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|
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.
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).
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.
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.
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
|Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing||116,800|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||107,210|
|Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state,
local, and private
|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.
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.
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.
To find job openings for natural science managers in the federal government, visit