Monday, November 14, 2016

The 2016 ACS Salary Survey is out

Credit: C&EN
Also in this week's C&EN, the results of the 2016 ACS Salary Survey (summary by Andrea Widener):
  • Overall ACS member unemployment is down from 3.1% in 2015 to 2.6% in 2016. 
  • The median ACS member salary was $97,850, which is up slightly from $97,000 in $2015. 
  • The median industrial ACS member salary was $116,000 in 2016, up from $112,996. 
  • The median government ACS member salary was $107,615 in 2016, down slightly from $108,987.
  • The median academic ACS member salary was $80,000 in 2016, up from $76,000.
  • Overall, men ($105,000) make more than women ($81,000). 
  • Chemical engineers make more than chemists ($123,000 versus $97,630). 
  • The highest salaries and unemployment (3.6%) were in the Pacific (California, Oregon and Washington) area. 
  • The median age of respondents was 49; 32% of them were female. 
  • Interestingly, ~25% of the industrial respondents work in the pharma/fine chemicals/specialty chemical space. 
  • There were ~twice as many female respondents who are adjuncts or secondary teachers. 
I refrain from making predictions routinely, but last year I was saying things like "2016 will be a better year than 2015", which I think is vaguely borne out by this data. I would not be making any such predictions about 2017 - the direction of GDP and political risk (thanks, Paul Hodges!) are simply too fuzzy for me. 


  1. Woof.

    Median salary for chemists was $68K in 1999 ( Adjusting for inflation (BLS calculator) bumps that to $101 k.

    Unsure if disparity between women and men is high or low compared to other fields. Given that women chemists seem 20% cheaper than males, I have no idea why a rational business wouldn't just hire females.

    1. "I have no idea why a rational business wouldn't just hire females."

      And thus we have the reality behind the myth of The Wage Gap. Paying people less for the same job has been illegal in the US for a generation. Rather, men/women don't stay in the workforce at the same rates, build the same seniority, sacrifice their homelives to climb the ladder. Or as a campaign put it: "You're going to make as much if you do as good a job." (It was hilarious to me that the other campaign picked that up as a negative.)

  2. There are plenty of other places on the Internet to discuss the rhetoric of the recently-passed campaign.

  3. What's going on with the mountain states and TX/OK/AR/LA that getting a Master's decreased the average pay?

    1. I live in the mountain states and in my area, chemist positions in industry here are nearly exclusively at the BS level. The few MS/PhD chemists in this area work in government / academic jobs. The reported salaries would be skewed heavily by the difference in pay between industrial and non-industrial workers.

    2. I do a good amount of business travel, and my suppliers and customers are invariably either in the Rust Belt, the Southeast, or Texas. There are very few chemical companies in the Rocky Mountain states, and about the only way I could see myself visiting Denver, Albuquerque, Boise, etc on business would be either for a conference or some kind of collaboration with a national lab.

  4. I would like to see any source (ACS or others) that show salary per region and years of experience at the same time. CJ do you any source with that data? I'm specifically looking for average chemistry industry salaries for PhDs with no experience and no postdoc in California. Thanks!

    1. Anon, your best bet is the ACS Salary Calculator, which can give you the exact data from the ACS data set.

      You can look at various other sites (Glassdoor,, Payscale), but for what you are asking, the ACS dataset (assuming a large enough corporation) will be reasonably accurate.

      If you are an ACS member, you can use it, or you can contact me offline, and I can put in your desired info.

    2. Thanks a lot! I have been an ACS member for about 4 years and never hear about this tool. I got what I was looking for.

    3. Do you think the salaries for a BS degree are high across the board? Similar to anon1, What is the data for a BS chemist working at a "technician" role for 4 years, in the Texas region.