Gender gap persists in life science research but median salaries hold steady

Graph from The Scientist’s Life Science Salary Survey 2012

Life science researchers’ salaries remained relatively flat over the last year, but some noticeable pay gaps based on gender, sector and research specialty continued or emerged.

The Scientist magazine surveyed print and online readers this spring and summer about their annual pay and demographic data and compiled the information it received from 4,753 respondents into this year’s Life Sciences Salary Survey.

As a whole, researchers’ salaries remained flat from 2011 at $87,000. After nearly a decade of steady growth from 2001 to 2009, the median self-reported salary dropped in 2010, showed signs of recovery in 2011 and plateaued in 2012.


One pay gap was apparent in an all-too-familiar place – gender. Female researchers earned less than males across all levels of responsibility, but that gap increased with seniority. Among managers of professional and nonprofessional employees, males made an average of $31,000 more than females, according to the survey.

One group that saw a market increase in salary this year was consultants, who may be playing a more crucial role as budget restraints force cutbacks at companies. Meanwhile, reported salaries for specialties like endocrinology, systems biology and oncology saw drops from last year.

But the most prominent gaps in salary were not across fields but across sectors. Compared with researchers in academic, government or nonprofit institutions, industry researchers made a significantly higher salary, especially in the fields of oncology and toxicology.

Click here to read the full report and see more graphs of the data.

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