District of Columbia Graduate Schools for Physical Science

Physical Science Graduate Schools offer Masters and Doctorate degrees in the four branches of physical sciences: Chemistry, Physics, Earth Science and Astronomy. However, graduate programs provide an opportunity to fine-tune research interests, and many universities offer programs that drill down into sub-fields such as Geophysics and Pharmaceutical Chemistry.

Physical Science Graduate Schools: Basics

One of the ways to sort through Physical Science Graduate Schools is to choose your area of interest. While biology and other topics deal with all things living, Physical Science topics revolve around the systematic and scientific study of all things inorganic (aka non-living).

Universities with graduate level physical science degrees may offer programs in the following subjects as well as interdisciplinary programs with mixed science coursework. For instance, Color Science programs meld courses from physics, chemistry, physiology, statistics, computer science and psychology.

  • Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Chemistry and Biochemistry
  • Geography and Geophysics
  • Geology
  • Meteorology
  • Physics

While most universities with programs in the physical sciences offer an array of upper division courses, students might also conduct their own investigations. To do this, many programs include coursework in statistics or computation and research methods. Students then learn how to test hypotheses and contribute to their technical field.

Employment of life, physical, and social science occupations is projected to grow 10 percent from 2016 to 2026.i

For instance, Masters students might need to complete a thesis in an area affiliated with their coursework. PhD students typically research in-depth to write and defend a dissertation. Both of these written works usually involve an original thought contribution.

Campus Physical Science Degree

programs could provide a dynamic and hands-on way to learn course material and conduct research in university facilities. Students might therefore look into what active faculty research products might align with their own interests and career pursuits.

Aside from the nature of a program (admission requirements and suitable courses), there are other things to look for from physical science graduate schools. Below are a few questions you might keep in mind.

  • What resources (libraries, research laboratories, research assistantships) are in place?
  • Do the faculty and graduate students publish their research and obtain research grants?
  • How are student advisors assigned?

Chemistry Graduate Schools

Chemistry Graduate Schools explore the modern and traditional branches of chemistry. From drug discovery to nanotechnology, one’s choice of grad school could reflect academic strengths, research interests, and specific career goals.

Masters in Chemistry programs usually aim to bolster knowledge in the basic areas of chemistry (inorganic, organic, physical, analytical, and biochemistry). Also, students typically focus their studies through a concentration. Molecular Biochemistry and Bioinformatics are some examples.

Either way, coursework is often explored through a blend of theoretical lectures and hands-on lab work. Students may thus develop an ability to comprehend scientific issues, form questions, and problem-solve.

Universities with PhD in Chemistry programs often foster a close professional contact between doctoral students and faculty through small class sizes. Candidates often take weekly seminars to learn about recent advances in their industry as they research in-depth. To this end, current research might explore fields such as bio-organic, bio-inorganic, biophysical, and environmental chemistry.

Graduate Earth Science Schools

Earth Science schools may offer graduate degrees in either of the four basic areas of Earth Science: (1) geology, (2) meteorology, (3) oceanography, and (4) astronomy. Essentially, earth science is the study of the Earth and other planets in space. Students could also look for grad schools with degrees in related areas such as Atmospheric Sciences.

Graduate Astronomy Schools

Astronomy Schools explore the study of the universe beyond the Earth. Students might take classes in astrophysical sciences and technology and may make use of both space-born and ground-based telescopes to enhance their observations.

Master of Science (MS) in Astrophysical Sciences programs might stack courses in mathematical methods and statistics with astronomical techniques. Students could learn about relativity, gravitation and stellar structure as they begin a research project under the guidance of a faculty research advisor.

PhD programs in astronomy and astrophysics may build breadth and depth of knowledge. In some universities, students may choose to follow a specific track to focus their studies. Astrophysics, Astro-informatics and Computational Astrophysics (with the option of a concentration in general relativity), or Astronomical Instrumentation are some examples.

Geography Graduate Schools

Geography schools might offer students the opportunity to tie their classroom studies to community or local environmental efforts. Students might therefore be interested as much in what courses are offered as where the school is located. Is it close to water sources or inland?

Master of Arts in Geography programs might explore the physical aspects of a region and how they relate to inhabitants. Coursework often emphasizes areas like math, statistics, remote sensing and geographical information systems (GIS) technology.

While many programs may be interdisciplinary, students might choose to focus their studies in a specific aspect of geography. This may be done through a concentration in urban planning, environmental and resource management or cartography and GIS. Some grad schools might also award certificates in areas such as watershed studies and management.

Physics Graduate Schools 

A physics graduate school could feature faculty who teach lecture courses and actively involve students in their research. Faculty research is often funded by different agencies, such as the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy, NATO and others.

Furthermore, research projects often closely relate to program concentrations. In some physics grad schools, this could mean a physics program with an emphasis in superconductivity, Nano-photonics, and/or correlated electronic and magnetic systems.

MS students could take courses in classical and quantum mechanics, mathematical and statistical physics and electromagnetic theory. A Masters thesis is usually expected. Graduates may pursue career paths related to applied research and development for manufacturing and healthcare companies that do not require a PhD.ii

Other MS students might earn their degree in conjunction with their university’s graduate school of education. A Master of Science in Teaching is typically used to enhance classroom skills and to prepare graduates to pursue certification in secondary education.

Some students may be motivated to apply to a PhD physics program. A school may then provide students who are accepted into the doctorate program an opportunity to earn a Master of Science degree along the way.

PhD candidates take advanced courses in areas such as classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics, and statistical physics. They are typically expected to pass exams, submit a research proposal, write and defend a dissertation.

Application Information for Physical Science Graduate Schools

Application information and admission requirements for physical science graduate schools vary. Many graduate programs have specific prerequisites for admission (for example, completion of a particular undergraduate major or completion of certain undergraduate courses).

Most Masters programs build off an undergraduate degree, and require a similar academic background. PhD programs in physical sciences require students to have a completed Masters degree, however, some programs may accept students with a Bachelors degree.

An applicant may also need to submit transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores, and a statement of purpose.

Find Graduate Schools for Physical Science

Easily compare and apply to graduate schools for physical science. Choose filters to show you a selection of sponsored physical science graduate schools. Set a preferred location, subject, and degree level. Then, take the next step to contact the chemistry, earth science, astronomy and physics grad schools on your list with the provided form.

[i] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/home.htm | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/physicists-and-astronomers.htm#tab-4

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