Careers in Science, Schools and Degrees Information

Science - Career Information

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Science is the study of discovering and increasing understanding of how the physical world operates. Using controlled methods, scientists gather observable physical evidence of natural occurrences to collect data. They then analyze this information to explain how things work. There are many methods of gathering and analyzing data, including conducting experiments that strive to simulate natural phenomena under controlled conditions. Now more than ever, people who work in the scientific research and development industries create many of the technologies that improve our lives.

Due to the ever-changing technological advancements taking place in this field, new disciplines continue to be created. However, the fields of science are commonly classified along a few major lines of study, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • Natural Sciences: The study of natural phenomena, including biological life - biotechnology, nanotechnology, and pharmaceuticals.
  • Social Sciences: The study of human behavior and societies - economics, sociology, anthropology, and psychology.
  • Interdisciplinary and Applied Sciences - The study of engineering and health science.
  • Formal Sciences: The study of mathematics, statistics, and logic.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that employment in all life, physical, and social science occupations will grow 10 percent during the decade leading up to 2022. Meanwhile, new careers in science may emerge as technology improves and new discoveries are made.

Top Careers in Science (BLS, 2013)

Career Number of Workers Nationally in 2013 Job Description Degree Requirements
Biochemists and Biophysicists 29,110 Biochemists and biophysicists create experiments to measure and study biological processes. They manage laboratories, design experiments and studies, and prepare reports. According to the BLS, biochemists and biophysicists need a Ph.D. in order to work in independent or research fields.
Anthropologists and Archeologists 6,560 These workers study human history and the evolution of human beings. They examine ancient cultures, remains, and artifacts in order to make assumptions about the way people lived. According to the BLS, anthropologists and archeologists need a Master's degree or Ph.D. in Anthropology or Archeology.
Chemists and Materials Scientists 94,950 Chemists and material scientists study chemical substances in order to measure and document reactions and create new products and materials. The BLS reports that most chemists and materials scientists need a Bachelor's degree in order to gain employment. However, a Master's degree is required for many research positions.
Economists 17,230 Economists use complex data on jobs, resources, goods, and services to make predictions about the economy and various economic issues. According to the BLS, most economists need a Master's degree or Ph.D. However, certain positions for economists, specifically those with the government, may only require a Bachelor's degree.
Environmental Scientists and Specialists 87,380 Environmental scientists and specialists take air, soil, and water samples and analyze them in order to compile complex environmental data for businesses, government entities, and clients. They measure pollution, present solutions to environmental problems, and create detailed reports of their findings. According to the BLS, most environmental scientists and specialists need a Bachelor's degree in a science-related field.

Science Career Education

Most scientific careers require extensive postsecondary education. However, no matter which science career is chosen, changes and advances in all areas of science require on-going training for workers to keep pace with developments in their fields.

The following table uses data from the BLS to outline the different degree options in this field and what kind of career they may help you qualify for:

Degree Type Timeline for Completion Possible Careers
Bachelor's Bachelor's degree programs typically take four years of full-time study to complete. Chemists and Materials Scientists, Economists, Environmental Scientists and Specialists,Microbiologists, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Agricultural and Food Scientists, Atmospheric Scientists Including Meteorologists, Geographers, Geoscientists, Historians, Survey Researchers
Master's Degree Students can earn a Master's degree in 1-3 years of full-time study after earning a Bachelor's degree. Anthropologists and Archeologists, Biological Scientists,Chemists and Materials Scientists, Economists,Epidemiologists, Sociologists, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers, Atmospheric Scientists Including Meteorologists, Geographers, Geoscientists, Historians, Hydrologists, Political Scientists, Survey Researchers
Ph.D. or Doctoral Degree Ph.D. and Doctoral programs vary in length, but can take up to four years of full-time study or longer to complete after obtaining a Master's degree. Anthropologists and Archeologists, Biochemists and Biophysicists, Biological Scientists,Economists,Epidemiologists, Microbiologists, Physicists and Astronomers, Atmospheric Scientists Including Meteorologists, Sociologists, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Geoscientists, Historians, Medical Scientists, Political Scientists


"Bureau of Labor Statistics," May 2013 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_nat.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Biochemists and Biophysicists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Anthropologists and Archaeologists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/anthropologists-and-archeologists.htm#tab-1

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Chemists and Materials Scientists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemists-and-materials-scientists.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Economists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/economists.htm

"Bureau of Labor Statistics," Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Environmental Scientists and Specialists, http://www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm

Schools for Science are listed in the column to the left.

Careers and Salary Data

This table shows summary data on occupations in the US. Clicking on any occupation name brings you to a page showing job prospects and salaries for that occupation in hundreds of metro areas across the country, with data updated through 2022.(Where data is denoted by an asterisk (*), summary info was not available.

Click each Occupation title for more details.

Life, Physical, and Social Science

Occupation Jobs
Median Pay
% Growth
Agricultural and Food Scientists 14,660     $65,840     3.5%
Anthropologists and Archeologists 6,980     $61,220     3.8%
Archivists, Curators, and Museum Workers 253,810     $45,960     3.6%
Atmospheric Scientists, Including Meteorologists 10,370     $89,820     9.2%
Biochemists and Biophysicists 30,800     $82,150     8.2%
Biological Scientists 32,050     $75,150     -0.4%
Chemists and Materials Scientists 84,720     $71,260     2.6%
Economists 19,090     $99,180     5.7%
Environmental Scientists and Specialists 87,250     $67,460     10.7%
Epidemiologists 5,460     $69,450     6.3%
Geographers 1,280     $74,260     -1.6%
Geoscientists 31,800     $89,700     10.5%
Historians 3,010     $55,800     1.7%
Hydrologists 6,580     $79,550     6.9%
Medical Scientists 104,440     $82,240     8.3%
Microbiologists 21,210     $67,550     3.5%
Physicists and Astronomers 15,650     $111,580     7.9%
Political Scientists 3,910     $99,730     -2.3%
Sociologists 2,620     $73,760     -0.7%
Survey Researchers 13,650     $53,920     11.6%
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists 17,910     $59,680     4.0%
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