Salaries For 43 PhD Industry Jobs (The Highest Paying Job Is No Surprise)

PhDs are increasingly being hired in the top-paying jobs across industries. So, there is no reason for you to stay stuck in academia where PhD salaries are stagnant or plummeting.

The U.S. National Institute of Health reports a starting annual salary of US $37,740 for academic postdocs and a study published in Nature reported a starting salary of US $23,660 — the minimum wage set by the U.S. Fair Labor Standards Act. 

Even with the current inflation, the average salaries for postdocs are below $49,999 per year.

This means that rent and prices of other day to day products and services have increased but your stipend has not followed the trend. Why?

Because there is a surplus of PhDs in academia, which enables the PI to not pay you your worth.

In contract, industry roles compensate PhDs for their hard work and pay them what they are worth because there is a lack of capable, talented employees across industries. PhDs in academia are so used to low salaries that this comes as a surprise to them. 

PhDs let imposter Syndrome, low average salaries, and the academic mindset hinder their confidence to negotiate their worth. They don’t bother to survey the average salaries for their target industry positions and end up going through the interview process completely unprepared to face the salary questions.

I recently came across a huge thread of conversations on the Cheeky Scientist platform where transitioned Cheeky Scientists were attesting to the high industry salaries to awestruck PhDs in academia. 

One of the PhDs in academia said – “As I am going through the interview process, and I will probably face salary negotiations this week, for the position of a Project Lead. 

The supposed average salary for the role is $70K/annum. I don’t know what starter salary the company is going to offer but I’m scared and embarrassed to suggest this starting salary to the interviewer. 

I was unemployed for the last 4 years. What if they don’t hire me because I asked for a hyped salary? What starting salary do you think I should target for resuming my industrial career?

Salary negotiation is standard in industry, and industry hiring managers value employees who know their worth.

PhDs are valuable in industry.

Don’t let imposter syndrome pull you down.

Industry values the effort you have put in to attain the expertise. So, always negotiate your worth. 

Why PhDs Must Contrats What Academia And Industry Have To Offer Them

The measures that governments put in place to face the current recession have significantly increased inflation. There is a 30-40% increase in gas prices, rent and food prices have surged accordingly. Yet, academic salaries are not increasing. You need a competitive and stable salary to survive the odds, and now more than ever, academia cannot offer that stability. 

Between 2020 and 2021, universities cut 650,000 jobs – a 13% reduction in the higher education workforce. Compensation for full-time professors is decreasing and PhD are losing their stipends

Several postdocs faced termination since universities lost funding. There was a 20%-21% drop in the first year tuition resulting in a steep decline in institutional revenue. To add insult to injury, tenured positions are almost extinct right now.

I have heard many PhDs saying that salary is not everything. 

I agree, salary is not everything but researching job-specific average salaries will provide you with a reference point and help you understand the value of that position in the marketplace. 

Salary information is indispensable for choosing the right career and company. PhDs should gather this information at the very outset in their job search process. 

If you knew the shockingly high salaries industry offers for PhD-level, you would probably feel motivated to transition as early as possible.

On top of that, industry also offers better job stability, and the possibility of negotiating you salary based on your worth and the value you can bring to a company. 

Negotiation is a norm in industry. PhDs negotiate their worth in terms of salaries, benefits, and/or relocation package. That’s not remotely possible in academia.

You can’t claim it unless you name it. But you can’t name it if you know nothing about it… You can’t negotiate unless you know the average salaries PhDs earn in the roles you are applying for.

Survey the average salaries of PhD-level industry careers in your area ahead of time to successfully negotiate your worth during interviews.

Average Salaries For Over 40 PhD-Level Industry Positions

Academia damages your salary and career trajectory.  However, there is a high demand and a low supply of PhDs in industry. PhDs often count themselves out for high-paying jobs, and end up procrastinating their transition and coming up with excuses to console themselves. 

These jobs are not for me. These are vastly different from my background.

I would need to become an expert in xyz for this job.

Oh! I would need industry or clinical experience to be hired for this job.

You either have imposter syndrome or are just too lazy. You can learn the skills required for any industry position just like you learned how to do academic research. But to find the right industry position for you, you first need to understand what industry has to offer to PhDs. 

Industry positions can be classified into five categories: information & aggregation, sales and marketing, research and development, clinical and medical affairs, and business, finance and policy.

Let’s dig deeper into these roles and the associated salaries for each of these positions.

