Physical Science

Physical science is the study of earth's natural processes and phenomena. Many disciplines fall within the physical science umbrella, including earth, atmospheric and environmental sciences. For more information about education and employment options for physical scientists, read on.

Is Physical Science for Me?

Overview of the Field

Physical science is a broad field of study focused on the natural phenomena of the physical world, including the earth, the atmosphere and space. It encompasses several academic disciplines that include astronomy, physics, chemistry and atmospheric sciences. Environmental science, oceanography and geology are also physical sciences. In addition to a fascination with our natural world, strong analytical, mathematical and computer skills are a must for physical scientists.

Career Options

As an aspiring physical scientist, you may pursue a career in technical writing or science education. You could also become a physicist or meteorologist or specialize in chemistry or paleontology. Physical scientists who work in research spend much of their time collecting and analyzing data, running tests and creating visual and written materials to communicate their findings. Many of these skills are acquired through hands-on laboratory and fieldwork that are part of most physical science degree programs.

Employment and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has projected an average growth in employment nationwide for astronomers, hydrologists, meteorologists and physicists from 2012-2022. A slower-than average growth in jobs was expected for chemists during the same period; geoscientists can look forward to a faster-than-average increase in opportunities through 2022.

As of May 2013, astronomer and physicists earned median annual salaries of $110,450 and $110,110, respectively. At that same time, the median annual salary for atmospheric and space scientists was $87,030, while hydrologists and chemists had corresponding incomes of $75,710 and $72,350. In May 2013, all other physical scientists not classified separately earned median annual salaries $93,230, as reported the BLS (www.bls.gov).

How Can I Become a Physical Scientist?

Undergraduate Programs

Completion of a bachelor's degree program in physical science may qualify you for an entry-level position as a research assistant, technician or science writer. If you're interested in teaching science at the grade school level, you can pair your physical science degree with a teaching license or earn a dual degree in teacher education.

Graduate Programs

A bachelor's degree in physical science is also good preparation for graduate-level studies in a physical science discipline. Many physical scientists earn graduate degrees to compete for scientific positions in government, consulting, business and nonprofit organizations. In addition, most research, development and college-level teaching jobs require a master's or, in many cases, a doctoral degree in one of the physical science disciplines. For instance, you could earn a Master of Science in Geology or a Doctor of Philosophy in Synthetic Chemistry to qualify for an academic or laboratory research position.

Alternatively, online physical science courses are available for students who are unable to attend campus-based classes.

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