# Do scientists make good money?

1. Jan 2, 2010

### BogMonkey

I'm aware that physicians are among the highest paying jobs but is it possible to earn an income close to that of a physician as a physicist, chemist, biologist or other scientist? I could just as easily go to medical school and obtain an MD in the long run but what I'm really getting into chemistry for is to make my contribution towards mankinds knowledge and to making the world a better place and all that but its a petty many scientists don't even earn half the money that your average general practitioner does. I think it would be fairly cool to be able to help my family out in the process of working as a scientist. Also I'm planning on doing independent research and projects and that kind of thing requires funding.

I suppose scientists can make a fair bit of money by patenting inventions if they happen to make any. Also having a good knowledge of scientific fields such as chemistry would pave the way for setting up businesses based on that knowledge. Do any of you make the same kind of income that physicians make while working in a purely scientific related field such as chemist, physicist etc.?

2. Jan 2, 2010

### f95toli

It obviously depends on how successful you are, well-known physicists are sometimes recruited by private universities because it is good PR for the university to have them on staff.
But if you want to make as much money as a physician while working in academia you need to move into the management side of things (head of a department,rector etc).
"Pure" science is more or less a dead end if your goal is to make a lot of money.

3. Jan 2, 2010

### mugaliens

Most scientists with patents forfeit the patent to their parent company, unless they developed and filed (expensive!) the patent on their own. Defending patents is an even more expensive proposition.

9. Jan 2, 2010

$130k for a professor after many years of ********, compared to a pharmacist who makes that after a few years out of pharmacy school, working in a corner drugstore... I think the feeling of under compensation that us STEM professionals feel comes from providing a large percentage of GDP and being only a small percentage of the population. I saw the exact numbers in the R&D magazine, as I remember it was something like 2% of the population provides 50% of the GDP. I would suggest doing what you want without regard to money (probably the attitude that leads to the under compensation), because then when stuff creeps into your life your still doing what you want instead of longing to do what you want. I know plenty of PhD physicists that work at my corp and make good money. If you like helping sick people become a doctor. If you want to find a new drug you could do research for pharma. In any case you should try and determine what type of specialization you want to do, then work on getting the internships, finding university professors in the field, assistantships, etc. to get a lot of experience in that specialty. 10. Jan 2, 2010 ### D H Staff Emeritus Pharmacists need to work twenty years to reach that kind of pay -- and many never reach it. And pharmacists are not STEM professionals? First off, are you talking about the venture capital people, most of whom have a business degree, or people doing the R&D? Secondly, Last edited by a moderator: Apr 15, 2017 11. Jan 2, 2010 ### Gamma Ray No but chemical engineers (or any other really comparitively) do 12. Jan 2, 2010 ### GiftOfPlasma WRT, the pay scale chart, I have direct observational evidence, sample size of 1, that is in contradiction, I apologize and did not want to mislead the conversation. Perhaps she is in a high demand region of the country and receives higher than average pay. WRT, to STEM definition, Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM), my understanding was that medicine was not included in that. Citation NSF: http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/nsf05313/pdf/tables.pdf" [Broken] Page 3: 5,580,200 SET professionals (does include managers of SET), this data is from 2001, not quite sure why reports haven't been published since then... US population: 281,421,906 year 2000 census, chosen to be close to the 2001 data point above. SET professionals 1.98% of the US population around 2000. Citation: http://juneauempire.com/stories/101609/opi_505487626.shtml" the closest thing I got was specifically the comment: I do specifically remember my wild assertion in R&D Magazine but could not find it. Of course what I remembered as 50% of the GDP could have been 50% of GDP growth. I typically don't source all of my wild assertions on Internet forums, but I still try and at least make my wild assertions as accurate as possible. No hard feelings, I know you're just keeping me honest. Anyways my main point wasn't the income disparity but the last two paragraphs. Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017 13. Jan 3, 2010 ### arunma Compared to the national average I'm sure that's great. But his "standard candle" here is a medical doctor, who makes considerably more than any professor could hope to. Not to mention that the chances of a PhD becomming a professor are quite slim. 14. Jan 3, 2010 ### twofish-quant It depends on how you define scientist. I work for a Wall Street financial firm and my job title includes the word "research". I think of myself as a scientist and I make pretty decent money. Now whether you think of me as a scientist or not is up to you. No they can't. One rule is that the big money is to be made in distribution and not invention. What invariably happens with patents or other IP is that you end up selling it to another company, and the person you sell it to makes the big money. Now you *can* start your own company (and lots of people in biotech and EE do just that) so that you end up buying IP instead of selling it, but that requires a lot of business skills. You can also work for another company, and then work your way up the corporate food chain to the positions that make the big bucks. At which point the question "what is a scientist?" comes up again. Sure, but you also need business knowledge and skills. 15. Jan 3, 2010 ### twofish-quant Your chances of getting tenure track after Ph.D. is 1 in 6. There is something called the golden mean. Just because you don't want to life out of a cardboard box doesn't mean that you want to have a private jet and a yacht. One weird thing about discussions about money is this weird idea that either you take a vow of poverty or you are this hyperobsessed greedy bastard. It's really weird. Depending on how broadly you define scientist, you can end up living a decent middle class life. Also one *really* good thing about Ph.D. programs is that most people get out of them with no debt. This gives you a huge amount of freedom. A lot of doctors and lawyers end up in jobs that make$200K because they have no choice, and golden handcuffs can be as bad as iron ones.

