A science manager could...
|Lead a scientific expedition to a volcano after an eruption, to monitor environmental changes.||Help secure funding for a new cancer drug by presenting research results to a drug company's Board of Directors.|
|Manage an international consortium of scientists to find out why honey bee colonies are collapsing.||Coordinate ice core research to determine how global temperatures have changed over the last 800,000 years.|
Key Facts & Information
|Overview||Some of the biggest questions in science—like how to cure cancers or how to control global warming—require large teams of scientists to answer. Science managers work to coordinate and direct the research of these teams to ensure collaboration among the scientists and effective use of equipment and resources.|
|Key Requirements||A dynamic, high-energy personality with outstanding communication and leadership skills, wide scientific and business interests, and the ability to listen, empathize, and delegate responsibility|
|Minimum Degree||Bachelor's degree|
|Subjects to Study in High School||Biology, chemistry, physics, computer science, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus, calculus; if available, environmental science, physiology, statistics, business|
|Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)||More Slowly than Average (3% to 6%)|
Training, Other Qualifications
Strong technical knowledge is essential for science 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, a scientist, or as a mathematician.
Education and Training
Science managers usually have education similar to that of the workers they supervise. 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 PhD degree; some who work in applied research and other activities may have a bachelor's or a master's degree. Graduate programs allow scientists to augment their undergraduate training with instruction in other fields, such as management or computer technology. Science managers interested in more technical management may earn traditional master's or PhD degrees in sciences or master's degrees in sciences 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.
Science managers must be specialists in the work they supervise. To advance to these positions, scientists generally must gain experience and assume management responsibility. To fill management positions, employers seek scientists who possess administrative and communication skills in addition to technical knowledge in their specialty. In fact, because science managers must effectively lead groups and coordinate projects, they usually need excellent communication and administrative skills.
Nature of the Work
Science managers plan, coordinate, and direct research, design, and production activities. They may supervise scientists and technicians, along with support personnel. These managers use their knowledge of sciences to oversee a variety of activities. They determine scientific and technical goals within broad outlines provided by top executives, which may include 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 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.
Science 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.
Science managers spend most of their time in an office. Some managers, however, might also work in laboratories, where they might be exposed to the same conditions as research scientists, or in industrial plants, where they might be exposed to the same conditions as production workers. Most managers work at least 40 hours a week and might work much longer on occasion to meet project deadlines. Some might experience considerable pressure to meet technical or scientific goals on a short deadline or within a tight budget.
On the Job
- Confer with scientists, engineers, regulators, and others to plan and review projects and to provide technical assistance.
- Develop client relationships and communicate with clients to explain proposals, present research findings, establish specifications or discuss project status.
- Plan and direct research, development, and production activities.
- Prepare project proposals.
- Design and coordinate successive phases of problem analysis, solution proposals, and testing.
- Review project activities and prepare and review research, testing, and operational reports.
- Hire, supervise and evaluate engineers, technicians, researchers and other staff.
- Determine scientific and technical goals within broad outlines provided by top management and make detailed plans to accomplish these goals.
- Develop and implement policies, standards, and procedures for the architectural, scientific, and technical work performed to ensure regulatory compliance and operations enhancement.
- Develop innovative technology and train staff for its implementation.
- Provide for stewardship of plant and animal resources and habitats, studying land use, monitoring animal populations, or providing shelter, resources, and medical treatment for animals.
- Conduct own research in field of expertise.
- Recruit personnel and oversee the development and maintenance of staff competence.
- Advise and assist in obtaining patents or meeting other legal requirements.
- Prepare and administer budget, approve and review expenditures, and prepare financial reports.
- Make presentations at professional meetings to further knowledge in the field.
Companies That Hire Science Managers
Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...
Do you have a specific question about a career as a Science Manager that isn't answered on this page? Post your question on the Science Buddies Ask an Expert Forum.
- Commission on Professionals in Science and Technology: www.cpst.org/
- O*Net Online. (2016). National Center for O*Net Development. Retrieved July 1, 2017, from https://www.onetonline.org/
- NASA. (2003, June 1). ASK Talks with Dr. Michael Hecht. Retrieved May 19, 2017, from https://appel.nasa.gov/2003/06/01/ask-talks-with-dr-michael-hecht/
- National Marine Fisheries Services, NOAA. (2008, April 12). Rebecca Lent - NOAA Fisheries, International Affairs. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XobCK3w1mgk
- North Carolina Association for Biomedical Research. (2006). Animal Research Facility Manager. Retrieved November 3, 2009, from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HN0s4ozSK8E
We'd like to acknowledge the additional support of:
Explore Our Science Videos
Make a Lemon Volcano - Fun Science Experiment
How to Make a Bristlebot
Make a Homemade Fly Trap