Careers in Natural Sciences

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the natural sciences. Read on to learn more about career options along with salary and employment outlook information. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Natural Sciences Graduates?

The field of natural sciences generally includes the study of biology, chemistry, and physics. It can also include the areas of mathematics, marine science, ecology, and computer science. Some students who wish to go on to medical school or enter into scientific research major in one of the natural sciences areas, such as marine biology, biochemistry, and astronomy. Marine biology involves the study of aquatic life on the planet, analyzing how different species live and what humanity's effect has been on their ecosystem. Biochemistry studies different chemical reactions related to biological processes for a variety of purposes, such as medical or agricultural needs. Astronomy is the study of space, researching stars, planets, and other celestial objects to learn more about the universe we inhabit and our existence within it.

The following chart gives an overview of three of the career options available.

Marine Biologist BiochemistAstronomer
Degree Required Bachelor's degree; Ph.D. degree for independent research Ph.D. degree PhD degree
Education Field of StudyMarine biology, oceanography, biology, zoology, fisheries Biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, engineering Physics, Astronomy
Key Responsibilities Research ocean wildlife and habitats; analyze impact of human populations; develop protection and management plans for marine species Research biological processes, chemistry, and physics of living things; analyze and synthesize proteins, DNA, and enzymes for medical, agricultural, energy use Theoretical: Research planets, stars, galaxies, celestial bodies using ground and satellite equipment
Applied: Develop new electronic, navigation & medical technology
Licensure Required N/A N/A Licensing may be required to do sensitive federal government research
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4% (zoologists and wildlife biologists)* 8%* 3%*
Average Salary (2015) $64,230 (zoologists and wildlife biologists)* $93,390* $110,220*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are My Career Options?

Biological scientists, chemists, and physicists all work in the natural sciences. You'll have many career options available to you related to the study and research of animals, plants, organisms, and people. College-level teaching is always an option if you choose to obtain an advanced degree.

Biological scientists study living things. You might find a job in research and development at a medical facility, university, or private research company. In this position, you may specialize in an area, such as marine biology, microbiology, or botany. To advance in your career, you may serve as a business or government consultant, lead research studies, or become a natural science manager.

Chemists study the composition of the environment, materials, and humans. In this career, you may discover new drugs to treat cancer, develop a new type of make-up, or create an adhesive that works five times better than anything on the market. You may also work on large-scale projects, such as discovering new fuel sources or creating more environmentally friendly refining processes. Career advancement may mean working in management positions or starting your company.

Physicists research the universe. Included in this job category are astronomers. As a physicist, you may create research equipment, design medical devices, or work in quality control. If you work as an astronomer, you may study the planets, discover new stars, or work on space technology. Your work environment will probably be a laboratory where you conduct experiments and tests. Career advancement may happen by gaining tenure at a university research department, becoming a manager, or starting your own research firm.

What Are Some Degree Options for a Career In this Field?

Typically, if you are pursuing a research position, especially one with a college or university, or a college-level teaching position, you need to have a Ph.D. in a natural sciences discipline. For other positions, you may only need a bachelor's or master's degree.

A degree in biology can lead to a career as a biological scientist or be a stepping-stone to medical school. Courses you may take in a biology program include ecology, marine biology, neurobiology, and microbiology.

Majoring in chemistry may lead to a career in pharmacology, teaching, or environmental science. Courses cover different areas of chemistry, including physical, biological, and organic.

You might major in physics if you are pursuing a career as a physicist, radiation technician, or astronomer. You'll find courses in space science and radiation physics.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Physicists is a popular related career. They research fundamental laws of the universe to explore why the world is the way that it is, running experiments to expand our understanding of reality in proven and theoretical fields. They will likely need a Ph.D. before earning a job. Biological technicians is another career, professionals in which are lab assistants who help biologists and medical professionals in their research, running experiments and tending to lab duties like cleaning and feeding test animals. They often have a bachelor's degree. Additionally, physicians are medical doctors who examine and diagnose patient ailments, sometimes offering education and guidance on how to preserve good health and promote better habits. They will need a medical doctorate to work.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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