I think this is false. Most Ph.D. end up obsessed with academia, so you have too many people going after too few jobs. Once you broaden the horizons a bit, I think you end up in pretty good financial shape with a Ph.D.

16. Jan 3, 2010

### twofish-quant

To be brutally honest, I think that academics really have a skewed idea of what generates wealth. You really need business skills to generate wealth. If you have an R&D prototype, it will stay an R&D prototype. To get it out to market you need to think about financing, advertising, distribution chains, sales, etc. etc.

I'd argue the opposite. One problem that Ph.D.'s have outside of academia is that they often end up "overspecialized." You really do need a firm foundation of general skills, and you do always need to be learning new things. For example, I don't have any problems with PDE's. I do however get nervous talking to people on the telephone, and learning how to deal with that was an very important part of my education.

17. Jan 3, 2010

### twofish-quant

This is one problem with these sorts of comparisons is that you need to figure out what you are comparing to what. Ph.D.-level researchers in Wall Street banks make more money than general practitioners in rural Arkansas.

You do have to be very careful about these sorts of assertions because often the person making them has some financial motive to presenting data in a certain way. For example, it's very common for universities to uses these sorts of statistics to argue for more government funding of research or more student loans. They have to be taken with a grain of salt, because people have been fooled into make very bad career choices by bad statistics (i.e. they myth of the shortage of academic researchers that the NSF was saying in the early 1990's).

18. Jan 3, 2010

### twofish-quant

Not any professor. B-school professors make scary amounts of money. One other thing is that a lot of physics professors that I know have side businesses and consulting firms. The problem with academia isn't the salaries of the tenured faculty. It's that there are not enough of those jobs to go around.

19. Jan 3, 2010

### twofish-quant

Typical compensation for a first year physics Ph.D. quantitative researcher working on wall street is $90K+bonus which can range from$30K in a bad year to \$60K in a more typical one.

20. Jan 3, 2010

### twofish-quant

Also people like the Council on Competitiveness really annoy me because they are all CEO, university presidents, and labor leaders that are *TOTALLY* out of touch with the lives of ordinary scientists and engineers. They often argue a lot for more funding for science, but all that money goes to people with the power, and not to post-docs, graduate students, and you get a lot of money that gets focused on research and development rather than on things like basic literacy and undergraduate education.

There is a real "bait and switch" here because they say that "innovation" creates economic growth, but they don't define what "innovation" is which makes it easy for money to go into "innovation" without thinking clearly about what is really going on.