What Are Physical Sciences?

Last Updated on August 28, 2023

There are physical sciences-geology and physics. Physical science is a branch of natural science that involves the study of non-living objects and observes the general principles. Some of the examples throughout this article will help you to learn about the significance of physical sciences and give you a clear idea on what are physical science majors.

Physical science, the systematic study of the inorganic world, as distinct from the study of the organic world, which is the province of biological science. Physical science is ordinarily thought of as consisting of four broad areas: astronomy, physics, chemistry, and the Earth sciences. Each of these is in turn divided into fields and subfields. This article discusses the historical development—with due attention to the scope, principal concerns, and methods—of the first three of these areas. The Earth sciences are discussed in a separate article.

The physical sciences is a broad field connecting many disciplines together through its focus on the earth and its components, from rocks and soils to the ocean and atmosphere. If these topics interest you, keep reading to learn more about becoming a physical scientist.

What Are Physical Sciences?


Physical science can be described as all of the following:

  • A branch of science (a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe).
    • A branch of natural science – natural science is a major branch of science that tries to explain and predict nature’s phenomena, based on empirical evidence. In natural science, hypotheses must be verified scientifically to be regarded as scientific theory. Validity, accuracy, and social mechanisms ensuring quality control, such as peer review and repeatability of findings, are amongst the criteria and methods used for this purpose. Natural science can be broken into two main branches: life science (for example biology) and physical science. Each of these branches, and all of their sub-branches, are referred to as natural sciences.

The Greek philosophers of the 6th and 5th centuries BCE abandoned the animism of the poets and explained the world in terms of ordinarily observable natural processes. These early philosophers posed the broad questions that still underlie science: How did the world order emerge from chaos? What is the origin of multitude and variety in the world? How can motion and change be accounted for? What is the underlying relation between form and matter? Greek philosophy answered these questions in terms that provided the framework for science for approximately 2,000 years.

Inside Physical Sciences

Physical science is a broad discipline concerned with natural phenomena of the earth, atmosphere and space. It encompasses a variety of fields that include astronomy, chemistry, geology, physics, atmospheric science and oceanography. Physical scientists are people who love studying the earth and all its processes and components. A physical science bachelor’s degree program prepares students for careers as science teachers, science writers or a range of scientific positions related to their areas of emphasis. It also serves as good preparation for graduate-level studies in any physical science discipline.

Branches of physical science

  • Physics – natural and physical science that involves the study of matter and its motion through space and time, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.
    • Branches of physics
  • Astronomy – study of celestial objects (such as stars, galaxies, planets, moons, asteroids, comets and nebulae), the physics, chemistry, and evolution of such objects, and phenomena that originate outside the atmosphere of Earth, including supernovae explosions, gamma ray bursts, and cosmic microwave background radiation. During the following centuries, however, the study of stars, galaxies, nebulas, and the interstellar medium became increasingly important. Celestial mechanics, the science of the motion of planets and other solid objects within the solar system, was the first testing ground for Newton’s laws of motion and thereby helped to establish the fundamental principles of classical (that is, pre-20th-century) physics. Astrophysics, the study of the physical properties of celestial bodies, arose during the 19th century and is closely connected with the determination of the chemical composition of those bodies. In the 20th century physics and astronomy became more intimately linked through cosmological theories, especially those based on the theory of relativity.
    • Branches of astronomy
  • Chemistry – studies the composition, structure, properties and change of matter. In this realm, chemistry deals with such topics as the properties of individual atoms, the manner in which atoms form chemical bonds in the formation of compounds, the interactions of substances through intermolecular forces to give matter its general properties, and the interactions between substances through chemical reactions to form different substances.
    • Branches of chemistry
  • Earth science – all-embracing term referring to the fields of science dealing with planet Earth. Earth science is the study of how the natural environment (ecosphere or Earth system) works and how it evolved to its current state. It includes the study of the atmosphere, hydrosphere, lithosphere, and biosphere.
    • Branches of Earth science

importance of physical science

Physical science can be defined as the study of non-living material which is present in the natural environment and its properties. It comprises four broad areas namely, Physics, Chemistry, Astronomy and Earth Sciences. Each of these areas has their own importance. But in this article, you will learn the importance of not just one, but all of the areas in general!

