Whether it’s developing environmentally friendly automobiles or coming up with a vaccine to combat a virus, the need for scientists is swelling all over the world. Essentially, if you have a degree in biology or engineering, you’re going to find work. It’s only a matter of choosing where you want to be employed — would you rather stay in your hometown, or do you wish to broaden your horizons?
It’s forecast that science jobs will grow approximately 7% over the next several years as the public and private sectors pour billions in resources for the industry. If you possess a postdoctoral in any of the STEM fields, then chances are you can make a decent living. Of course, every nation is different in how it compensates its scientists.
We’ve compiled a breakdown of the top 25 countries with the best salaries for scientists, based on data from PayScale. Some of the results may surprise you, while some may not come as a shock at all.
Let’s jump right in.
Average annual salary: $38,198
Italy has been ground zero in Europe for the advancement of science, mathematics, art, literature and everything else that make life worth living. Therefore, it would make sense that Italy, despite its difficulties over the years, would crack the top 25 list of nations with the best salaries for scientists.
Despite its decline in recent years, Italy continues to attract the best and brightest, which could quite possibly be explained by the desire to live in such a beautiful European nation. But what makes Italy even more appealing is that there are employment opportunities scattered throughout the nation rather than a single city, which is common in many Western nations.
24. United Kingdom
Average annual salary: $39,251
At one point in history, the United Kingdom was stuck in the Middle Ages in scientific thinking. Years later, the country has become an important contributor in an array of scientific fields. The UK continues to be a top spot for scientists, whether it’s due to financial compensation or a desire to apply scientific principles to solve a wide variety of problems.
That said, it understands the importance of scientists and is willing to pay for their expertise. You just need to have the credentials — foreign or domestic — to attain relevant positions in the country.
23. South Korea
Average annual salary: $41,427
According to the 2021 UNESCO Science Report, investment in research accounted for 40% of South Korea’s GDP in the 2013–2017 period. This is reflected in the 2021 Global Innovation Index, too, with the republic ranking fifth for innovation among 132 economies.
With scientific and technological advancement playing such a key role in its economic planning, South Korea is managing to attract some serious international talent to its scientific workforce.
Average annual salary: $41,537
Sweden has always played an important role in the advancement of science — and it continues today.
It’s estimated that more than one-third of all university degrees are in science or engineering, which explains why there’s an incredible number of science jobs available. Sweden’s tremendous scientific and technological development at the postsecondary level has been lauded all over the world. In fact, because Swedish scientists are so incredible in their work, many employers and governments will seek out Swedish scientists to come up with solutions to a whole host of difficulties.
21. New Zealand
Average annual salary: $41,992
New Zealand has been quietly revving up economic growth and improving its standing in the world over the last decade, and is making plenty of contributions to the international economy and the worldwide science industry. It might be a small state, but it has attracted the attention of the UK, Australia and other regional partners in solving common problems.
Average annual salary: $42,015
According to the World Economic Forum, China is responsible for nearly one third of the entire world’s manufacturing output. The country’s strong productivity growth has rendered its GDP the largest in the world in terms of purchasing power parity.
This technological powerhouse of a nation is also on track to become a world leader in artificial intelligence, with an ambitious plan to build an AI industry worth $150 billion by 2030.
Average annual salary: $45,856
Did you know that Austria is more than just a home for beautiful classical music and gastronomical delights? Like Germany, Austria has always been at the forefront of science.
In 1847, the Kaiserliche Akademie der Wissenschaften in Vienna was born, and it has strived for scientific excellence, whether it’s in physics or psychology. Today, the public and private sectors spend about $10 billion a year on research and development, which has helped it land in the top 10 European nations for innovation.
Many Austrians do speak English, but to become a successful scientist in the country, it is crucial to understand and communicate in German too.
Average annual salary: $46,016
With multinationals like Google, IBM and Pfizer having long established their European headquarters in Ireland, it’s unsurprising to hear the country being referred to as the “Silicon Valley of Europe”. Indeed, a large percentage of Ireland’s GDP comes from the pharmaceutical and medical technology, and software and ICT sectors.