   Figure 1: Categories of industry positions that hire PhDs 

1. Salaries for industry jobs in the information, aggregation and patents career track.

Do you like to work with information and present data either in written or numerical form? Then, this career path is the right one for you. These roles focus on digging, collecting, and analyzing information to provide actionable insights. 

This career track can be divided into three sub-categories based on the type of information and deliverables these positions deal with: intellectual property, writing and editing, and data management. 

The intellectual property subdivision includes four positions: Patent Agent, Patent Examiner, IP Lawyer, and Technology Transfer Officer. A Patent Examiner generally works in the government while a Patent Agent works in a law firm. An Intellectual Property Lawyer works with companies and this position requires a law degree. A Technology Transfer Officer usually works for universities. 

IP Lawyers receive the highest salaries in this subcategory, $117,360 per year on average. However, there are roles in this space that you can get into right now without an extra degree that also offer higher pay. 

On average, Patent Agents or Scientific Consultants earn $98,080 per year. Technology Transfer Officers are paid $85,863 annually. 

The writing and editing sub-category include positions like Medical Writer, Science Writer/Editor, and Journal Publishers. The annual average salary for Technical Editors is $83,368 whereas that for scientific Journalism and Publishing is $63,693. Medical Writer is an umbrella term for 20 different job titles. This is the highest paying position of the group, averaging around $102,603. That’s a great salary for being able to work remotely and handling multiple clients from the comfort of your home.

The third sub-category is information and data management. PhDs don’t require an additional degree to access these positions since they already know how to deal with data and information. Healthcare Informatics Technologists earn $75,775 each year, whereas Business Intelligence Analysts earn $85,274. The second highest paying average starting salary for a PhD level job that doesn’t require previous industry experience is that of a Data Scientist at $119,413. Operations Research Analyst pays $84,810 annually.

2. Salaries for industry jobs in the sales and marketing career track.

Is interacting with others your specialty? Do you like to communicate value, build professional relationships, and interact with clients? If so, you should consider this career path. There’s a bad reputation for sales positions but “sales”is not a dirty word. Several PhDs pursue this career path. 

These positions require building professional relationships and solving problems. Application Scientist, Market Research Analyst, Tech Sales Specialist, Capital Equipment Specialist, Marketing Communication Specialist, and Product Manager are the positions under this umbrella. 

Some of the highest paid PhDs that I know are Capital Equipment Specialists and Technical Sales Specialists. Since these positions have commissions associated with them, the average base salary for Capital Equipment Specialists is $80,416 but can increase to $130,000-160,000 once you add the commissions. Technical Sales Specialists earn $88,785 annually on top of about $50,000 from their commissions, totaling roughly $130,00-140,000 per year. Product Manager is one of the highest paying roles with about $129,000 yearly. 

The average non-sales Application Scientist— the number one non-bench job for PhDs across the board— pays $87,024. The salary of a Market Research Analyst is $77,934 whereas that of a Marketing Communication Specialist is $70,956. You can access these positions as PhDs because you have the technical knowledge to be a subject matter expert.

3. Salaries for industry jobs in the research and development career track.

Research and development positions have always been popular for PhDs. There was a time when all PhDs could think of when considering industry positions was R&D. PhDs in this sector design, conduct, manage, research, test, and analyze data to produce a marketable product, service, system, and/or treatment.

How would you know if the product is well perceived in the market? How would you know if the customer likes it?

User Experience Researcher roles are valuable in this regard. User Experience Researcher and Experience Analyst positions are ridiculously hot right now and their pay reflects that – $106,834 each year. I haven’t seen a position this hot since Data Scientist positions emerged. Additionally, you could be developing software as a Technology Development Specialist earning $76,717.

Informatics Software Specialists earn $84,724-$92,250/year. Now, R&D scientist and R&D engineer positions are benchwork-based roles. These roles can entail wet lab techniques or software development, programming, or engineering. Here, you will be working in the innovation stage. The average salary for Senior Scientist and Scientist I, II, III range from $75,717 to $91,112. Quality Assurance and Quality control roles pay on average $82,238 annually. R&D Project Manager is one of the higher paid roles at $93,371. Companies need PhDs to deal with different stakeholders. PhDs can speak like a nerd or like a normal person. This makes them the best candidates for this role. As an R&D Project Manager, you’ll be responsible for making sure executives get things done.