Intellectual value

The intellect can be developed through studying science. Apart from the development of the intellect, physical science also sets reasoning ability and logical reasoning in an individual. When we understand various concepts, it encourages us to analyse situations and make decisions wisely. The best way to inculcate all these values is to enrol in physics tuition. It will not only strengthen their scientific methods but also will lead to holistic development.

In particular, the sciences hones one’s skills in experimentation and exploration. Thus, we don’t stop at seeing things at face value, but constantly find new ways to discover more about the world.

Utilitarian value

It’s no secret that having in-depth science knowledge can be very useful. Physical science plays an important role in technology, and it is what we have to thank for our modern inventions and conveniences. For example, the telephones that we use to exchange messages and the trains we take are a product of science in some way or the other.

To the aspiring inventor, physics knowledge is of paramount importance. Solving many problems of the world will require at least some – or a lot – of knowledge in physical sciences.

Aesthetic value

Physics and art may seem like such polar opposites, but to those in the know, you’ll find that many of the greatest scientists also created masterful artworks, and many of the world’s most famous artists were also scientists. Indeed, science helps us appreciate art and nature, especially in things like symmetry and proportion. The nights that astronomers spent gazing at the night sky gave birth to not just astronomy’s brilliant discoveries but also marvellous creations of art. If you want to see art in a different light, diving into the physical sciences may just give you a newfound appreciation. Who knows, it could also inspire you to even create your own works!

Vocational value

Suppose you have chosen a profession which is somewhat associated with science then, physical science will help you inculcate vocation values and lead you to a path on which you will achieve professional success. Vocational values are formed directly or indirectly when a pupil is enabled to choose between the various areas

of science. For example, an economist can study the contribution of science for the economic development.

physical science careers

Having thorough information on all of your options can help you decide on a career faster. Here is salary information, job descriptions and more for 15 physical science jobs in a variety of disciplines:

1. Zookeeper

Average national salary: $34,420 per year

Primary duties: Zookeepers manage animal care and facility maintenance in zoos and other animal enclosures. The zookeeper cleans, sanitizes and organizes enclosures, feeds and grooms animals and provides education on animal behavior and zoo events for guests.

2. Research technician

Average national salary: $40,092 per year

Primary duties: Research technicians set up, operate and maintain lab equipment and maintain a safe laboratory environment. Technicians assist with research projects, record results, deliver lab test results and fill out reports.

3. Water resources engineer

Average national salary: $50,598 per year

Primary duties: Water resource engineers design and develop water management and treatment equipment and processes. Engineers also oversee the maintenance of existing water management and treatment systems, testing systems for vulnerabilities and resolving any issues.

4. Forensic science technician

Average national salary: $51,941 per year

Primary duties: Forensic science technicians help investigators collect evidence from crime scenes for analysis. They also work in a laboratory setting to assist with analyzing samples and delivering results. Forensic science technicians usually major in laboratory science or forensic science during undergraduate studies.

5. Surveyor

Average national salary: $63,026 per year

Primary duties: Surveyors study physical boundaries to determine property lines, airspace, water space boundaries and more. Surveyors also help cartographers determine boundaries for maps and measure the distance between specific reference points.

6. Urban planner

Average national salary: $70,139 per year

Primary duties: Urban planners help decide how neighborhoods and districts develop. They study the surrounding area to determine the logistics of development and the impact on the natural environment, then create proposals that abide by local regulations. They collaborate with other community groups to win support for their proposals and put them into action.

7. Field geologist

Average national salary: $71,020 per year

Primary duties: Field geologists analyze the effects of Earth’s tectonic plate movement and other physical factors such as volcanic activity. Geologists work to better understand these processes and the effects they have on humans, urban environments and the Earth as a whole.

