Career Information for a Degree in Physical Sciences

Degrees in physical sciences focus on the study of non-living systems and typically cover such areas as chemistry, geology, biochemistry, physics and environmental science. Find out about the curricula of these programs and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for physical sciences graduates.

A degree in the physical sciences can allow for a number of employment opportunities. Some of these include: forensic science technician, materials scientist, and geoscientist.

Essential Information

A degree program in the physical science field allows individuals who have a general interest in math and science to study a variety of subjects ranging from thermodynamics, the properties of liquids and the laws of motion to plate tectonic theory, soil science and molecular chemistry. Students can choose to specialize in a certain discipline within physical science, such as chemistry, physics, geology or astronomy. Physical science degree programs may also include undergraduate research opportunities with faculty mentors.

Career Forensic Science Technician Materials Scientist Geoscientist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Bachelor's for entry level; master's or doctorate for advancement Bachelor's for entry level; master's or doctorate for advancement
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 27% 3% 10%
Mean Annual Wage (2015)* $60,090 $94,940 $105,720

Source: *U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in physical science often continue their education in a master's or doctoral degree program in a more focused field of study that prepares them for careers in a specific area, such as biochemistry or pharmacology. However, a bachelor's degree in one of the physical sciences can prepare students for work in a wide variety of related fields, including forensic science technology, materials science and geoscience.

Forensic Science Technician

Unlike other science technicians, who may only need a two-year associate's degree to be qualified for entry-level work, forensic science technicians usually need at least a bachelor's degree. Forensic science technicians gather and analyze information from crime scenes and may later write reports on their findings. They may work under the supervision of forensic scientists and legal professionals and are sometimes called to testify before juries as witnesses in a court of law. Forensic scientists must have good knowledge of the legal system and know the proper way to handle evidence to prevent its damage or deterioration.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted that employment of forensic science technicians would increase by 27% between 2014 and 2024. According to the BLS, forensic science technicians earned a median annual wage of $60,090 in 2015.

Materials Scientist

Materials scientists use the principles of chemistry and physics to research and produce new materials for science, medicine and industry. Many employers prefer applicants with graduate degrees, but a bachelor's degree in chemistry or physics may qualify workers for entry-level positions in quality assurance and testing, research assistance or supervised testing and analysis. Unlike many other scientists, the majority of materials scientists work with private firms and research organizations to develop and improve product materials.

The BLS anticipated that employment for materials scientists would grow by 3% between 2014 and 2024. The median annual salary for materials scientists was $94,940 in 2015, according to the BLS.

Geoscientist

Geoscientists may choose from a specialty, such as geophysics or geology, depending on their academic background. Geophysicists study the impact of outside forces, such as magnetism, gravity and electricity, on the physical and chemical makeup of the earth, while geologists focus on the earth's composition and changes over time. Geoscientists typically need a master's degree to find employment in the field, though some entry-level positions only require a bachelor's degree. They may find work in a variety of industries, such as oil and gas, architectural and engineering or government agencies.

The BLS predicted that employment for geoscientists would increase by 10% between 2014 and 2024, which is faster than the average for all occupations. The median annual salary for geoscientists (excluding hydrologists and geographers) was $105,720 in 2015, according to the BLS.

A physical science job entails the study of non-living things, such as in chemistry, physics, earth science, and so on. One can become a materials scientist, geoscientist, or forensic lab tech, each having different educational requirements stretching from a bachelor's to a doctoral degree.

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