Natural sciences managers supervise the work of scientists, including chemists, physicists, and biologists.
What they do
Natural sciences managers direct activities related to research and development, and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production.
They 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.
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.
How to become a Natural Sciences Manager
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.
The median annual wage for natural sciences managers was $129,100 in May 2019. 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 $66,050, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
Employment of natural sciences managers is projected to grow 5 percent from 2019 to 2029, faster than 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.
Similar Job Titles
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Biologist, Materials Scientist, Environmental Scientist and Specialist (including Health), Remote Sensing Scientist and Technologist, Chemistry Teacher-Postsecondary
The trade associations listed below represent organizations made up of people (members) who work and promote advancement in the field. Members are very interested in telling others about their work and about careers in those areas. As well, trade associations provide opportunities for organizational networking and learning more about the field’s trends and directions.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Association of Petroleum Geologists
- American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists
- American Fisheries Society
- American Geophysical Union
- American Industrial Hygiene Association
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
- American Society for Microbiology
- Controlled Release Society
- National Ground Water Association
Magazines and Publications
- Journal of Natural Sciences
- Nature (Journal)
- Discover Magazine
- Scientific American Magazine
- Smithsonian Magazine
Natural sciences managers oversee everything from the manufacture of shampoo, to the design of bigger, better wind turbines, to discoveries that will be written into textbooks. Whether they supervise a team of physicists, chemists, or biologists, natural sciences managers typically have the same objective: develop projects that contribute to society through science. These managers conduct planning for corporate research and development teams. They maintain contact with upper management, sharing project proposals, research findings, and status updates. While about one in four natural science managers work in government, many others work in businesses that depend on research grants. “Working managers” participate directly in scientific research, and tend to have smaller teams. Otherwise, natural science managers are expected to tend to administrative duties, like budgeting, and hiring and managing technicians and staff. Throughout a research project, they check on their staff’s methodologies to make sure lab results are accurate, and consult on technical issues. Most work full time; sometimes more than 40 hours per week. Managers often work in offices, while scientists and working managers work in labs. Almost all have a bachelor’s degree or higher in a scientific field and several years’ work experience as a scientist. Some may obtain additional training in engineering, management, or public administration.
Content retrieved from: US Bureau of Labor Statistics-OOH www.bls.gov/ooh,
CareerOneStop www.careeronestop.org, O*Net Online www.onetonline.org