The Spectroscopy 2017 Salary Survey: A Snapshot


The annual Spectroscopy salary survey investigated spectroscopy employment markets in 2017, and for the first time in three years our results indicated average salaries are on the rise (+2.7%).

The annual Spectroscopy salary survey investigated spectroscopy employment markets in 2017, and for the first time in three years our results indicated average salaries are on the rise (+2.7%). Unfortunately, these gains do not recover the losses of the previous two years, but it is a positive sign for the remainder of the decade. No recovery was seen in the salary of academic jobs, whereas jobs in industry witnessed minor gains–a similar increase was also found in government and nationally funded laboratories. Once again, the majority of respondents indicated their stress levels and workloads have increased, however, job satisfaction remains high with the majority having no plans to move job. Below is a selection of statistics we collected this year that characterize this year’s salary survey.

Salaries by Employment Field and Gender

The average salary for 2017 was $84,718, a 2.7% increase from the 2016 survey ($82,457).

Within the three major employer types, average salaries varied greatly. Respondents with roles in industry had the highest average salary of $91,931, while government employees had an average salary of $80,341, and academics an average of $67,106.

Male employees also continued to earn more. Average salaries for males were 21% higher than those of female employees.

Workload, Stress, and Job Satisfaction

We asked respondents to indicate whether their workloads and stress levels had increased compared to the previous year, and how this has affected their job satisfaction.

  • About 64% of respondents say their workload has increased over the past year, 28% say it has stayed the same, and 8% say it has declined.

  • Some 45% of respondents indicated their stress levels had increased, a further 45% indicated it had stayed the same, and 9% of respondents reported a decrease.

  • Despite increased workloads and stress, 26% were “highly satisfied” with their jobs and a further 50% were “satisfied.”

  • Only 5% were “highly dissatisfied” with their jobs and about 19% were “somewhat dissatisfied.”

Despite the increased workloads and stress, job satisfaction remains high, which translates to 71% of respondents having no plans to look for a new job within the coming year.

Regional Variation in the United States

Location dramatically affects your earning potential and for spectroscopists in the US the difference in average salary can be as great as $20,000. This year, differences in regional salaries saw some interesting changes: salaries in the Northeast ($84,338) continued to drop, going from the top earning region to the second lowest in the space of two years. The Southeast experienced the opposite switch going from the second lowest average salary two years ago to the highest in 2017 ($98,720). The Midwest ($80,195) remained at relative parity with last year’s result as did the Northwest ($85,750). Lastly, the Southwest experienced a 9.8% reduction in average salary compared to 2016 with an average salary of $90,569.

Gender Gap

For the first time in this survey’s history women with a bachelor’s degree outearned their male counterparts, with an average salary of $68,507 compared to $66,473 for men. Unfortunately, our data indicates that rather than the wages of women being brought up to the same level as men, men’s wages have been brought down to the same level as women.


This year our survey took a brief look at discrimination in the spectroscopic community and employment market. We investigated sexism, racism, ageism, and disability to highlight some of the issues still faced or that may come up in the future.

A selection of comments on discrimination are shown below:

  • “Lower salary. I have had two payroll adjustments after someone outside the department reviewed payroll and discovered my pay was not in line with my male peers”

  • “Someone told me once that they cannot trust me much because I am Chinese”

  • “Candidates were rejected for jobs because they were perceived to be ‘close to retirement’”

  • “Although the person who applied for the position was the most qualified by far, the person was in a wheelchair, and the lab owner would not allow me to hire that person because the owner worried that the wheelchair in the lab introduced a higher risk of an injury due to chemical spill, etc.”

Click here to read the full report about the 2017 Salary Survey.

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John Burgener | Photo Credit: © Will Wetzel
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