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Occupation Profile for Natural Sciences Managers

Plan, direct, or coordinate activities in such fields as life sciences, physical sciences, mathematics, statistics, and research and development in these fields.


Significant Points

  • Most engineering and natural sciences managers have formal education and work experience as engineers, scientists, or mathematicians.
  • Projected employment growth for engineering and natural sciences managers is closely related to growth in employment of the engineers and scientists they supervise and the industries in which they work.
  • Opportunities will be best for workers with strong communication and business management skills.


$100,080.00 Median Annual Wage 1,000 Average Job Openings Per Year
2.1 Average Unemployment Percentage 0.0 Percentage That Completed High School
41,000 Employment Numbers in 2006 0.0 Percentage That Had Some College
45,000 Employment Numbers in 2016 (est.) 92.8 Percentage That Went Beyond College Degree

Sample Job Titles
Agriculture Research Director
Chemical Laboratory Chief
Clinical Research Coordinator
Coastal Management Planner
Director of Research
Director of Research and Development
Environmental Manager
Fisheries Director
Health Sciences Manager
Hydrogeology Professor
Laboratory Director
Laboratory Manager
Manager, Geochemical
Manager, Geological
Manager, Geophysical
Manager, Gravity
Manager, Quarrying
Manager, Research
Manager, Wild Life
Marine Biologist
Mineral and Aggregate Resources Planner
Natural Resources Planner
Natural Resources Specialist
Natural Science Manager
Ocean Program Administrator
Project Manager, Environmental Research
Public Land Resources Director
Research and Development Director
Research Coordinator
Research Development Director
Research Development Manager
Research Director
Research Geologist
Research Hydrogeologist
Research Scientist
Technical Director, Chemical Plant
Water Team Leader

  • These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include librarians, lawyers, aerospace engineers, physicists, school psychologists, and surgeons.
  • A bachelor's degree is the minimum formal education required for these occupations. However, many also require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).
  • Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.
  • Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Strong technical knowledge is essential for engineering and natural sciences managers, who must understand and guide the work of their subordinates and explain the work in nontechnical terms to senior management and potential customers. Therefore, most managers have formal education and work experience as an engineer, scientist, or mathematician.

Education and training. These managers usually have education similar to that of the workers they supervise. Most engineering managers, for example, begin their careers as engineers, after completing a bachelor’s degree in the field. Many engineers gain business management skills by completing a master’s degree in engineering management (MEM) or business administration (MBA). Employers often pay for such training. In large firms, some courses required in these degree programs may be offered onsite. Typically, engineers who prefer to manage in technical areas pursue an MEM, and those interested in less technical management earn an MBA.

Similarly, many science managers begin their careers as scientists, such as chemists, biologists, geologists, or mathematicians. Most scientists and mathematicians engaged in basic research have a Ph.D. degree; some who work in applied research and other activities may have a bachelor’s or master’s degree. Graduate programs allow scientists to augment their undergraduate training with instruction in other fields, such as management or computer technology. Natural science managers interested in more technical management may earn traditional master’s or Ph.D. degrees in natural sciences or master’s degrees in science that incorporate business management skills. Those interested in more general management may pursue an MBA. Given the rapid pace of scientific developments, science managers must continuously upgrade their knowledge.

Other qualifications. Engineering and natural sciences managers must be specialists in the work they supervise. To advance to these positions, engineers and scientists generally must gain experience and assume management responsibility. To fill management positions, employers seek engineers and scientists who possess administrative and communication skills in addition to technical knowledge in their specialty. In fact, because engineering and natural sciences managers must effectively lead groups and coordinate projects, they usually need excellent communication and administrative skills.

Advancement. Engineering and natural sciences managers may advance to progressively higher leadership positions within their disciplines. Some may become managers in nontechnical areas such as marketing, human resources, or sales. In high technology firms, managers in nontechnical areas often must possess the same specialized knowledge as do managers in technical areas. For example, employers in an engineering firm may prefer to hire experienced engineers as sales workers because the complex services offered by the firm can be marketed only by someone with specialized engineering knowledge. Such sales workers could eventually advance to jobs as sales managers.

Nature of Work

Engineering and natural sciences managers plan, coordinate, and direct research, design, and production activities. They may supervise engineers, scientists, and technicians, along with support personnel. These managers use their knowledge of engineering and natural sciences to oversee a variety of activities. They determine scientific and technical goals within broad outlines provided by top executives, who are discussed elsewhere in the Handbook. These goals may include improving manufacturing processes, advancing scientific research, or developing new products. Managers make detailed plans to accomplish these goals. For example, they may develop the overall concepts of a new product or identify technical problems preventing the completion of a project.

To perform effectively, these managers also must apply knowledge of administrative procedures, such as budgeting, hiring, and supervision. They propose budgets for projects and programs and determine staff, training, and equipment needs. They hire and assign scientists, engineers, and support personnel to carry out specific parts of each project. They also supervise the work of these employees, check the technical accuracy of their work and the soundness of their methods, review their output, and establish administrative procedures and policies—including environmental standards, for example.

In addition, these managers use communication skills extensively. They spend a great deal of time coordinating the activities of their unit with those of other units or organizations. They confer with higher levels of management; with financial, production, marketing, and other managers; and with contractors and equipment and materials suppliers.

Engineering managers may supervise people who design and develop machinery, products, systems, and processes. They might also direct and coordinate production, operations, quality assurance, testing, or maintenance in industrial plants. Many are plant engineers, who direct and coordinate the design, installation, operation, and maintenance of equipment and machinery in industrial plants. Others manage research and development teams that produce new products and processes or improve existing ones.

