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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 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 7,146
Doctor’s Degree 6,324
Graduate Certificate 103

What Physical Sciences Majors Need to Know

People with careers related to physical sciences were asked what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. They weighted these areas on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest.

Knowledge Areas for Physical Sciences Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

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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

A major in physical sciences prepares you for careers in which the following skill-sets are crucial:

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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

As a physical sciences major, you will find yourself needing the following abilities:

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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?

People with a physical sciences degree often go into the following careers:

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 Master’s Degree in Physical Sciences?

7,146 Master's Degrees Annually
38% Percent Women
18% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This major attracts more men than women. About 62% 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 Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 386
Black or African American 182
Hispanic or Latino 513
White 3,757
International Students 1,865
Other Races/Ethnicities 443

Geographic Diversity

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in Physical Sciences. About 26.1% of those with this major are international students.

How Much Do Physical Sciences Majors Make?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that physical sciences students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a master’s degree made a median starting salary of $64,600 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $57,550 (25th percentile) and $68,650 (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

Average salaries range from $82,790 to $111,090 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to physical sciences. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

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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250K

Some careers associated with physical sciences require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

Find out what the typical degree level is for physical sciences careers below.

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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 2018-2019, 1,519 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) 87 1
Certificate (1-2 years) 19 2
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 649 22
Bachelor’s Degree 61 5
Post-Baccalaureate 87 1
Master’s Degree 1,091 26
Post-Master’s 22 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 795 2
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 220,337
Engineering 200,684
Biological & Biomedical Sciences 162,961
Engineering Technologies 92,549
Mathematics & Statistics 49,748
Agriculture & Agriculture Operations 38,513
Natural Resources & Conservation 29,904
Architecture & Related Services 17,753
Communications Technologies & Support 15,972
Science Technologies / Technicians 7,448

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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