Undergraduate degree programs in natural sciences, such as chemistry, physics, earth science, and math, are often geared to those wanting to teach middle or secondary school science or for study at the graduate level. Read on to learn about degree programs and how they can lead to employment. Get career prospects and earning potential.
Are the Natural Sciences Right for Me?
Natural sciences explore the physical world using the scientific method. Scientists base their observations and research on disciplines including chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology, biology and environmental science. If you're looking for a broad scientific education that can be useful in a variety of careers, then a degree in natural sciences may be for you.
Your career possibilities in the natural sciences are diverse, ranging from laboratory chemist to environmental specialist. Degrees are often designed for those who want to become science teachers at the middle and high school levels. With a natural sciences degree, you could also go on to graduate-level studies in public health, engineering or one of the health professions, as well as seek work in a field that requires a general science background, such as ecology, environmental science or technical writing. With experience, you might become a natural sciences manager.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) expected an average job growth rate of 12% for middle school teachers and 6% for high school teachers during the 2012-2022 decade (www.bls.gov). The BLS further projected that math and science teachers could experience the better job prospects during this period. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for middle school teachers was $53,940, while for high school teachers it was $55,360. The BLS reported that jobs for natural sciences managers were expected to grow by 6% from 2012-2022. In May 2013, the median annual salary for natural sciences managers was $116,840.
How Can I Work in the Natural Sciences?
Natural sciences degrees are typically offered at the undergraduate level, with programs as varied as the subjects represented in this field. You'd likely take basic courses in the major disciplines, including chemistry, physics, math, biology, geology and computer science. Labs and field experiments are usually part of science studies as well.
Advanced coursework provides the chance to pursue subjects of special interest. For instance, you could earn a technical writing certificate in addition to your degree to qualify for writing jobs requiring broad science knowledge. If you like to teach, you might double major in natural sciences and teacher education, or go on to earn a master's degree in natural science education. Natural sciences graduate programs are generally available in specific subject areas, such as a Master of Science in Geology or Doctor of Philosophy in Environmental Science.
Certification and Licensure
If you want to work as a science teacher in a public school, state licensure is necessary. While licensure requirements vary, most states require the completion of a training program with supervised teaching experience. If you hold a bachelor's degree in natural sciences, you could consider earning a teaching certificate, or you may qualify for an alternative licensing program, in which you'd begin teaching while taking the education courses needed to satisfy licensing requirements.