11 Rewarding Career Options in Life Science (With Salaries)

Updated November 10, 2022

For those with a passion for scientific research and the natural world, a career in life science can be an excellent option. The life sciences apply to a wide range of industries, from environmental and animal science to human health and medicine. Learning about the life sciences and some careers in this field can help you plan your career path and decide what job is right for you. In this article, we define what life science is and offer 11 career options in the life sciences with job descriptions and salary information to help you plan your career.

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What is life science?

Life science is the scientific study of living things, including plants, animals, humans and microorganisms like bacteria. Those pursuing careers in the life sciences typically have degrees in biology, ecology, environmental science, life science or a related subject like chemistry. Careers in the life sciences are diverse and can apply to many industries. For example, these scientists may work in agriculture and food science, conservation and environmental advocacy or medicine and bioengineering. Since it's such a diverse field, those looking to start a career in life science have many options, including opportunities for remote or work-from-home jobs.

Related: 20 Jobs You Can Pursue with an Environmental Science Degree

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11 careers in life science

Here are some careers in the life sciences, including some that you can do from home:

1. Laboratory technician

National average salary: $50,975 per year

Primary duties: A laboratory technician is an entry-level research associate who assists other laboratory personnel in their work. Typically, they're responsible for maintaining lab equipment, setting up equipment, running tests and recording data. Candidates interested in becoming lab technicians need at least a two-year degree in laboratory science. They may also earn certificates that qualify them to perform specialized research techniques. For those who want to work in biological research, enjoy working in a laboratory environment and wish to conduct scientific studies under the direction of senior research facilitators, a lab technician job can be a great career option.

Related: Learn About Being a Lab Technician

2. Technical writer

National average salary: $58,069 per year

Primary duties: Technical writers develop written materials like instruction manuals, guides and scientific articles that inform or instruct the reader on a particular subject. For example, technical writers can work in specialized roles creating instructional materials for engineers, writing manuals that teach patients how to self-administer medications or as content creators for general-interest science magazines. Writers in these roles perform duties like researching information, writing content, creating diagrams and editing written materials before publishing them. Technical writers in life science write on topics related to biology, medicine and ecology. These professionals may work in-house or as freelancers, and many work remotely.

Related: Learn About Being a Technical Writer

3. Microbiologist

National average salary: $67,768 per year

Primary duties: A microbiologist is a scientist who specializes in studying microscopic organisms like bacteria, fungi, algae and viruses. These researchers can work in various industries and may study topics such as pathology, epidemiology and ecology as they relate to learning about the pathogens that cause illness or exist in natural environments. Depending on their level of education or experience, microbiologists may work as research assistants, associates or principal investigators. They may also work as consultants for private companies or government policymakers.

4. Medical sales representative

National average salary: $67,803 per year

Primary duties: Medical sales representatives sell medical supplies and equipment to health care professionals like physicians or to medical facilities like clinics and hospitals. Many medical sales representatives have a background as health care practitioners, qualifying them to recommend products and equipment that help medical providers care for their patients. A medical sales representative has extensive knowledge of different types of medical equipment and pharmaceuticals. They consult with care providers to understand the needs of their facilities and patients so they can recommend the right equipment for their clients. Many medical sales representatives travel or meet with clients remotely.

5. Wildlife biologist

National average salary: $69,213 per year

Primary duties: A wildlife biologist is an animal scientist who studies the behaviors and physical attributes of wild animals. Some wildlife biologists work in the field and travel to remote locations to study animals in their natural habitats. Others work in settings like zoos or laboratories where they research animals in captivity. Through their research, wildlife biologists often seek to understand, preserve and advocate for animal species. These researchers look at how animals interact with their ecosystems, what biological features different species possess and how human activities affect wild animals. Most wildlife biologists have a bachelor's degree or higher in their field.

6. Data manager

National average salary: $76,469 per year

Primary duties: Data managers have an important job that involves building systems to store, process and protect data. Those who have a background in the life sciences typically have experience gathering and analyzing the data collected through scientific research. They may apply their expertise to creating data management systems for other researchers, or they may oversee the implementation of data management systems at research facilities. For those who love technology and research, becoming a data manager for a life science research institution can be a rewarding career option. Many data managers have a master's degree or higher in data management.

Related: Learn About Being a Data Manager

7. Ecologist

National average salary: $79,048 per year

Primary duties: An ecologist is a researcher who specializes in studying nature and natural environments. These scientists look at how plant species, microorganisms, animals and humans interact and influence the ecosystem. Ecologists can work in diverse industries, including agriculture, botany, toxicology, zoology and urban planning and development. They may work in a primarily research-oriented role, or they can work as consultants who meet with government policymakers and private business owners to create laws and guidelines that reduce the environmental impacts of human activities. Ecologists typically have a bachelor's or higher degree in ecology or a related life science subject like environmental science.

Related: Learn About Being an Ecologist

8. Biomedical engineer

National average salary: $80,761 per year

Primary duties: Biomedical engineers apply scientific principles to developing new medical devices and technologies. They research innovative solutions to problems in the medical industry, whether it's developing specialized equipment that helps physicians perform their work or designing medical devices that improve the health and well-being of patients. Biomedical engineers achieve a high level of expertise in their field, allowing them to conduct research, design prototypes, test new inventions and market them in the medical industry. These specialists usually have at least a bachelor's in biomedical engineering, though many pursue advanced degrees like a master's or doctorate so they can conduct independent research.

9. Chemical engineer

National average salary: $80,971 per year

Primary duties: A chemical engineer is a scientist who uses their knowledge of chemical, physical and biological processes to develop chemical compounds and solve problems in various industries. For example, a chemical engineer may work for a private company to test the impact of certain chemical compounds on organic matter. A chemical engineer in this position uses their expertise to test the safety of chemical components and determine how exposure to these compounds affects living organisms. Having a background in the life sciences can benefit chemical engineers by providing them with knowledge of the chemical processes that support biological functions.

Related: Learn About Being a Chemical Engineer

10. Clinical research associate

National average salary: $91,895 per year

Primary duties: Clinical research associates conduct clinical trials to assess the effectiveness of emerging medical treatments. Depending on their area of specialty, they may work in pharmaceuticals, pathology, forensics, diagnostics or other areas of medical intervention research. Associates typically work under the direction of a lead researcher or principal investigator. They conduct tests to investigate the effectiveness of medical interventions, collect data and report the results for the lead researcher to interpret. Research associates may have other responsibilities like cleaning the lab between trials and maintaining laboratory equipment. Professionals in this field typically have a bachelor's or higher degree in their specialty.

11. Pharmacologist

National average salary: $101,559 per year

Primary duties: A pharmacologist is a top-level scientist who specializes in researching the effects of emerging medications. They evaluate the effectiveness of new drugs for treating medical conditions and assess them for safety. Since these researchers play an important role in protecting the health and safety of patients using their medications, they require a high level of professional training. Pharmacologists typically have a doctorate degree in pharmaceutical research and work alongside a research team to conduct clinical trials. Becoming a pharmacologist can be a rewarding career for those who are passionate about medical research and producing new treatments for medical conditions.

Related: Learn About Being a Pharmacologist

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