Only 0.9% of Americans have earned a doctoral degree, according to the latest U.S. census. Earning such a degree puts you in an elite category, but only a few careers actually require a Ph.D. after your name. Here are six professions in which a Ph.D. is a bonus if not a necessity. Median and average salary figures come from various sources and are as of early 2020.

1. Chief Scientist

Average salary $143,190 (

The job of a chief scientist is to manage the research arm of an institution or company. The skills required are a rare blend of business and management savvy and scientific knowledge. A chief scientist may, for example, be an executive in the research and development (R&D) department of a pharmaceutical or technology company, and therefore would have a key role in developing new products.

Key Takeaways

  • The most lucrative positions for most Ph.D.s mix business and research.
  • The tenure system is an attraction for Ph.D.s who want to mix teaching and research.
  • Top university administrators may come from the teaching ranks or management.

The job title chief scientist is used across scientific disciplines. The title principal investigator is sometimes used instead.

2. Professor

Average salary $104,920 (

Most professorships require the candidate to have successfully defended their doctoral thesis. There are some exceptions, notably in business, law, and medicine, where real-world experience may be sufficient.

This job might be considered to be the most direct application for a completed doctoral degree. After spending so many years in the academic world, Ph.D.s certainly know their way around the system.

Some professors focus on teaching, while others seek a balance between classroom time, research, and publishing. One benefit of an academic career is the tenure system, which protects a professor from being fired without just cause and due process.

3. Anthropologist

Median salary $62,280 (

Anthropologists study human cultures, social behaviors, and languages, past and present. They investigate earlier civilizations for clues as to how they lived, worked and evolved. The field is fascinating but, you'll note, somewhat lacking in commercial applications, which is why the salary here is lower than for many jobs that have high academic requirements.

Things are looking up for anthropologists, though. Major technology companies including Microsoft, Google, and Intel are hiring anthropologists now because they understand human behavior and aspirations.

While a Ph.D. is not required for every job in the field, it is for most research positions. Anthropologists may also work concurrently as assistant professors or lecturers.

4. Astronomer/Astrophysicist

Median salary $112,512 (

More than half of the professionals in this field are employed by the federal government or by research and development firms. Astronomers and astrophysicists observe, research, and interpret celestial and astronomical phenomena.

Anthropologists are in demand by technology companies, who value their insights into human behavior and motivations.

They also may apply their knowledge of the universe to scientific and technological advancement. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), almost all astronomers do research, although some do purely theoretical work.

5. University Deans, V.P.s and Presidents

Average salary, president, $274,213 (

Some of the top management positions in universities are filled by professors, while others worked their way up strictly in the field of academic administration. In either case, a Ph.D. degree is required.

The people at the executive level in universities are responsible for the direction of the school academically and financially. They also may be involved in marketing, fundraising, student recruitment, and faculty management.

6. Federal Reserve Board of Governors

Salary $183,100 (Investopedia)

There are seven members of the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, each of whom is nominated by the president and confirmed by the U.S. Senate for a 14-year term. There's also a chair and a vice chair, each named for a four-year term.

Jerome Powell is the current chair, having previously served on the Board of Governors. Chairman Powell has a Juris Doctor degree from Georgetown University and a long history of public service.