Natural Sciences Managers

Career, Salary and Education Information

What Natural Sciences Managers Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers typically do the following:

  • Work with top executives to develop goals and strategies for researchers and developers
  • Budget resources for projects and programs by determining staffing, training, and equipment needs
  • Hire, supervise, and evaluate scientists, technicians, and other staff members
  • Review staff members’ methodology and the accuracy of their research results
  • Ensure that laboratories are stocked with equipment and supplies
  • Monitor the progress of projects, review research performed, 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. The duties of natural sciences managers vary with the field of science (for example, biology or chemistry) or the industry they work in. Research projects may be 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 as well as oversee 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 can run their tests and experiments. Some specialize in the management of laboratory animals.

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.

Work Environment for Natural Sciences Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Natural sciences managers hold about 55,100 jobs. The industries that employ the most natural sciences managers are as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 28%
Federal government, excluding postal service 19
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 9
Management of companies and enterprises 7
State government, excluding education and hospitals 6

Although natural sciences managers work in many industries, about 1 in 4 of natural sciences managers are employed by federal and state governments. Many others work in industries and businesses that rely on public funding through research grants or on other types of public and private funding.

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 expend little time doing research or working in the field or in laboratories. Field and laboratory work may require traveling, sometimes to remote locations.

Natural Sciences Manager Work Schedules

Almost all natural sciences managers work full time. About 2 out of 5 work more than 40 hours per week.

How to Become a Natural Sciences Manager[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Natural Sciences Managers near you!

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 helpful to have an advanced management degree—for example, a Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree, a Master of Business Administration (MBA), or a Master of Public Administration (MPA).

Natural Sciences Manager 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 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. A relatively new type of degree, called the Professional Science Master’s (PSM), blends advanced training in a particular science field with business skills, such as communications and program management, and policy. Those interested in acquiring general management skills may pursue a Master of Business Administration (MBA) or a Master of Public Administration (MPA). Some natural sciences managers will have studied psychology or some other management-related field to enter this occupation.

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.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Although certification is not typically required to become a natural sciences manager, many relevant certifications are available. These certifications range from those related to specific scientific areas of study or practice, such as laboratory animal management, to general management topics, such as project management, and are useful to natural sciences managers regardless of the organization being managed.

Important Qualities for Natural Sciences Managers

Communication skills. Natural sciences managers must be able to 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 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 the 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.

Natural Science Managers Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for natural sciences managers is $120,160. 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 $69,250, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $187,200.

The median annual wages for natural sciences managers in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Management of companies and enterprises $160,200
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 146,430
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 126,250
Federal government, excluding postal service 110,900
State government, excluding education and hospitals 77,290

Almost all natural sciences managers work full time. About 2 out of 5 work more than 40 hours per week.

Job Outlook for Natural Sciences Managers[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of natural sciences managers is projected to grow 3 percent over the next ten years, 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.

Natural Sciences Managers 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 jobs 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.

Employment projections data for Natural Sciences Managers, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Natural sciences managers 55,100 56,900 3 1,800


*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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