Natural sciences managers oversee the work of life and physical scientists, including agricultural scientists, chemists, biologists, geologists, medical scientists, and physicists. These managers direct research and development projects and coordinate activities such as testing, quality control, and production. They may work on basic research projects or on commercial activities. Science managers sometimes conduct their own research in addition to managing the work of others.

Work environment. Engineering and natural sciences managers spend most of their time in an office. Some managers, however, also may work in laboratories, where they may be exposed to the same conditions as research scientists, or in industrial plants, where they may be exposed to the same conditions as production workers. Most managers work at least 40 hours a week and may work much longer on occasion to meet project deadlines. Some may experience considerable pressure to meet technical or scientific goals on a short deadline or within a tight budget.

Related Occupations

Sources: Career Guide to Industries (CGI), Occupational Information Network (O*Net), Occupation Outlook Handbook (OOH)

Earnings for engineering and natural sciences managers vary by specialty and by level of responsibility. Median annual earnings of wage and salary engineering managers were $105,430 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $84,090 and $130,170. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of engineering managers were:

Semiconductor and other electronic component manufacturing $120,740
Federal executive branch 116,140
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing 115,150
Aerospace product and parts manufacturing 111,020
Engineering services 103,570

Median annual earnings of wage and salary natural sciences managers were $100,080 in May 2006. The middle 50 percent earned between $77,320 and $130,900. Median annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers of natural sciences managers were:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences $120,780
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 111,070
Federal executive branch 96,100
Architectural, engineering, and related services 88,990
State government 65,570

In addition, engineering and natural sciences managers, especially those at higher levels, often receive more benefits—such as expense accounts, stock option plans, and bonuses—than do nonmanagerial workers in their organizations.

For the latest wage information:

The above wage data are from the Occupational Employment Statistics (OES) survey program, unless otherwise noted. For the latest National, State, and local earnings data, visit the following pages:

  • Engineering managers
  • Natural sciences managers
  • Job Outlook

    Employment of engineering and natural sciences managers is projected to grow about as fast as the average for all occupations, similar to the growth rate of engineers and life and physical scientists. Opportunities will be best for workers with strong communication and business management skills.

    Employment change. Employment of engineering and natural sciences managers is expected to grow 8 percent over the 2006-16 decade, about as fast as the average for all occupations. Projected employment growth for engineering and natural sciences managers should be in line with growth of the engineers and scientists they supervise and the industries in which they work. Because many employers find it more efficient to contract engineering and science work to specialty firms, there should be strong demand for engineering managers in the scientific research and development services industry and for both engineering and natural science managers in the architectural, engineering, and related services industry.

    Job prospects. Opportunities for engineering managers should be better in rapidly growing areas of engineering—such as environmental and biomedical engineering—than in more slowly growing areas—such as electronics and materials engineering. Opportunities for natural sciences managers should likewise be best in the rapidly growing medical and environmental sciences. Engineers and scientists with advanced technical knowledge and strong communication skills will be in the best position to become managers. Because engineering and natural sciences managers are involved in the financial, production, and marketing activities of their firm, business management skills are also advantageous for those seeking management positions. In addition to those openings resulting from employment growth, job openings will result from the need to replace managers who retire or move into other occupations.


    Engineering and natural sciences managers held about 228,000 jobs in 2006. Manufacturing industries employed 38 percent of engineering and natural sciences managers. Manufacturing industries with the largest employment are those which produce computer and electronic equipment and those which produce transportation equipment, including aerospace products and parts. Another 31 percent worked in professional, scientific, and technical services industries, primarily for firms providing architectural, engineering, and related services and firms providing scientific research and development services. Other large employers include Federal, State, and local government agencies.

    • Mathematics — Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
    • Engineering and Technology — Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
    • Sales and Marketing — Knowledge of principles and methods for showing, promoting, and selling products or services. This includes marketing strategy and tactics, product demonstration, sales techniques, and sales control systems.
    • Medicine and Dentistry — Knowledge of the information and techniques needed to diagnose and treat human injuries, diseases, and deformities. This includes symptoms, treatment alternatives, drug properties and interactions, and preventive health-care measures.
    • Physics — Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.
    • Equipment Maintenance — Performing routine maintenance on equipment and determining when and what kind of maintenance is needed.
    • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
    • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
    • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
    • Troubleshooting — Determining causes of operating errors and deciding what to do about it.
    • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
    • Stamina — The ability to exert yourself physically over long periods of time without getting winded or out of breath.
    • Explosive Strength — The ability to use short bursts of muscle force to propel oneself (as in jumping or sprinting), or to throw an object.
    • Oral Comprehension — The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
    • Hearing Sensitivity — The ability to detect or tell the differences between sounds that vary in pitch and loudness.
    • Supplemental — Advise and assist in obtaining patents or meeting other legal requirements.
    • Core — Plan and direct research, development, and production activities.
    • Supplemental — Prepare and administer budget, approve and review expenditures, and prepare financial reports.
    • Core — Prepare project proposals.
    • Supplemental — Make presentations at professional meetings to further knowledge in the field.
    • Monitoring and Controlling Resources — Monitoring and controlling resources and overseeing the spending of money.
    • Guiding, Directing, and Motivating Subordinates — Providing guidance and direction to subordinates, including setting performance standards and monitoring performance.
    • Assisting and Caring for Others — Providing personal assistance, medical attention, emotional support, or other personal care to others such as coworkers, customers, or patients.
    • Repairing and Maintaining Electronic Equipment — Servicing, repairing, calibrating, regulating, fine-tuning, or testing machines, devices, and equipment that operate primarily on the basis of electrical or electronic (not mechanical) principles.
    • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
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