Physical Sciences Majors: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in the physical sciences. Read on to learn more about career options along with information on earnings potential in the possible careers. Schools offering Environmental Science degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Are Career Options for Physical Science Graduates?

With a physical sciences degree, you might consider careers in environmental science or teaching. As an environmental scientist, you'd collect data on air, soil and other samples from the environment. You would use this data to answer research questions that address today's environmental needs and come up with solutions to environmental problems. As a teacher at the middle and high school levels, you'd create lesson plans to teach students about the physical sciences, including physics and chemistry. This would require you to administer assessments, lead demonstrations and supervise projects. The following chart gives side-by-side information on these options.

Environmental Scientist Middle School Teacher High School Teacher
Education Required Bachelor's degree for entry; master's or doctoral degree common Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Environmental science or related field Education, middle grades education Education, secondary education
Key Responsibilities Collect and analyze samples, create plans to remediate environmental issues, advise government agencies, businesses and the public about potential environmental problems Teach students, create lesson plans, evaluate student progress, communicate with parents The same as middle school teachers, but you are more likely to teach a single subject rather than a few
Licensure N/A Required in public schools Required in public schools
Job Growth (2014-24)* 11% (for environmental scientists and specialists) 6% (for all middle school teachers) 6% (for all high school teachers)
Median Salary (2015)* $67,460 (for environmental scientists) $55,860 (for all middle school teachers) $57,200 (for all high school teachers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What is a Physical Sciences Major?

A physical sciences major is a 4-year, science-intensive degree program that includes the study of quantum mechanics, computer science, physics and chemistry. Degree programs may lead to a Bachelor of Science in Education (B.S.Ed.) in Physical Science or a Bachelor of Science in Physical Science.

A B.S.Ed. degree prepares you to teach physics to students in grades 7-12, while a B.S. degree in this field can prepare you for a career in environmental science or other related fields. A physical sciences major also prepares you for graduate study, which can lead to administrative and research positions, as well as college and university teaching positions.

What Are My Career Options?

As an environmental scientist, your job would include monitoring the environment for pollution and conducting tests in laboratory and field settings. You would also collect soil, water and gas samples for testing. You could work for the government at state and federal levels, or you could work as a consultant to companies large and small. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that there were 94,600 environmental scientists and specialists employed in 2014.

With completion of a teaching credential, which may or may not be included in a B.S.Ed. in Physical Science program, you can be qualified to teach science at the middle and high school levels. State licensure is necessary for all public school teachers, although some private schools may choose not to require licensing. According to the BLS, there were 627,500 middle school teachers and 961,600 high school teachers employed in 2014, which doesn't differentiate between subjects taught. These are just a few of the career options available to graduates of this widely applicable major.

How Much Can I Earn?

The BLS reported that in 2015, the 25th-75th percentile group of environmental scientists and specialists earned between $50,640 and $90,210. Also in 2015, the middle half of middle school teachers reported earnings of $44,800 to $70,480, according to the BLS. High school teachers earned slightly more during the same year, with the middle half ranging from $45,520 to $73,050.

!What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Related to studying and teaching the physical sciences with a degree in physical science a person may become an agricultural and food scientist, atmospheric scientist or a conservation scientist. With a bachelor's degree in a related science, such as agriculture science, agricultural and food scientists specialize in researching ways to make agricultural products more productive and help to sustain a larger population. Atmospheric scientists, also known as meteorologists, often have a bachelor's degree in atmospheric science and make a career out of studying and forecasting weather patterns. Conservation scientists take care of conservation grounds in an attempt to preserve the natural environment. Like environmental scientists, they collect data from various types of natural samples. This career requires a bachelor's degree in conservation or a related field.

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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