What is a Natural Sciences Major and is it Right for Me?

Interested in science but not sure exactly what you’d like to study? Do you like the idea of learning about a large number of science-related topics at once? Want a major that can be applicable to the real world and help you solve challenges people encounter every day? If so, a natural sciences major may be for you.

What is a natural sciences major?

How does majoring in natural sciences differ from majoring in a specific type of science (such as biology, chemistry, physics, astronomy, geology or microbiology)? Natural sciences programs are usually interdisciplinary, covering several sciences at once.

Additionally, natural sciences majors don’t just learn in the classroom; many work in labs or do on-the-ground work. Many natural sciences departments also require their majors to take on a research project (like a capstone or thesis) during the last year or two of college as a way to synthesize everything they’ve learned and apply it to a particular problem or area of study.

Another crucial consideration is what you hope to do after college. Many natural sciences majors go on to graduate school to receive a Masters, Ph.D. or other certification, so you’ll have to think about whether you’d be interested in going to grad school if your specific area of study strongly encourages or requires more schooling.

Is it right for me?

Think this major may be for you? Here are some key questions to ask yourself.

  • Do I have strong math and science skills? Am I confident that I could perform well in a number of different science-related subject areas like biology, physics and chemistry?
  • Am I ready to concentrate, minor or double major in another subject (most likely science-related) in addition to a broader natural sciences degree?
  • Am I willing to spend extra time taking lab classes and also working in a lab over the course of my college years
  • Do I like spending large amounts of time collecting and interpreting data? Am I okay with spending summers or other school breaks conducting research?
  • Am I interested in ending my college career with a research project like a capstone or thesis?

What can I do with a natural sciences degree?

Natural sciences majors use their degree as a springboard into a number of different fields. Some go into research in a particular area of science, while others may choose a health- or medicine-related track.

Once armed with a natural sciences degree, graduates have gone on to any number of science-related careers including:

  • physician assistants
  • doctors
  • nurses
  • therapists
  • educators
  • technical writers
  • engineers
  • chemical or material scientists
  • professors
  • forensic science technicians
  • surveyors
  • biologists
  • … and more

What do people who majored in natural sciences earn?

While you may need to attend graduate school to maximize your salary, natural sciences majors tend to do well financially after graduation. For example, a senior geologist makes a median salary of $93,000, and a clinical data manager can make a salary of well over $100,000.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What Types of Skills Are Best for a Natural Sciences Major? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How Do I Get a Job in Another City or State?

What Types of Skills Are Best for a Natural Sciences Major?

Do you love the sciences but aren’t sure what goes into being an amazing natural sciences major? Here are the top three skills you need to have to thrive in the major and feel confident heading into the workforce after graduation.

Strong math and science skills

It sounds obvious, but it bears discussion: Natural sciences majors need to have incredibly robust math and science skills to succeed in this major. Your course of study will depend on which science or sciences you focus on, but regardless of your concentration you’ll be spending a lot of time in science and math classes, going to help sessions and working in a lab.

Lab skills

Having strong math and science skills doesn’t immediately translate into stellar lab skills. Lab technique is gained over time and requires the ability to be meticulous and detail-oriented. Additionally, “lab technique” isn’t just how you perform in a physical laboratory; it covers field work, sample and data collection and everything else that has to do with actual experimentation. The bottom line? You’ll need to be willing to take your time and make sure your results are accurate no matter what you’re studying.

Project management skills

Typically students who major in natural sciences are working on at least one bigger project at any given time, and it’s not enough just to know the science behind the experiments; it’s just as important to know how to run an efficient, organized and accurate set of experiments. Thus, natural sciences majors need to know how to manage their time and also any lab work and writeups they’re doing. For example, if you’re working on a major research project that includes other peers, how do you organize yourselves? How will you write your report? How will you schedule and prioritize experiments?

Having strong project management and research skills is one of the key ways to ensure that you’ll be able to handle all of the requirements of this major from completing lab work to keeping group projects organized.

Next, learn more about this college major such as Philosophy and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as How to Make Your Resume Stand Out.

Types of Internships for Natural Sciences Majors

A natural sciences major is a great opportunity to learn about the sciences while also developing your skills. If you’re a natural sciences major, you may be wondering about the best way to develop these skills while also discovering career paths related to your major. Since the field itself is fairly broad, an internship is one of the best ways to explore potential roles while gaining hands-on experience.

Here are some of the most common internships for natural sciences majors.

Education intern

An education internship prepares you for a career as a teacher or educational consultant in the natural sciences. You might work as an administrative intern at a school, supporting the staff by organizing events, updating databases and sending out emails. You might also work as a teaching assistant where you’ll be preparing teaching materials and presentations while helping teachers in a classroom setting. Educational internship opportunities can be also be found at ed-tech companies. In this type internship, you’ll likely be producing content or helping to design an educational curriculum.

Research intern

Research internships are a great way to get increased exposure to the natural sciences field, especially if you’re a pre-med student or if you’re considering pursuing an advanced degree. You can work as a research assistant at a university lab, join a specialized summer research program, apply to be a student trainee for the U.S. federal government (such as the Pathways Program) or work for a private research firm. This type of internship will give you the opportunity to assist with important research while also learning about the technicalities and ethics involved.

Pre-med intern

Another common type of internship is a pre-med internship. Hospitals and universities frequently have summer programs for students working toward pre-med requirements, giving them an overview of a medical environment and its various responsibilities. From observing different departments to shadowing doctors as they attend to patients, this type of internship will orient you to a healthcare setting while also giving you valuable hands-on experience.

Data science intern

Natural sciences majors can also branch out into data science, a field that involves making meaningful connections between data sets. As a data science intern, you’ll gain valuable experience with large data systems while also learning how data informs business decisions. Whether you intern with a start-up or a large corporation, this type of internship offers great exposure to how science can affect all types of businesses and company operations.

Environmental science intern

Environmental science internships give natural sciences majors an understanding of careers within the field of environmental science. From developing an educational curriculum to helping with the creation of initiatives focused on environmental protection, this type of internship will help you learn more about the field while also showing you how you can really make an impact.

Science journalism intern

A science journalism or writing internship at a scientific publication trains you to report recent scientific developments and generate ideas for other science-based articles. During this type of internship, you’ll be mentored by a staff of writers and editors, and in most cases considered an active member of the team. It’s a great opportunity to learn about science writing and to stay ahead of the latest science news.

From working in a lab to exploring the environmental sciences, a natural sciences internship is a wonderful opportunity to find out what you’re passionate about and to develop the skills you need to succeed in your chosen field.

Next, learn more about this college major such as What is a Natural Sciences Major and is it Right for Me? and get more career tips for internships and entry-level jobs such as When to Start Applying for a Summer Internship.