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.
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
- Monitor the progress of projects, review research performed, and draft operational reports
- Ensure that laboratories are stocked with equipment and supplies
- 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 (such as 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 equipment and materials suppliers.
Natural sciences managers held about 63,500 jobs in 2018. The largest employers of natural sciences managers were as follows:
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||28%|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||17|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||7|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||5|
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. Managers with larger staffs spend their time primarily in offices performing administrative duties and spend little time doing research or working in the field or in laboratories. Working managers who have research responsibilities and smaller staffs may need to work in laboratories or in the field, which may require traveling, sometimes to remote locations.
Most natural sciences managers work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.
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.
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. Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree programs blend advanced training in a particular science field, such as biotechnology or environmental science, 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 work several years in the sciences before advancing to management positions. 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 managerial 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.
Communication skills. Natural sciences managers must be able to communicate clearly with 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 answers to complex technical questions.
Time-management skills. Natural sciences managers must be able to perform multiple administrative, supervisory, and technical tasks while ensuring that projects remain on schedule.
The median annual wage for natural sciences managers was $123,860 in May 2018.
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 $65,000, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
In May 2018, the median annual wages for natural sciences managers in the top industries in which they worked were as follows:
|Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences||$154,460|
|Management, scientific, and technical consulting services||119,800|
|Federal government, excluding postal service||117,240|
|State government, excluding education and hospitals||80,450|
Most natural sciences managers work full time. Some work more than 40 hours per week.
Natural Sciences Managers
Median annual wages, May 2018
- Natural sciences managers
- Other management occupations
- Total, all occupations
Employment of natural sciences managers is projected to grow 6 percent from 2018 to 2028, about as fast as 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. Job growth for managers is projected to increase at roughly the same rate as those for life scientists and physical scientists, but 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 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.
|Occupational Title||SOC Code||Employment, 2018||Projected Employment, 2028||Change, 2018-28||Employment by Industry|
SOURCE: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program
Natural sciences managers
This table shows a list of occupations with job duties that are similar to those of natural sciences managers.
|Occupation||Job Duties||Entry-Level Education||Median Annual Pay, May 2018|
Agricultural and Food Scientists
Agricultural and food scientists research ways to improve the efficiency and safety of agricultural establishments and products.
Architectural and Engineering Managers
Architectural and engineering managers plan, direct, and coordinate activities in architectural and engineering companies.
Biochemists and Biophysicists
Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes.
|Doctoral or professional degree||$93,280|
Chemists and Materials Scientists
Chemists and materials scientists study substances at the atomic and molecular levels and analyze the ways in which the substances interact with one another.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists
Environmental scientists and specialists use their knowledge of the natural sciences to protect the environment and human health.
Geoscientists study the physical aspects of the Earth.
Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health.
|Doctoral or professional degree||$84,810|
Physicists and Astronomers
Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact.
|Doctoral or professional degree||$119,580|
Postsecondary teachers instruct students in a wide variety of academic and technical subjects beyond the high school level.
|See How to Become One||$78,470|
For more information about Professional Science Master’s programs, visit
For general information about science careers and news, including articles on natural science management, visit
To find job openings for natural sciences managers in the federal government, visit
For a career video on natural sciences managers, visit
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Natural Sciences Managers,
on the Internet at https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/natural-sciences-managers.htm (visited ).
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