Become a Natural Sciences Manager: Education and Career Roadmap

Oct 20, 2021

Should I Become a Natural Sciences Manager?

Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, technicians and other support personnel in labs and offices. Job duties include establishing plans to improve manufacturing processes, developing new products and advancing scientific research, and providing technical assistance to scientists on their team. They also might prepare and present project proposals, coordinate product testing, create budgets, write financial reports, establish policies and procedures, and review employee work.

Natural sciences managers often work full-time in laboratories or offices, though they might have to work extra hours to make sure projects meet deadlines. These professionals often make higher-than-average salaries. On the downside, they often must put in years of experience as scientists before they can advance to these more lucrative management positions.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree; master's degree or Ph.D. for some positions
Degree Field Natural science or a comparable discipline
Experience Natural science managers typically work as scientists for several years before moving into a management position
Key Skills Leadership, critical-thinking, problem-solving, communication, time-management, operations analysis, analytical software (SAS, SPSS, StataCorp Stata), graphics imaging software
Salary $120,050 per year (median salary for all natural science managers as of 2014)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*Net Online.

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Natural sciences managers usually have at least a bachelor's degree in a scientific discipline. In addition to the natural sciences, possible undergraduate majors include biochemistry, molecular biology, zoology, pharmacology, chemistry, geology, physics, and neuroscience. Students who major in natural science complete courses in chemistry, biology, physics, ecology, genetics, anatomy, physiology, geology, and environmental science. Some programs allow students to specialize in an area such as the health sciences, forensic science, or environmental science.

Success Tip:

  • Gain hands-on experience. Students may want to participate in an internship program to gain work experience. Additionally, they may want to complete a scientific-focused study abroad program to gain research experience. This experience may impress employers when searching for a job after graduation.

Success Tip:

  • Develop leadership and administrative skills. Since many of the job tasks of natural sciences managers involve leadership and administration, honing these skills while in an undergraduate program can prove beneficial to later working in the field. Completing courses in leadership, business administration or operations and communication may help develop these skills.

Step 2: Gain Work Experience

Because a natural sciences managers' job duties require that they be specialists in the field of scientific work that they supervise, working for several years as a scientist is usually required before an individual is eligible to move into a management position. Therefore, most natural sciences managers start off in entry-level scientist positions. Working as a biologist, chemist, physicist, or geologist can help prepare a person for a career as a natural sciences manager.

Step 3: Consider Earning a Graduate Degree

A master's or Ph.D. degree in a natural science discipline is usually required for career advancement to research management positions. Master's degree programs in the natural sciences typically require completing a thesis research project or participating in an internship. Doctoral degree programs often require that students select a field of science for investigation during their studies, such as chemistry or microbiology. These programs often require students to write a thesis. Alternatively, because of the number of administrative duties these managers perform, a Master of Business Administration degree program could be helpful for aspiring managers.

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