Whether it is 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 are going to find work. It is 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 is 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 have compiled a breakdown of the top 20 countries with the best salaries for scientists, based on PayScale. Some of the results may surprise you, while some may not come as a shock at all.
Average salary: US$38,198 (€35,484)
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 20 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.
19. United Kingdom
Average salary: US$39,251 (£31,789)
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 is 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.
Average salary: US$41,537 (420,000Kr)
Sweden has always played an important role in the advancement of science – and it continues today.
It is estimated that more than one-third of all university degrees are in science or engineering, which explains why there is an incredible number of science jobs available. Sweden’s tremendous scientific and technological development at the post-secondary 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.
17. New Zealand
Average salary: US$41,992 (NZ$70,250)
New Zealand has been quietly revving up economic growth and improving its standing in the world over the last decade. New Zealand 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 salary: US$45,856 (€42,557)
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 is 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 ten 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 salary: US$46,404 (CA$65,642)
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 is 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 salary: US$46,602 (S$66,371)
Singapore captured international headlines for reopening schools amid the COVID-19 global pandemic. The government utilised 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 is 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 salary: US$47,341 (€43,942)
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 coronavirus outbreak, it is 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.
12. Hong Kong
Average salary: US$47,983 (HK$371,906)
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 salary: US$48,476 (€45,000)
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. Finland spends less, but it produces impeccable results that make it enviable. With such an emphasis on science, it is not surprising that it makes it to the top ten list of countries with the highest salaries for scientists.
Average salary: US$49,227 (¥5,296,589)
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 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 salary: US$50,001 (A$78,844)
Similar to 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 endeavours. 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.
Average salary: US$56,587 (604,048Kr)
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 is a scientific giant.
Average salary: US$57,078 (€53,015)
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 is remarkable to see just how influential Germany has been in science, dating back hundreds of years. Whatever the explanation is, if you are 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 salary: US$57,749 (€53,638)
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 organised at several levels. Put simply, autonomy and independence can be difficult to achieve when you are a scientist. Therefore, you can expect to deal with a lot of bureaucracy and red tape.
If this is not something you mind, then relocating to Belgium for career growth could be a good choice.
5. Saudi Arabia
Average salary: US$66,654 (SR249,951)
Saudi Arabia continues to be one of the biggest energy producers in the world, but it is 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 salary: US$68,574 (244,168)
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 does not matter what field you specialise in. If you are educated and experienced, Israel wants you!
Average salary: US$70,989 (492,000Kr)
The University of Copenhagen is the premier post-secondary institution for studying and researching science. It is 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.
So, no, something is not rotten in the state of Denmark!
2. United States
Average salary: US$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 are next on the list!
Average salary: US$95,028 (92,821Fr)
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: aluminium 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 will have a competitive entry-level salary. As you clock in more years, your annual income will inevitably rise. It is 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!
Salary information is based on data compiled and published by PayScale.
Currency conversions are based on rates supplied by XE.com on 23 April 2020.
This article is an updated version of an earlier article originally published in 18 January 2015.