Philosophy is today typically regarded as a distinct activity from science, though the activities were not always distinguished in this fashion, with science considered a "branch" of philosophy rather than opposed to it, prior to modernity. Philosophers aim to provide a comprehensive understanding of fundamental aspects of reality and experience, often pursuing inquiries with conceptual, rather than empirical, methods. Natural scientific research is usually also distinguished from inquiry in the humanities more generally, and often with inquiry in the social sciences and mathematics on various grounds, although these distinctions may be controversial.
When science is done with a goal toward practical utility, it is called applied science. An applied scientist may not be designing something in particular, but rather is conducting research with the aim of developing new technologies and practical methods. When science seeks to answer questions about fundamental aspects of reality it is sometimes called natural philosophy, as it was generally known before the 19th century.
Science and technology have continually modified human existence through the engineering process. As a profession the scientist of today is widely recognized. Scientists include theoreticians who mainly develop new models to explain existing data and predict new results, and experimentalists who mainly test models by making measurements — though in practice the division between these activities is not clear-cut, and many scientists perform both tasks.
There is a continuum from the most theoretical to the most empirical scientists with no distinct boundaries. In terms of personality, interests, training and professional activity, there is little difference between applied mathematicians and theoretical physicists.
Scientists can be motivated in several ways. Many have a desire to understand why the world is as we see it and how it came to be. They exhibit a strong curiosity about reality. Other motivations are recognition by their peers and prestige, or the desire to apply scientific knowledge for the benefit of people's health, the nations, the world, nature or industries (academic scientist and industrial scientist). Scientists tend to be less motivated by direct financial reward for their work than other careers. As a result, scientific researchers often accept lower average salaries when compared with many other professions which require a similar amount of training and qualification.
The number of scientists is vastly different from country to country. For instance, there are only 4 full-time scientists per 10,000 workers in India while this number is 79 for the United Kingdom and the United States.
According to the United States National Science Foundation 4.7 million people with science degrees worked in the United States in 2015, across all disciplines and employment sectors. The figure included twice as many men as women. Of that total, 17% worked in academia, that is, at universities and undergraduate institutions, and men held 53% of those positions. 5% of scientists worked for the federal government and about 3.5% were self-employed. Of the latter two groups, two-thirds were men. 59% of US scientists were employed in industry or business, and another 6% worked in non-profit positions.