff’s methods and results are based on sound science.

Interpersonal skills. Natural sciences managers lead research teams and therefore need to be able to work well with others in order to reach common goals. Managers routinely deal with conflict, which they must be able to turn into positive outcomes for their organization.

Leadership skills. Natural sciences managers must be able to organize, direct, and motivate others. They need to identify the strengths and weaknesses of their workers and create an environment in which workers can succeed.

Problem-solving skills. Natural sciences managers use scientific observation and analysis to find solutions to complex technical questions.

Time-management skills. Natural sciences managers must be able to do multiple administrative, supervisory, and technical tasks while ensuring that projects remain on schedule.

Pay

The median annual wage for natural sciences managers was $115,730 in May 2012. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $65,040, and the top 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

In May 2012, the median annual wages for natural sciences managers in the top five industries in which these managers worked were as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering,
and life sciences
$155,560
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 116,800
Federal government, excluding postal service 107,210
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state,
local, and private
81,340
State government, excluding education and hospitals 73,080

Almost all natural sciences managers work full time. They may need to work longer hours to meet technical or scientific goals on a short deadline or within a tight budget.

Job Outlook

Employment of natural sciences managers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2012 to 2022, slower than the average for all occupations. Employment growth should be affected by many of the same factors that affect employment growth for the scientists whom these managers supervise. However, job growth for managers is expected to be somewhat slower than that for scientists, because managers tend to be flexible in the number of workers they are able to manage. In addition, research-and-development activities are increasingly being outsourced to specialized scientific research services firms. This outsourcing will lead to some consolidation of management.

Job Prospects

In addition to job openings resulting from employment growth, openings will arise from the need to replace managers who retire or move into other occupations.

Competition for job openings in this occupation is expected to be strong because of its typically higher salaries, greater control over some types of projects, and better access to resources. Experiences can vary widely with the variety of industries and organizations these managers work in. Private industry, government, and colleges and universities will have different goals. Prospective managers should take these differences into consideration when applying for positions.

For More Information

To find job openings for natural science managers in the federal government, visit

USAJOBS

FAQ

Where does this information come from?

The career information above is taken from the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook. This excellent resource for occupational data is published by the U.S. Department of Labor every two years. Truity periodically updates our site with information from the BLS database.

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There are many excellent tools available that will allow you to measure your interests, profile your personality, and match these traits with appropriate careers. We recommend the Career Personality Profiler assessment ($29), the Holland Code assessment ($19), or the Photo Career Quiz (free).