Natural Sciences Degree and Certificate Program Options

Oct 15, 2019

Natural sciences programs often lead to bachelor's degrees, master's degrees and graduate certificates. Common topics covered in these programs include biology, chemistry, physics, and others.

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Essential Information

Students interested in a natural science degree usually first earn a bachelor's degree and then a master's degree in the field. Master's program concepts build upon those learned in undergraduate studies, typically branching into a more focused exploration of natural science disciplines, such as geology, physics, biology, chemistry, ecology, astronomy, or meteorology. Lab work and a thesis are required at the master's degree level.

Graduates at both the bachelor's and master's levels will find a variety of career options, while certificate programs can help graduates qualify for medical school, dental school or other PhD programs in the natural sciences. Multiple online options for degrees and certificates in natural science are available.

Bachelor's Degree in Natural Sciences

A bachelor's degree program in natural sciences typically combines disciplines, such as physics, chemistry and biology. Students may be able to gain secondary teaching licensure with a bachelor's degree in natural sciences. This degree will best suit those looking to teach, since coursework includes a wide spectrum of disciplines. Coursework for a natural science bachelor's degree program delves into several scientific disciplines, including:

  • Astronomy
  • Forensic anthropology
  • Ecology
  • Physical chemistry
  • Chemical analysis
  • Environmental law

Certificate Programs in Natural Sciences

A certificate program in natural sciences is available to students who have earned a bachelor's degree. This certificate program is best suited for individuals preparing for admission into medical school. Other health science careers, such as dentistry, physical therapy and occupational therapy, may also require a certificate in natural sciences. This certificate program is also available to students looking to boost their knowledge in the natural sciences prior to entering a graduate degree program. Coursework for a certificate program in natural sciences is often tantamount to that of a degree program in natural sciences, focusing on scientific disciplines utilized in a medical setting. Courses include:

  • Biology
  • Physics
  • Organic chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry
  • Cell biology
  • Physics and/or chemistry laboratory

Master's Degree in Natural Sciences

A master's degree in natural sciences is best suited for individuals with a bachelor's degree wishing to work as a science professional or in the educational field. Graduate students in the natural sciences may be able to choose from different disciplines in which to major, and will typically complete a thesis on the subject. Coursework builds upon concepts learned in a bachelor's degree program, and includes:

  • Genetics
  • Plant biology
  • Ecology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Molecular biology

Popular Career Options

Individuals who have graduated with a bachelor's degree in natural sciences have several career options, such as:

  • Laboratory technician
  • Perfumer
  • Clinical research specialist
  • Technical writer
  • Food and drug analyst
  • Elementary, middle or high school teacher

Individuals with a graduate degree in natural sciences have a vast array of careers from which to choose, such as:

  • Biologist
  • Chemist
  • Biochemist
  • Geologist
  • Physicist
  • Meteorologist
  • Astronomer

Career Outlook

In 2018, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported a mean annual salary of $52,330 for medical and clinical laboratory technicians and $71,850 for technical writers. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians were expected to see a 11% increase in job opportunities from 2018-2028, while technical writers could expect a 8% increase.

By augmenting a natural sciences degree with a teaching certificate, people in this field can become teachers at the K-12 level. The BLS predicted a job outlook for elementary and middle school teachers is 3% and for high school teachers is 4% from 2018-2028. In 2018, the BLS reported that elementary teachers made a mean annual salary of $58,230, middle school teachers made $58,600 per year, and high school teachers made $60,320 per year.

The BLS predicted a 9% increase in positions for physicists from 2018-2028, which is about as fast as the average for all occupations. Many physicists work in research connected with colleges and universities, and much of the funding comes from federal sources. In 2018, the BLS reported an annual mean wage of $120,950 for physicists. Geoscientists, except for hydrologists and geographers, were expected to see a 6% increase in opportunities during the same period, due in part to the need for environmental protection and responsible land management. The BLS reported the annual mean wage for geoscientists in this category to be $91,130 in 2018.

Continuing Education Information

A student may go on to earn a post-baccalaureate certificate in natural sciences. Certificate programs will ready the student for certain graduate or medical studies. A certificate in natural sciences may also accompany a bachelor's in natural science, biology or chemistry.

A degree in natural sciences prepares students for a variety of career options, from working in a research lab to being a school teacher. Students might obtain a bachelor's degree, master's degree or choose to get a certificate in this field.

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