The 3 Branches of Science and Their Career Applications

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published June 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Science is a broad career field with many specialties and areas of study. The three main branches of science are physical science, earth science and life science, and they each have different career applications. If you're interested in pursuing a career in science, understanding the three main branches of science can help you decide which science career path is best for you. In this article, we explain the three main branches of science and their career applications.

Related: What Is a Scientist? Definition and Types of Scientists

What are the 3 main branches of science?

Science is a field of work that involves studying the organic and inorganic matter of the earth and the universe. There are three main branches of science: physical science, earth science and life science. Each of the three branches of science has its own career applications. Some career paths, like teaching, span across all branches of science.

Many people choose to pursue careers in science because they're curious about how the earth and the universe work, they want to contribute to scientific research and they want to help other people understand science and improve their lives. Pursuing a career in science can also enable you to keep learning and discovering new things throughout your entire career. Because there are so many sub-branches within the three main branches, working in science can suit a variety of different interests and skill sets. The field of science can also contain many career options outside a laboratory.

Related: 10 Fascinating Science Careers

What is physical science?

Physical science is the branch of science that deals with inorganic materials, which are materials that are not living. People who work in the field of physical science can uncover new discoveries about how matter works and other universal phenomena. There are several types of physical science, including physics, astronomy and chemistry. There are many ways that you can use physical science in a career. Some common careers involving physical science are:

  • Physicist: Physicists are responsible for creating and testing theories in physics. They often perform experiments and apply physics skills to creating scientific equipment.

  • Quantum physicist: Quantum physicists are scientists who specialize in quantum physics, which involves the behavior of the universe at an atomic and subatomic scale. Quantum physicists often work with new scientific theories that have never been studied before.

  • Chemist: Chemists are scientists who conduct experiments on molecular matter. They often test and create different chemicals for a variety of purposes. There are many specialties within chemistry, including biochemistry, analytical chemistry, geochemistry and more.

  • Astronomer: Astronomers are scientists who study the universe outside of earth, including galaxies, planets and stars. Astronomers often use satellites to take photographs of space objects and then analyze photographs to learn more about the universe. They can also write computer programs and equations to better understand space phenomena.

  • Cosmologist: Cosmologists are scientists who study the origins of the universe, the relationship between space and time and other universal properties.

  • Computer scientist: Computer scientists can also benefit from a physics background. Computer scientists are responsible for finding ways to use computers to solve problems.

Related: 23 Types of Chemistry (Plus Tips for Choosing a Specialty)

What is earth science?

Earth science is a field of natural science that deals with the materials of the earth and its atmosphere. People who work in earth science can contribute to the societal understanding of the earth and how humans can protect it. There are many earth science types and career applications. Some types of earth science include meteorology, geology, oceanography and environmental science. Earth science is a popular career field, and it contains many career options, including:

  • Meteorologist: Meteorologists are responsible for analyzing the weather and preparing weather forecasts. They may broadcast their weather forecasts on television news or online video.

  • Land planners: Land planners can also use knowledge of earth science. Land planners are responsible for planning how to regulate and develop the land.

  • Oceanographer: Oceanographers are scientists who study the ocean, including ocean ecosystems, marine life and many other parts of the ocean.

  • Geologist: Geologists are scientists who study rocks and other solid parts of the earth and other planets. Geologists often study geology-related natural disasters like mudslides and earthquakes.

  • Paleontologist: Paleontologists are scientists who study the earth's history by examining fossils. Paleontologists can help further people's understanding of the natural history of the earth.

  • Environmental scientist: Environmental scientists are concerned with the earth's environment. They can use knowledge of earth science to come up with ways to protect the health of the earth and the health of humans.

Related: 12 Well-Paying Environmental Science Careers

What is life science?

Life science is a branch of science that involves the study of organic things, which are things that are living. The field of life science can help people understand the world, including plants, animals and human biology. Life science is a broad field with many sub-branches and career applications: There are several sub-branches of life science, including biology, ecology and agriculture. Life science is applicable to many careers, especially in the medical field. Some careers that involve life science include:

  • Marine biologist: Marine biologists are scientists who study marine life. There are many marine biology specialties, including marine mammalogy, marine microbiology and fishery biology.

  • Pharmacologist: Pharmacologists are scientists who study and develop medications to treat diseases. They are responsible for testing substances and drugs to determine their safety. Typically, pharmacologists have a biology background.

  • Forensic scientist: Forensic scientists are responsible for analyzing crime scenes and evidence to help solve crimes. Often, forensic scientists examine evidence in laboratories. They can study DNA to identify crime suspects.

  • Agricultural scientist: Agricultural scientists study and conduct experiments related to crops and farm animals to help improve the industry of farming. Agricultural scientists can use biology skills and knowledge to conduct experiments and create new agricultural methods.

  • Virologist: Virologists are scientists who study viruses to develop methods to prevent virus infections and outbreaks. Virologists typically have a biology background.

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