But the devotion of the Irish to science doesn’t end there. In recent years, Ireland has implemented a national plan (known as the “STEM education policy”) which aims to develop a more tech-savvy society. To achieve this, emphasis has been given to upskilling the labor force and providing high-quality STEM education to students.
Average annual salary: $46,404
The Great White North has depended on the immigrant community to become a world leader in science.
Canada is a hotbed for science, and what makes it even more attractive is that many of the biggest companies on the planet are converging onto Toronto, establishing commercial offices, developing advanced laboratories and working with students at the University of Toronto or Ryerson University.
Indeed, anytime there’s a discussion about the quality of science in a country, Canada is always celebrated for its remarkable achievements and its integral contributions to many different fields.
Average annual salary: $46,602
Singapore captured international headlines for reopening schools amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The government utilized data to help determine what to do; officials used science to conclude that young people are not reliable carriers of the coronavirus, and that it is more susceptible to adults. In the end, the conclusion was that adults at home affect youth.
It's little things like this that can improve the perception of a nation’s scientific community. Many may question its laws and tax policies, but Singapore remains a hotspot for scientists to converge.
Average annual salary: $47,341
France maintains a similar history to Italy in the sense that it has been at the forefront of scientific development and advancement for centuries. While France is well-known for its art and beauty, it remains a power player in science.
Following the COVID-19 outbreak, it’s almost certain that France is going to boost its science budget, making it a huge opportunity for anyone wishing to earn a decent living, reside in one of the loveliest nations on the planet, and do what they love.
14. Hong Kong
Average annual salary: $47,983
Hong Kong is one of the greatest success stories in Asia. The population continues the Asian tradition of concentrating on the sciences, which is important for a nation that has successfully become one of the largest economies in the world. It might not be well-known around the world, but Hong Kong has played an integral role in science — it even has a science museum to highlight its many achievements.
You must become acquainted with Chinese, but the other official language is English.
Average annual salary: $48,476
Finland has caught the attention of North America as of late, portraying it as an oasis of Europe. Indeed, a quick look at the data will give you the impression that everyone should migrate there as soon as possible.
Finland keeps churning out generations of scientists, investing in some of the world’s best math and science curriculums. The country spends less, but it produces impeccable results that make it enviable. With such an emphasis on science, it’s not surprising that it makes it to the list of the top countries with the highest salaries for scientists.
Average annual salary: $49,227
Even before Europe hopped on the science bandwagon, Japan was a trailblazer in this field. The subject has always been a national priority for every government over the years. In fact, the Japanese government maintains the National Research and Development and the Japan Science and Technology Agency headquarters.
Science is the primary reason why Japan became the world’s third largest economy in the 1980s, using its massive talent pool and brainpower to develop many of the technologies we enjoy today.
Average annual salary: $50,001
Like New Zealand, Australia has quietly amassed a huge portfolio of scientific achievements. Today, many of the world’s top public health departments and corporations employ Australian scientists to assist in their endeavors.
The one area that Australia excels in? Climate science. The planet is learning a lot from Australia in this subject, and you could make the case that it is a global leader in this field. Suffice it to say, Australia is a great place for climate scientists.
10. The Netherlands
Average annual salary: $54,824
The Netherlands is responsible for numerous discoveries and achievements in the fields of science and technology, having produced distinguished mathematicians and researchers for centuries. More specifically, we have the Dutch to thank for the microscope, CDs, Bluetooth technology, and… orange carrots, which are a genetic modification of the originally purple root vegetables.
In the present day, supermajors such as Shell, Airbus and Exor call the Netherlands their home, while the Hague is considered one of the fastest-growing innovation hubs in Europe.
Average annual salary: $56,587
From aircraft to military equipment, Norway has held a huge role in scientific development. To this day, its Norwegian University of Science and Technology has become one of the most celebrated institutions in the world. The main reason, of course, is that it has produced five Nobel laureates — and counting!
Indeed, Norway is more than just a crude oil powerhouse — it’s a scientific giant.
