What Online Graduate Degree Programs Are Available in the Natural Sciences?
Natural science pertains to the sciences that study the world and how it works. These includes physics, chemistry, earth science and biology. Through these sciences, you can develop solutions to disease, the depletion of natural resources and other problems plaguing mankind. Online master’s degree programs are available in chemistry, biology, physics, earth science and natural science education. Online doctoral programs are available in physics, but they’re very rare.
What Will I Learn?
Master’s-level biology programs cover plants and animals from various ecosystems. You could explore current issues in biology, including their ethical and historical significance. You may also study human biology, genetics, diseases, cancer, evolution and sexual selection. Master’s programs in earth sciences cover topics like the Earth’s formation and history, meteorology and weather patterns, geology and the environment. You’ll also study planet structure, galaxies and other topics related to astronomy.
Master’s programs in natural science education include courses in physics, chemistry and biology, with experimental work and research required in each field. Some programs focus on a specific natural science, and courses could include concepts in nutrition, evolution and teaching methods. Master’s programs in chemistry include courses in organic and inorganic chemistry, biochemistry and polymer chemistry. Your classes could also include topics in molecular genetics, cell structure, medicinal chemistry and virology.
Conducting research and writing a thesis are major program components.
Online physics programs are the least common, but both master’s and doctoral programs are available in a hybrid format that combines online coursework and practical, on-campus requirements. Both master’s and doctoral courses cover concepts in quantum physics, magnetism and atomics. Both levels have research and thesis requirements.
How Do Online Programs Work?
Science programs, especially natural science programs, use several labs and other hands-on learning techniques. Schools that offer online programs often have you complete these requirements at another facility or on campus during summer or semester residencies. Online courses use text-based or video lectures to explain chemical reactions.
What Career Opportunities Can I Pursue?
You can pursue a position as a natural science manager, which involves overseeing the work completed by other scientists. You can also seek a science-related position in the public or private sector. Master’s degree programs in natural science education can lead to elementary and secondary school teaching positions. You may also choose to pursue a Ph.D. in your field, which may open up further opportunities for you to conduct your own research.
Scientists by nature are inquisitive and dedicated to understanding and solving problems in the physical world. Scientists generally specialize in a particular area of the natural sciences, which include biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, oceanography, and other branches of science concerned with the natural world. Emerging fields in the sciences harness new technologies and discoveries to push the envelope further in fields such as biotechnology or green technology.
A science degree program is made up of both lecture and laboratory classes. In lecture classes, students learn about the history of their discipline as well as important theoretical principles and discoveries. Laboratory classes may ask students to recreate classic scientific experiments or conduct their own investigations to solve new problems.
Most science degrees are awarded at the bachelor’s degree level or higher, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports. A 2009 NCES study found that associate degrees made up only 2 to 9 percent (depending on the field) of degrees in biological/agricultural sciences, physical sciences, mathematics and engineering in 2005-2006.
The same study found that about 15 percent of all bachelor’s degree students in 2006 were enrolled in a science, technology, engineering or mathematics (STEM) field.
With a bachelor’s degree in science, students can pursue a number of jobs, including work as a science technician or laboratory assistant. To advance in the sciences, graduate training is generally required. The NCES reports that in 2007-2008, biological and biomedical sciences was the fourth most popular field for doctoral degree students.
That same field was far less common for master’s degree students, although health professions and related clinical sciences–a field that may be attractive to students with a bachelor’s degree in science–was the third-most popular field at the master’s degree level.
Online science degree programs
By nature, science is a hands-on discipline, and online laboratories are becoming recognized as a promising tool in the sciences, according to the Sloan Consortium, a non-profit organization dedicated to researching and improving online education.
A 2007 study in the Journal of Asynchronous Learning Networks looked at teaching methods in online science classes and found that teachers made wide use of online discussion tools, and that students were asked to analyze data and draw conclusions from evidence much as students in a brick-and-mortar classroom would. The same study reported that students earning online degrees in science may be asked to articulate and reflect upon scientific theories more than their counterparts in the classroom, leading to a deeper understanding of underlying principles.
Some online degrees in science combine lecture classes via the Internet with laboratory work in a campus setting.
Where scientists work
Scientists who work in the private sector are often employed in research and development positions for private industries. Research and development in physical, engineering and life sciences account for about 90 percent of the jobs in science, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The states of California, Massachusetts, New York, New Jersey, Illinois, Maryland and Pennsylvania employ more than half of all scientists who work in research and development.
In the public sector, scientists may work as researchers at universities or government facilities such as the National Institutes of Health or NASA.
Ongoing training in sciences and management at the post-graduate level can prepare scientists for advancement. Some 20 percent of scientists are employed in management, business and financial operations roles for their industry.
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