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. While job growth is expected in many physical science fields, many of these jobs require advanced degrees in a particular discipline. Read on to learn more about physical science.
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, atmospheric sciences, environmental science, oceanography and geology.
A career in the physical sciences requires a fascination with the world around you. Strong analytical, mathematical and computer skills are a must. A general degree program in physical science can prepare the graduate for various careers requiring a broad scientific background, such as technical writing or science education. Choosing a narrower topic of study, such as meteorology, chemistry or paleontology, will provide you with the skill set to pursue a particular scientific position as a physicist or meteorologist, for example. Many types of physical scientists work in research and 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. Alternatively, online physical science courses are available for students who are unable to attend campus-based classes.
If you're interested in pursuing a career in the physical sciences, the time might be right to do so. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected good job prospects for most physical scientist careers over the 2008-2018 period, and those with graduate degrees will likely have the best job prospects (www.bls.gov). In particular, faster-than-average job growth was expected over this period for geoscientists, hydrologists, physicists, astronomers and atmospheric scientists; however, chemists and materials scientists may see slower job growth over this same period, per the BLS.
Physical scientists' wages can vary considerably by field and occupation. As of May 2010, the BLS reported median annual wages of $68,320 for chemists, $106,370 for physicists, $87,260 for astronomers, $75,690 for hydrologists and $87,780 for atmospheric and space scientists. All other physical scientists earned median annual wages of $94,780 as of May 2010, reported the BLS.
A physical science degree is the first step towards a career in a number of scientific fields. A bachelor's degree can qualify graduates for entry-level positions, such as research assistants, technicians or science writers. 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.
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 research positions within scientific and academic institutions and laboratories.