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Can life science graduates earn high salaries?

As a life science/ biological science graduate you worked really hard but post university can sometimes leave you feeling as if your efforts were in vain especially if you seek monetary satisfaction. Looking for jobs post graduation often had me screaming when I saw some salaries on offer. Some of the jobs if not most required postgraduate study when a decent salary in my opinion was offered, which can sometimes not be the route you want to take.

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As my blog highlights through the numerous career profiles, there are a wide range of careers that life science graduates can go into. These can either directly use skills taught during our degree or the transferable skills that are always so often spoken about.

Lets get into it !

Pay Bands

Pay bands are pre defined salary ranges determined by organisations ( example NHS in the UK) or institutions. Many academic establishments have pay bands related to roles. This is free to find on the website and gives you a good idea of what you could be given.

The minimum pay point on the band is usually given with the least amount of experience. With more experience, you can grow within that pay band and usually a new qualification or further study or training leads you into a higher pay band.

Examples of Pay bands

Universities: UCL, Imperial, Manchester . These are just examples to give you an idea of where you will fall.


  1. Jobs where a Bsc is sufficient

  2. Jobs that require post graduate qualifications (Msc)

  3. Phd graduate jobs

  4. Jobs where experience can balance out post graduate qualifications

A lot of the information in this post will relate to the UK, the overall ideas on how to handle expectations should be applicable.

The average salary across the UK is £37,428 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS) with the top 10% of earners averaging a salary of £60,890 for both genders but when split, men earn an average of £41,185 with the top 10% earning £67,4589 and females in full time employment earn £31,819 with the top 10% earning £50,909. You can already see the discrepancies between genders. This data was taken across all jobs in the UK.

For life science graduates it is quite difficult to get a realistic expectation of your earning potential, which is an incredibly important piece of information as you did leave university with the aims or hopes of finding employment.

Most of the most recent reports across platforms like The telegraph , save the student and BBC in relation to life science graduates, there are never any clear statistics and we are generally left in the shadows. Medicine, the pharmaceutical industry and biological sciences are usually grouped in broad terms but but never an in depth review of what should be expected according to different fields and based on specific job titles. This is something this post aims to address without getting too long.

Jobs where a Bsc is sufficient

This is the easiest point to branch into other fields, that can be working as an events organiser or building your skills as a project manager. Entry level positions in labs or the pharmaceutical industry will be most directly related to your life science degree. With courses such as biomedical science and any NHS schemes offering easy progression. Here is what pay could look like

  • Outreach officer - entry level with some experience in education £26,000- £30,000

  • NHS STP trainee - start at band 6-- £30,000 and progress to band 9

  • entry level biomedical scientist starts at band 5 £22,000-£26,000 and progresses to band 7 orr 8 = £31,000-£49,000 and consultants earn more

  • teacher - trainees are paid between £17,000- £28,000 and qualified pay ranges are £24,000-£35,000 with head teachers earning more than £100,00

  • Medical sales: starting between £18,000-£24,000 with senior roles at £40,000 excluding possible bonuses on sales

Jobs that require post graduate qualifications (Msc)

A masters degree will provide that extra sprinkling of expertise in a specific field. This is also an opportunity to branch into an are that interested you during your undergrad degree

E.g of career journeys on switching from biomedical sciences to law or psychology and medical ultrasound.

  • Psychology - trainees start at NHS band 6 - £30,401 and can grow within this role to band 8- £80,000

  • Patent law attorney pharmaceutical industry - trainees can earn £30,000-£37,000 and top roles have you earning up to £500 000.

  • Clinical Scientist trainees - these cover a range of roles from cardiac scientist to immunologist and microbiologists. Entry roles start at nhs band 6 (£30,000) and can progress to bands 7/8 - £70,000

  • Communications manager / public relations - early careers can earn £22,000 and can increase to £40,000 and senior roles earning £100,000

  • Pharmacist - pre reg trainess £16,000-20,000 and starting salaries post registration at £35,000 and senior roles £70,0000

  • Science education officer - £30,000

Phd graduate jobs

Phds are often sold as student roles, when i think they should be considered as a job. In the past a Phd was seen as the stepping stone into academia, but in reality they are now the stepping stone into almost anything. The only major con is that you could be earning significantly lower than your peers and in some cases take a pay cut if you had previously been working, but this is something you should consider before pursuing one. With a phd, you can work within academia as a post doctoral researcher, research assistant or pharmaceutical industry. You can also work outside academia in science policy helping advise government on key issues and help with desicion making.

  • Researchers in schools - with several routes they offer a tax free bursary route of £28,000 or the salaried route where you may have already taught in schools.

  • Science education officer - £30,000

  • Science policy - assistant roles at £22,000 and senior roles in excess of £50,000

  • Postdoctoral researcher starting at £27,000 and can earn at high level positions as seniior lecturer £43,000-£58,000 and professors at an excess of £100,000

Note with phds, you are often in control of your own time and therefore could supplement income doing other jobs such as brilliant club, paid outreach, literally anything !!

Jobs where experience can balance out post graduate qualifications:

Roles where your day to day may not use your degree. But the base knowledge and transferrable skills are definitely a plus

  • Science communication/ medical communication - £30,000 - £35,000

  • Marketing within the science industry - at assistant level start at £18,000- £22,000 but senior roles can lead up to £60,000 with marketing directors earning more than £100,000

  • Science writing/ journalism - starting at £15,000 but increase to £35,000 for more senior roles. This can also be a freelance opportunity.

  • Museum and exhibition curator - salaries can range from £20,000 and at senior roles lead up to more than £40,000


Food For thought

  1. Is it impossible to want to be a high earner and pursue a career in science thats is not trying to be a medical doctor

  2. Are we underpaid for our efforts especially in the early stages?

  3. Should we accept that in our fields it is common for it to be a slow burner vs high monetary reward since the work we do does contribute to the betterment of human life and is there an actual price you can put on this?

  4. Do you believe only high risk jobs should lead to high reward?

Find out my thoughts in the next blog post and be sure to subscribe



Prospects is the most comprehensive site that gives information on graduate salaries in the UK. NHS Afc pay band scale and NHS careers are also incredibly useful resource once you understand the bands you can find yourself on and how far up these bands you have the potential of progressing. Searching Job titles can also give you a feel of a realistic salary expectation.


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