Physical Science Graduate Programs explore the scientific study of the inorganic world. As a branch of natural science, physical science attempts to explain and predict phenomenal through empirical evidence and testable theory.
written by Rana Waxman
Students in Physical Science Graduate Programs study the major topics, concepts, processes and links between non-living phenomena in any one of the physical science disciplines.
As there are four main branches of physical science, Physical Science Graduate Programs provides a means to study (1) physics, (2) astronomy, (3) chemistry, and/or (4) earth science. Together, these disciplines form what is known as the ‘physical sciences’.
Graduate-level physical science degrees could lead to a Masters or Doctoral degrees in one of the main branches of physical science or in one of their sub-fields. That said, it may also be possible to earn a generalized graduate degree in the physical sciences.
Some universities may offer a Master of Science (MS) in Physical Sciences. Participants might refine their interests through a concentration in chemistry, earth science, physics, or physical sciences for educators.
PhD in Physical Science programs are terminal research degrees. Students might study to develop breadth of knowledge in their chosen technical area, as well as study to gain expertise in a highly focused area within it.
DID YOU KNOW?
When asked about their education, 29% of Physicist Research Scientists said they had post-doctoral training, 23% a Doctoral degree, and 22% a Masters degree.i
For students who want to study at the graduate level, a certificate could provide an alternative to a full degree in physical science. Most certificates cover one subject in a few courses, and could provide stand-alone credentials and skills. Or, some schools might enable certificate graduates to transfer credits towards a Master's degree later.
For instance, students who pursue a Graduate Certificate in Geographic Information Science (GISc) might need to complete 12 credits which could take a year of full-time study. GISc is the basis of Geographic Information Systems (GIS). It is the general term for mapping technologies used by business, government and education.
After they complete compulsory courses in cartography, and study digital representation manipulation, and analysis of geographic data, participants might choose an elective. Electives might provide instruction in digital image processing, remote sensing, or a related topic.
The diversity of Physical Science Graduate Programs means that requirements for each degree (and university) is likely to vary. At the graduate levels, a Physical Science degree program often provides a very focused curriculum that could involve research, data analysis and written reports.
Some students may be drawn to basic research where they aim to expand scientific knowledge. These researchers might attempt to develop theories to better explain phenomena they have studied or observed.
Others might be more interested in applied research. Applied research uses the knowledge gained from basic research to effect new developments in areas related to one’s technical field. For instance, applied research in physics could prompt innovation in areas such as energy storage, electronics, communications, navigation, and medical technology.ii
Modern physical science is often concerned with measurement and observation. Students thus usually narrow down their interests to choose a program that lines up with an area they want to investigate. Then, they may study to test hypotheses for validity and accuracy.
Some graduate programs in Physical Science might also require students to complete an internship(s) where they perform their own experiments. Campus students might make use of on-site laboratories, while online physical science learners might make use of local resources.
To apply to a Masters program in the physical sciences, applicants may need a Bachelors degree and specific undergraduate preparation. PhD programs in the physical sciences might build on either a Bachelors or Masters degree. Refer to individual programs to check their admission requirements.
Astronomy Graduate Programs often study celestial objects such as stars, galaxies and planets. An astronomy major might concentrate in a subfield of physics or astronomy, such as condensed matter physics or cosmology. iii
Curriculums in astronomy programs could be a blend of astrophysical techniques, directed research and core courses. Compulsory courses could vary in each school, so use the list below as a generalized sample.
Many Masters in Astronomy degree programs aim to prepare students for physics-related research-and-development positions that do not require a PhD.i Some students might, for instance, want to pursue studies in pure physics, while others may want to discover how to apply the laws of physics to real-life situations.
A Master of Science (MS) in Astronomy is often a blend of compulsory courses and electives that could enable an individual to customize their studies. Particle and astrophysics, neuroscience, quantum and classical physics are some possible areas of emphasis.
Otherwise, astronomers typically need to complete a PhD if they aspire to research and academia.i To this end, some university astronomy departments may award a PhD in Astrophysics, which is a terminal research degree.
Since research is a key component, students might anchor their studies in areas such as theoretical and observational astrophysics, infrared, optical, and radio astronomy; or star and planet formation, just to name a few.
Chemistry Graduate Programs focus on the scientific study of how matter is composed and behaves. Many programs meld advanced theory with laboratory simulations and encompass the traditional branches of chemistry, which are:
Some universities offer programs that could lead to a Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MS) and/or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Students are often paired with an advisor based on their research interests. An advisor could provide guidance for students throughout their academic year(s), from course selection to research development.
