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What Is Physical Science?
Physical science is the study of natural, often non-living, matter. This major equips students with a foundational understanding of math, physics, engineering, geology, and chemistry.
Often, students can choose from various tracks and concentrations to prepare for specific careers or academic paths. They may pursue concentrations like engineering, physics, biophysics, or mechatronics.
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Physical Science in the Classroom and Workplace
Students who like interdisciplinary learning, problem-solving, research, and analytical thinking may enjoy pursuing a physical science major.
Because many physical science jobs require at least a bachelor’s degree, people pursuing an associate degree in this area may later transfer to more specialized bachelor’s programs, such as nursing or engineering. However, graduates with an associate in physical science can work as lab technicians or assistants.
Many undergraduates choose this major to complete prerequisite coursework for graduate programs in medicine or engineering. But bachelor’s in physical science degree-holders can also pursue research positions in more specialized areas like chemistry, geology, engineering, or physics.
Many students who earn a graduate-level physical science degree, chemistry degree, physics degree, or geology degree lead research projects or educate learners as postsecondary teachers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Physical Science
There are many advantages to choosing a physical science major. Broad curricula can be ideal for students interested in taking a more generalized approach to science. Although offerings depend heavily on the institution, diverse concentration areas allow students to cater coursework to their own academic and professional interests.
Students may be able to choose tracks like mechatronics, civil engineering, and biophysics. However, this major may not suit all learners. Many students prefer more specialized disciplines, such as nursing, computer science, forensic science, and sonography, which offer more streamlined career paths for people earning associate or bachelor's degrees.
Physical science majors must take a broad mix of challenging STEM courses. Core requirements typically include university physics, mathematics for physical science, and university calculus. Depending on students' chosen concentrations or tracks, they may take specialized courses. Often, science courses have lab components, which may require greater time commitments.
Because of the challenging nature of physical science coursework, students should have a history of good performance in math and science courses and a strong interest in STEM. Students must also be prepared to complete additional general education requirements in English, history, and the social sciences to build a well-rounded postsecondary background.
Most postsecondary degrees require a large investment of time and money. According to the College Board, the average cost of tuition, room and board, and books and supplies in 2021-2022 came to $27,330 for public four-year schools and $55,800 for private schools.
However, earning a physical science degree can be worth the investment for students looking for an interdisciplinary background in science and math. Although physical science coursework is generally less centered on practical career training than other science disciplines, many graduates use this foundational knowledge to enter lucrative, in-demand jobs.
Because of the generalized nature of physical science curricula, graduates may qualify for a variety of positions depending on their academic concentrations and internship experiences. Although many undergraduates study physical science as a prerequisite for graduate-level study, people with a bachelor's in this area often work as lab technicians or researchers in chemistry, geology, and geochemistry.
People with graduate-level degrees can refine their areas of expertise and become engineers, geophysicists, mineralogists, or geochemists.
Professionals of all education levels can access well-paying physical science careers. However, salary prospects depend heavily on factors like experience level, specialization, degree, location, and employer.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that as of 2021, environmental science technicians earned a median salary of $47,370, while chemical technicians earned a median of $48,990. More qualified specialists tend to earn higher salaries. For example, chemists and materials scientists earned a median salary of $79,760, geoscientists earned $83,680, and atmospheric scientists earned $94,570. Physicists earned a median salary of $147,450 in 2021.
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