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Physical Sciences Major

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Physical Sciences

$101,890 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Physical Sciences Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many physical sciences graduations there were in 2017-2018 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Bachelor’s Degree 33,150
Master’s Degree 7,195
Associate’s Degree 6,714
Doctor’s Degree 6,197
Basic Certificate 276
Graduate Certificate 208
Undergraduate Certificate 28

What Physical Sciences Majors Need to Know

O*NET surveyed people in occupations related to physical sciences and asked them what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. The responses were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Physical Sciences Majors

According to O*NET survey takers, a major in physical sciences should prepare you for careers in which you will need to be knowledgeable in the following areas:

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  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Chemistry - Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
  • Physics - Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.

Skills for Physical Sciences Majors

physical sciences majors are found most commonly in careers in which the following skills are important:

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  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

Abilities for Physical Sciences Majors

Some of the most crucial abilities to master while a physical sciences student include the following:

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  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

What Can You Do With a Physical Sciences Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with physical sciences:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Architectural and Engineering Managers 5.5% $140,760
Astronomers 10.0% $105,680
Atmospheric and Space Scientists 12.5% $94,110
Atmospheric, Earth, Marine, and Space Sciences Professors 9.9% $90,860
Chemistry Professors 9.9% $79,550
Chemists 6.5% $76,890
Clinical Research Coordinators 9.9% $123,860
Engineering Professors 14.7% $101,720
Environmental Restoration Planners 11.1% $71,130
Environmental Science Professors 10.1% $79,910
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health 11.1% $71,130
Forensic Science Technicians 16.9% $58,230
Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers 14.1% $91,130
Hydrologists 10.4% $79,370
Industrial Ecologists 11.1% $71,130
Materials Scientists 7.6% $99,800
Natural Sciences Managers 9.9% $123,860
Physicists 14.5% $120,950
Physics Postsecondary Professors 10.2% $90,800
Professors 9.4% $65,660
Remote Sensing Scientists and Technologists 6.8% $107,230
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 7.5% $60,320
Water Resource Specialists 9.9% $123,860

Who Is Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Physical Sciences?

33,150 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
40% Percent Women
29% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This major attracts more men than women. About 60% of the graduates in this field are male.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of physical sciences majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Physical Sciences Students with Bachelor's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 3,018
Black or African American 1,634
Hispanic or Latino 3,581
White 20,449
International Students 2,115
Other Races/Ethnicities 2,353

Geographic Diversity

Students from other countries are interested in Physical Sciences, too. About 6.4% of those with this major are international students.

How Much Do Physical Sciences Majors Make?

Bachelor’s Degree Starting Salary

The median early-career salary of physical sciences students with a bachelor’s degree is $35,100 a year according to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $31,700 (25th percentile) and $39,300 (75th percentile).

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It is possible that some of these people may have taken positions that were not related to physical sciences.

Salaries According to BLS

Physical Sciences majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $82,790 to $111,090 (25th to 75th percentile). This range includes all degree levels, so the salary for a person with just a bachelor’s degree may be a little less and the one for a person with an advanced degree may be a little more.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Physical Sciences Major  ( 82790 to 111090 )
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Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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Some degrees associated with physical sciences may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

How much schooling do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to physical sciences have obtained the following education levels.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 0.8%
Post-Secondary Certificate - awarded for training completed after high school (for example, in agriculture or natural resources, computer services, personal or culinary services, engineering technologies, healthcare, construction trades, mechanic and repair technologies, or precision production) 0.5%
Some College Courses 2.3%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 1.7%
Bachelor’s Degree 33.0%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 3.5%
Master’s Degree 25.7%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 1.2%
First Professional Degree - awarded for completion of a program that: requires at least 2 years of college work before entrance into the program, includes a total of at least 6 academic years of work to complete, and provides all remaining academic requirements to begin practice in a profession. 0.3%
Doctoral Degree 19.5%
Post-Doctoral Training 11.8%

Online Physical Sciences Programs

In 2017-2018, 1,508 schools offered a physical sciences program of some type. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 33 1
Certificate (1-2 years) 17 2
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 605 20
Bachelor’s Degree 54 5
Post-Baccalaureate 33 1
Master’s Degree 1,076 23
Post-Master’s 21 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 784 3
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 2 0

Is a Degree in Physical Sciences Worth It?

The median salary for a physical sciences grad is $101,890 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 155% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,239,800 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to physical sciences.

Major Number of Grads
Computer & Information Sciences 209,723
Engineering 197,582
Biological & Biomedical Sciences 157,997
Engineering Technologies 92,253
Mathematics & Statistics 47,138
Agriculture & Agriculture Operations 37,231
Natural Resources & Conservation 28,567
Architecture & Related Services 17,359
Communications Technologies & Support 15,669
Science Technologies / Technicians 6,550

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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