8. Environmental scientist

Average national salary: $71,974 per year

Primary duties: Environmental scientists analyze samples from the environment to determine the impact of human activity on the Earth. They also perform research on how to minimize damage to the environment for new developments and industrial activity and create models of potential outcomes to suggested action or inaction.

9. Ecologist

Average national salary: $78,343 per year

Primary duties: Ecologists study the relationship between natural forces, geographic environments, plants and animals. Ecologists also study the impact of human activity on these environments and creatures and create plans to minimize damage and protect wildlife.

10. Biologist

Average national salary: $80,750 per year

Primary duties: Biologists study behavior, evolution, genetics and environmental concerns in living plants, animals and other organisms. Biologists can also become teachers or college-level educators and participate in research programs on specific topics within the discipline of biology.

11. Civil engineer

Average national salary: $87,124 per year

Primary duties: Civil engineers design and supervise civil construction projects and draw up blueprints. They usually manage public infrastructure projects like building and maintaining bridges, road ways and buildings. Civil engineers can also act as the supervisor for a given project, responsible for managing labor, obtaining materials and overseeing the construction process.

12. Structural engineer

Average national salary: $88,223 per year

Primary duties: Structural engineers design physical structures that have adequate strength, functionality and efficiency for their environment. The engineer oversees the design phases, draws blueprints and determines which materials to use. Structural engineers work in both the private and public sector to design structurally sound buildings, bridges and more.

13. Mechanical engineer

Average national salary: $93,255 per year

Primary duties: Mechanical engineers design, build and test mechanical devices. Mechanical engineers also help maintain complex mechanical devices and determine how to improve their overall function. This can include things like engines, turbines, appliances and more.

14. Nuclear engineer

Average national salary: $93,259 per year

Primary duties: Nuclear engineers develop systems for nuclear devices and energy creation. The nuclear engineer draws up blueprints and designs for containment systems, power production facilities and weapons development. They also help maintain nuclear energy systems and ensure the safety of each system.

15. Software engineer

Average national salary: $109,927 per year

Primary duties: Software engineers design, develop and update software and applications. Software engineers work closely with clients to determine their software needs and work with a development team to develop high-quality software and test for errors. A software engineer with a physical science background might develop programs to interpret data for a corporation or research institution.

Physical Sciences Degree Salary Potential

Recently graduated physical sciences students earned an average of $38,122 in 2017-2018. Earnings can range from as low as $11,100 to as high as $117,200. As you might expect, salaries for physical sciences graduates vary depending on the level of education that was acquired.

High Paying Careers for Physical Sciences Majors

Salaries for physical sciences graduates can vary widely by the occupation you choose as well. The following table shows the top 5 highest paying careers physical sciences grads often go into.

Occupation NameMedian Average Salary
Architectural and Engineering Managers$148,970
Natural Sciences Managers$139,680
Engineering Professors$113,680

types of physical science

The branches of science, also referred to as sciences, “scientific fields”, or “scientific disciplines,” are commonly divided into three major groups:

  • Formal sciences: the study of formal systems, such as those under the branches of logic and mathematics, which use an a priori, as opposed to empirical, methodology.
  • Natural sciences: the study of natural phenomena (including cosmological, geological, physical, chemical, and biological factors of the universe). Natural science can be divided into two main branches: physical science and life science (or biological science).
  • Social sciences: the study of human behavior in its social and cultural aspects

Natural and social sciences are empirical sciences, meaning that the knowledge must be based on observable phenomena and must be capable of being verified by other researchers working under the same conditions.This verifiability may well vary even within a scientific discipline

Natural, social, and formal science make up the fundamental sciences, which form the basis of interdisciplinary and applied sciences such as engineering and medicine. Specialized scientific disciplines that exist in multiple categories may include parts of other scientific disciplines but often possess their own terminologies and expertises.

The formal sciences are the branches of science that are concerned with formal systems, such as logic, mathematics, theoretical computer science, information theory, systems theory, decision theory, statistics.