It is common for a chemistry graduate student to choose an area of emphasis in a subfield, such as analytical chemistry or inorganic chemistry. For instance, an individual who wants to conduct research in research in the pharmaceutical industry might aim to develop a strong background in medicinal or organic chemistry.iv
While each university defines their degree requirements, a MS Chemistry program might help students develop general knowledge in the field. Also, MS students often must conduct original research in a specific area of chemistry, then present and defend their research in a thesis. MA candidates sometimes must complete more graduate courses, but may not need to complete a research thesis.
PhD in Chemistry programs award the highest research degree within an area of chemistry. Candidates might study to gain a firm grasp of the basic principles, experimental techniques and current theories of chemistry. Also, they work to investigate a specific topic for their dissertation. Their original thought aims to advance knowledge within their chosen discipline.
Geography Graduate Programs explore various aspects of the Earth, distribution of its land, features such as terrain or population density, and inhabitants. Most geography programs include courses in both physical and human geography, statistics or math, remote sensing, and geographical information systems, or GIS.v
Students might also want to build their degree plan around an area of emphasis. Cartography and geographical information systems (GIS) and Urban planning and applied geography are some potential choices.
Masters programs could lead to a Master of Arts (MA) in Geography, which may have a diverse and flexible curriculum. Students might be encouraged to take courses from other university departments. For instance, they might study conservation, environmental management, economic development and international studies.
Masters in Geography curriculums could have a theoretical foundation but might also explore computer applications. Some common courses that geography graduate students might study could include some of the examples below.
Some graduates might choose to pursue a PhD. PhD in Geography students could contribute thier original discoveries to an issue such as climatology, regional planning, water resources or other areas of their interest.
Geology Graduate Programs might explore the materials, processes and history of the earth. Students often conduct research to address modern challenges such as how to maintain a habitable planet for generations to come.
Masters in Geology programs often lead to a Master of Science (MS) degree in Geology or Geophysics. Students are encouraged to obtain broad points of view in the field. Therefore, curriculums could include courses in geology, geophysics, and environmental geosciences along with the other sciences and mathematics.
Some students might use the MS as a platform to a PhD in Geology or Geophysics. Research concentrations are often linked to active faculty projects within a university. PhD candidates might choose to anchor their inquiries in areas such as groundwater hydrology, earthquakes, environmental geoscience or another equally dynamic topic.
Meteorology Graduate Programs often discuss weather patterns, atmospheric motion and climate to examine how these conditions affect the earth and human activity. Students might learn to use complex instruments and computer programs to collect and analyze data.
Some university departments of Atmospheric Sciences offer graduate programs that lead students to a Master of Science (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Some Master of Science programs are intended to serve as precursors to the research doctorate, or a PhD.
Students interested in continued education might pursue a thesis MS to get started in independent research. Other students might choose a non-thesis option. This might involve more of an analysis of ideas already in place, rather than a full written report of original data.
In addition to advanced courses in meteorology, graduate students might study other disciplines such as oceanography and geophysics.vi Curriculums often stack courses in statistical methods onto classes in numerical weather prediction and climatology.
Coursework in remote sensing of the environment, by radar or satellite, may be required if a student has not taken these courses before. Check with the school you are considering for exact details.
Physics Graduate Programs explore, in various ways, the study of matter and its movement through space and time. Some physics graduate schools could be known for specific types of programs, such as condensed matter and materials physics.
At the graduate levels, students might work towards a Master of Science (MS), MS Teaching (Physics) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD). Some students might apply to a PhD program with an option to obtain a Masters in Physics degree.
MS in Physics curriculums could include a broad array of courses, and students might be required to submit a thesis to earn their degree. Some examples of possible topics of study are:
PhD Physics students often need to pass a comprehensive written exam after their formal course work is completed. After this they usually submit a research proposal and then, proceed to prepare and defend their dissertation. Physicists usually need a PhD to pursue careers in research and academia. i
Do you want to pursue an online physical science degree? Are you excited to take part in live, on-campus seminars, use your university’s instrumentation and research labs? There may be both campus and online degrees in your chosen physical science major.
Here’s how to search on this directory. Use the menu to choose your subject, program format, and degree level. Or fast-forward to look for graduate schools in each subject by location.
These filters will yield a set of sponsored Physical Sciences Graduate Programs to choose from. Contact school representatives who want to talk to you right here! It's easy, fast, and you can get matched to schools for free,
[i] onetonline.org/link/summary/19-2012.00 | [ii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/physicists-and-astronomers.htm#tab-2 | [iii] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/physicists-and-astronomers.htm#tab-4 | [iv] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/chemists-and-materials-scientists.htm#tab-4 | [v] .bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/geographers.htm#tab-4 | [vi] bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/atmospheric-scientists-including-meteorologists.htm#tab-4