Average annual salary: $57,078
What is it about Germany and science? The greatest mathematicians, physicists, biologists, chemists and psychologists throughout history were born in Germany. Is it the culture? Is it in Germans’ DNA?
It’s remarkable to see just how influential Germany has been in science, dating back hundreds of years. Whatever the explanation is, if you’re a talented scientist and you want to challenge your human capital, then Germany allows you to test your limits. What’s more, you can anticipate a competitive salary.
Average annual salary: $57,749
Belgium places great value on scientists, and the country is a world leader in this area. Many insiders will make the case that the only problem is that, since Belgium is a federal state, science is centrally planned and organized at several levels.
Put simply, autonomy and independence can be difficult to achieve when you’re a scientist. Therefore, you can expect to deal with a lot of bureaucracy and red tape. If this isn’t something you mind, then relocating to Belgium for career growth could be a good choice.
6. Saudi Arabia
Average annual salary: $66,654
Saudi Arabia continues to be one of the biggest energy producers in the world, but it’s more than just an oil powerhouse. The kingdom has transferred a significant portion of its crude revenues to improving education and research, especially in chemistry.
Saudi Arabia’s science boom is largely driven by chemistry — two-thirds of the nation’s research output is chemistry-related.
Average annual salary: $68,574
Israel remains one of the greatest nations in the world for its tremendous success in a wide range of fields, from technology to science to consumer goods. The problem for Israel is that many other nations attempt to poach the top talent, creating a brain drain. Between 1995 and 2005, Israel’s population surged by 24%.
However, between 2006 and 2016, the number of Israelis seeking US citizenship climbed by roughly the same number. This could be beneficial for you because now Israel is paying top dollar to attract and retain its scientists — and it doesn’t matter what field you specialize in. If you’re educated and experienced, Israel wants you!
Average annual salary: $70,989
The University of Copenhagen is the premier postsecondary institution for studying and researching science. It’s one of the best universities in Europe, and the country continues to lend its hand in answering many of the world’s scientific questions.
Denmark is another nation that has garnered a lot of attention as of late for its high living standards; if you want a place that offers a great place to live and work, then Denmark is the place to go.
3. United States
Average annual salary: $79,229
The United States has always appealed to scientists in every corner of the globe. Although money might be the main factor, the fact that so many scientists have freedom and independence could be the driving element. It makes sense, too, when you consider how many science-related goods and services originate from the US.
Over the years, the government and the top companies have poached scientists from all over the world. You can only hope that you’re next on the list!
Average annual salary: $82,659
With a population of 640,000, Luxembourg may be one of Europe’s smallest countries, yet it ranks among the world’s highest-paying. To give you an idea, as of 2022, Luxembourg’s minimum wage rose to over $2,500 a month for unskilled employees — so you can imagine what qualified ones can expect to earn.
On average, the nation’s flourishing technology and materials industry pays its scientists and engineers a hefty annual income of $82,659. Meanwhile, professionals in the data science field can earn well over $100,000 a year!
Irresistible as this may sound, the country’s low unemployment rate and skilled workforce can make it difficult for expats to find work.
Average annual salary: $95,028
In the end, the country that pays its scientists the most is Switzerland. The country shares a comparable culture with Germany and Austria, so it only makes sense that the nation would be home to some of the world’s greatest scientists.
Orson Welles famously said in The Third Man that Switzerland gave us the cuckoo clock after 500 years of democracy and brotherly love, but the neutral nation has given us so much more: aluminum foil, the Swiss Army knife, Velcro and absinthe. German, French, Italian and Romansh are the main languages, but English is widely spoken as well.
The highest postdoc salary would historically be found in the United States, but with more nations being wealthier than ever, a lot of countries are investing greater sums of money in education and young graduates.
Chances are, if you have a postdoctoral in any of the science-related fields, you’ll have a competitive entry-level salary. As you clock in more years, your annual income will inevitably rise. It’s up to you where you want to work: surrounded by the beautiful architecture of Austria or in the fast-paced nature of Hong Kong.
Which of these countries sounds the most appealing to you? Join the conversation in the comments section below!
Originally published on April 23, 2020. Updated by Electra Michaelidou.