The national average of Health Economics and Outcomes Researcher positions is $139,955 /year

4. Salaries for industry jobs in the clinical and medical affairs career track.

Clinical roles within clinical and medical affairs are growing across industries. These are extremely popular! These positions require technical expertise for communication with other technically sound folks. Essentially, nerd to nerd conversation. There is a lot of technical expertise and liaising with medical adroitness involved. You will be involved in the regulation and development of medical drugs, treatments, prosthetics, and devices. This umbrella includes Epidemiologist, Clinical Trials Project Manager, Clinical Trials Research Associate, Clinical Data Management, Regulatory Affairs Associate, Medical Affairs Associate, and Medical Science Liaison positions. 

You don’t need clinical experience for these roles.

Epidemiologists analyze data specific to the incidence, control, and distribution of a disease. The annual salary for Epidemiologists is $89,398. Clinical Trials Project Managers earn $93,751 per year, Clinical Research Associates or CRAs earn $84,343, Clinical Data Manager $78,495, and Clinical Research Scientist $87,121, respectively. There’s a lot of variation there too.

Medical Affairs Associates earn $87,147. In contrast to dealing with most of the documentation and writing like in regulatory Affairs, Medical Affairs Associates deal with people. Your job becomes more valuable anytime you have to deal with people. In this case, you are dealing with key opinion leaders and clinicians. That’s why you see the pay increase. The number one most valued PhD-level role in industry that you can get into without industry experience is MSL. Medical Science Liaison is the highest paying job in this category with an yearly average salary of $145,498

5. Salaries for industry jobs in the business, finance, and policy career track. 

Are you passionate about solving classical business problems? Do you have business acumen? Do you understand numbers? Can you influence scientific and business policy?

These are the questions you must ask yourself before opting for business, finance, or policy jobs. This group gets further sub-categorized into financial services, business and strategy, research policy funding, and government. 

Financial services comprise the Quantitative Analyst and Equity Research Analyst job titles. The finance department in many companies pays well for Quantitative Analysts at $118,127 and Equity Research Analysts at $106,897. 

You do not need a finance background to get into these roles. Quantitative Analysts work for management consulting companies. They are Data Analysts that work in small management consulting teams. 

The second track under business and policy is business and strategy. A Research Analyst at a VC firm makes $81,086 yearly whereas a Management Consultant gets paid an annual average of $100,466. The annual salaries of a Competitive Intelligence Analyst, Business Analyst, and a Scientific Consultant are $81,957, $82,343, and $80,643 respectively. 

The last business and policy position within this sub-category is policy funding and government: 

Science Public Policy Advisors are on the other side of grants. These are PhDs that review grants. The annual salary for this position is $74,911. Grants Facilitators facilitate grants and work with people on both sides of the grant thereby managing projects. This role offers $47,047 of yearly compensation. Science Ethics Officers ensure that ethics are maintained. PhDs in such positions are paid $63,107 annually. With your background and academic experience, you can easily work on the funding agency side as their NIH or NSF Program Officer. The annual salary for this position is $64,284. The average salary of a Nonprofit Officer or NPO is $68,107.

Concluding Remarks

You have various options for the highest paying PhD-level industry position. Make an effort to understand the value of these individual positions. It gives you another reference point to evaluate where you should start in your job search. Don’t try to figure out your job search process on your own. Find accountability partners. Companies don’t just hand out high-paying jobs. Prepare a strategic plan for your job search. Equip yourself with the correct salary information for various positions. Don’t sketch unrealistic expectations. Be committed in your job search process and always remember to negotiate your worth as a PhD.

If you’re ready to start your transition into industry, you can apply to book a free Transition Call with our founder Isaiah Hankel, PhD or one of our Transition Specialists. Apply to book a Transition Call here.

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Isaiah Hankel, PhD
Isaiah Hankel, PhD Chief Executive Officer at Cheeky Scientist

Isaiah Hankel holds a PhD in Anatomy and Cell Biology. An expert in the biotechnology industry, he specializes in helping other PhDs transition into cutting-edge industry career tracks.

Isaiah believes--from personal experience--that if you feel stuck somewhere in your life, it’s a clear sign that you need to make a change. Don’t sit still and wait for the world to tell you what to do. Start a new project. Build your own business. Take action. Experimentation is the best teacher.

Isaiah is an internationally recognized Fortune 500 consultant, CEO of Cheeky Scientist, and author of the straight-talk bestsellers Black Hole Focus and The Science of Intelligent Achievement.

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