Geneticists are medical researchers who study traits that offspring can inherit from parents. Traits may be relatively mundane, such as hair color or height, or involve susceptibility to diseases, such as conditions present at birth or developed later in life. Earnings for geneticists depend on the employer, experience and type of degree the geneticist has.
Geneticists who are also licensed physicians earned the highest median salaries in 2011, according to the American College of Medical Genetics and Genomics. In the public sector, the salary range for geneticists with less than five years of experience was $75,000 to $380,000, with a median of $148,500 annually. Those with six to 10 years of experience had a salary range of $90,000 to $260,000 and a median annual salary of $157,992. With 11 to 15 years, the salary ranged between $143,000 and $327,000, and the median salary was $190,000. Physician geneticists with 16 to 20 years of experience had a salary range of $129,500 to $710,000 and a median salary of $188,745. The ACMG survey reported little data for geneticists in the private sector but gave a median salary of $280,500 for those with 16 to 20 years of experience. Those with at least 21 years of experience had a salary range of $250,000 to $450,000 and a median salary of $279,000. These salaries include base pay and any payments for bonuses or incentives.
Ph.D. Without Medical License
Geneticists who'd earned a medical degree but weren't licensed to practice medicine in the U.S. and those who'd earned a Ph.D. made significantly less than physician geneticists. In the public sector, the salary range was $60,000 to $205,000 for those with less than five years of experience, with a median salary of $115,450 annually. Those with six to 10 years of experience had a median salary of $137,000 and a range of $100,000 to $190,000. With experience in the 11 to 15 year range, the salary spread was between $96,000 and $280,000, with a median of $157,500. Private sector geneticists fared slightly better, having a salary range of $95,000 to $245,000 and median salary of $116,334 if they had less than five years of experience. Those with six to 10 years of experience had a median salary of $184,600 and a salary range of $121,000 to $230,500. Geneticists with 11 to 15 years of experience earned between $151,000 and $217,000 per year, with an annual median of $167,503.
Geographical Salary Data
Among geneticists who were also licensed physicians, the median salary was highest in the Western region -- $189,000 in the public sector and $253,500 in the private sector. Nonphysicians with a Ph.D. also had the highest median salary in the Western region, $167,500. If they worked in the private sector, however, they reported the highest median salary in the Midwest-Great Plains region, $222,000.
O_Net Online reported a median annual salary of $72,700 for geneticists in 2012. The O_Net statistics included geneticists in both the public and private sector, didn't factor experience or location into the report and included salaries for geneticists with less than a Ph.D. According to O_Net, while 81 percent had a Ph.D. or medical degree, 11 percent had a master's degree and the remaining 8 percent had a bachelor's degree. Thus, the salary reported by O_Net doesn't necessarily contradict the ACMG salary survey.
For geneticists planning to teach at the college level or conduct independent research, a Ph.D. is the minimum education needed. Some medical colleges offer a combined Ph.D./medical degree program that normally lasts between seven and eight years. Those with a bachelor's or master's degree in biochemistry, genetics or a closely related subject may qualify for entry-level jobs, such as research assistant, but without additional education, they may see limited advancement.