Unlike other branches, the formal sciences are not concerned with the validity of theories based on observations in the real world (empirical knowledge), but rather with the properties of formal systems based on definitions and rules. Hence there is disagreement on whether the formal sciences actually constitute a science. Methods of the formal sciences are, however, essential to the construction and testing of scientific models dealing with observable reality and major advances in formal sciences have often enabled major advances in the empirical sciences.

Natural science is a branch of science concerned with the description, prediction, and understanding of natural phenomena, based on empirical evidence from observation and experimentation. Mechanisms such as peer review and repeatability of findings are used to try to ensure the validity of scientific advances.

Natural science can be divided into two main branches: life science and physical science. Life science is alternatively known as biology, and physical science is subdivided into branches: physics, chemistry, astronomy and Earth science. These branches of natural science may be further divided into more specialized branches (also known as fields)

Social science is the branch of science devoted to the study of societies and the relationships among individuals within those societies. The term was formerly used to refer to the field of sociology, the original “science of society”, established in the 19th century. In addition to sociology, it now encompasses a wide array of academic disciplines, including anthropology, archaeology, economics, human geography, linguistics, political science, and psychology.

Positivist social scientists use methods resembling those of the natural sciences as tools for understanding society, and so define science in its stricter modern sense. Interpretivist social scientists, by contrast, may use social critique or symbolic interpretation rather than constructing empirically falsifiable theories, and thus treat science in its broader sense. In modern academic practice, researchers are often eclectic, using multiple methodologies (for instance, by combining both quantitative and qualitative research). The term “social research” has also acquired a degree of autonomy as practitioners from various disciplines share in its aims and methods.

physical science subjects

Universities and colleges in the UK are offering courses in the following subject areas:

  • Chemistry
  • Materials science
  • Physics
  • Forensic and archaeological sciences
  • Astronomy
  • Geology
  • Science of aquatic and terrestrial environments
  • Physical geographical sciences

There are a broad range of degree courses available, with many options to combine different subjects together. While many degrees with the same subject title will offer similar modules with a choice of topics, it is important to be aware that there is no national curriculum at this level, so courses can vary significantly.

 Subject combinations and available course options include:

  • single, joint, and multiple subject combinations
  • full-time, part-time and flexible study options as well as courses with a placement (sandwich courses)
  • qualifications ranging from BA/BSc (Hons) and MSci degrees through to HND, HNC and Foundation Certificates

If you are considering taking a joint or combined degree, it would be advisable to consider any potential impact such a choice may have on any career goals.

A number of universities offer four year undergraduate or integrated masters degrees in subjects such as geology (MGEOL/MSci)/, physics (MPhys /MSci) and chemistry (MChem/ MSci). The course content is likely to be the same for the first two years of a BSc at the same university and then beyond will have a broader range of taught units and a larger piece of research.

Entry requirements

A levels – To get on to a physics related degree, you will usually require at least two A levels including physics and maths.

For chemistry degrees, you will need chemistry A level, with some universities preferring a second science subject.

Geography related degrees generally require A level geography, though some will accept a related subject (for example, sociology, world development, geology, environmental science). Some geology degrees require two science related A levels.

Entry requirements in general range from BCC to AAA, with the universities and colleges most commonly asking for ABB.

In addition to the different A level requirements above, you will also need five GCSEs (A-C) including science, English, and maths.

A few course providers may use additional methods to support selection, for example, you may be asked to complete an online test to assess your numerical skills and how you apply your knowledge to chemical problems.

Scottish Highers – Entry requirements for Highers (the most common qualification) range from ABBB to AAAAB, with universities or colleges most frequently requiring AABBB. Occasionally, universities ask for Advanced Highers to supplement Highers. If Advanced Highers are requested, universities or colleges typically ask for ABB.

Universities are looking for:

  • evidence that you are well informed about the subject and have strong interest/motivation, which could be demonstrated by:
    • relevant work experience/shadowing or voluntary work (although it is recognised this is more difficult for some subject areas such as physics)
    • additional reading and research of particular topics
    • membership of related societies/clubs
  • a range of interests outside of academic study
  • a well written statement that demonstrates your ability to write persuasive statements
  • the ability to work individually and in teams

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