Biochemists and chemical engineers use chemistry to solve problems. Biochemists study chemical reactions for such applications as developing genetically engineered, disease-resistant crops, detecting diseases and developing medicines. Chemical engineers merge chemistry, physics and math to develop products such as detergents, plastics and fuels. Both career choices offer distinct advantages. For example, demand for biochemists is projected to grow by 31 percent through 2020, which is much faster than the 6 percent growth rate projected for chemical engineers, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. On the other hand, chemical engineers earn almost $13,000 more per year than biochemists.
Biochemists earn a mean annual wage of $89,470, or a mean hourly wage of $43.01, according to May 2012 salary data from the BLS. The median wage for biochemists is $81,480, which means that half of these professional earn more than this amount and half make less. The top 10 percent of biochemists earn $147,350, while the bottom 10 percent make $41,430 or less.
Chemical Engineer Salaries
With a mean annual wage of $102,270, or a mean hourly wage of $49.17, chemical engineers earn a much higher salary than biochemists, reports the BLS. From a percentile perspective, the median annual wage for chemical engineers is $94,350. The top 10 percent of earners make $152,840, and the bottom 10 percent of chemical engineers earn $58,830 or less.
Biochemist Highest-Paying Industries
Biochemists earn the highest salaries working in the management, scientific and technical consulting services industry, with an annual mean wage of $123,890, the BLS reports. The other four highest-paying industries are drugs and druggists’ sundries merchant wholesalers, local governments, medical and diagnostic laboratories, and scientific research and development services. Salaries in these industries range from $92,150 to $107,160. The highest-paying state for biochemists is New Hampshire, which pays an annual mean wage of $123,590. New Jersey, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania and Connecticut are the other highest-paying states, with mean annual wages ranging from $97,210 to $117,780.
Chemical Engineer Highest-Paying Industries
The natural gas distribution industry pays the highest salaries for chemical engineers, with an annual mean wage of $152,930, the BLS reports. Salaries range from $118,150 to $142,790 in the next four highest paying industries, which are firms that manage companies and enterprises, oil and gas extraction companies, businesses that support activities for mining, and employment services firms. The top-paying state for chemical engineers is Virginia, with an annual mean wage of $134,610. With salaries ranging from $113,520 to $126,250, Alaska, Texas, Delaware and Louisiana round out the highest-paying states.