|What is this job like?||Back to Top|
Physicists study the natural world, from the tiniest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies. They do experiments to discover the laws of nature. They study what things are made of (matter) and how things behave. They also learn about energy, studying how it changes from one form to another.
Some physicists focus on theories. They ask bigger questions about the world around them. They might ask what causes gravity, for example, or what the shape and size of the universe is. Then, they use observation and mathematics to find the answers.
Many physicists do experiments. Some, for example, cause collisions between atoms in an accelerator to break them apart or fuse them together. They may also look for clues about what particles come out of atoms when they split.
Other physicists apply theories to practical problems. They might create advanced materials, new electronic and optical devices, or medical equipment.
Physicists also design research equipment. Some of this equipment is used in surprising ways. For example, the first laser was created for research, but people later discovered that lasers could be used in surgery as well.
Most physicists work in research and development. Some do basic research to increase knowledge. Others do applied research. They take what is learned in basic research and use it to create new devices, products, and processes.
Astronomy is sometimes considered a part of physics. Astronomers study the stars, planets, and other parts of the universe.
Physicists often work regular hours in labs and offices. At times, they may work long or irregular hours doing research. They may travel to use special equipment in other places.
|How do you get ready?||Back to Top|
You usually need a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) to work as a physicist. A doctoral degree takes several years of graduate school to complete. People who want permanent jobs as researchers at universities and government labs need even more training. Many Ph.D. holders will teach at colleges or universities in addition to performing research.
People with only a master's degree in physics often get jobs in manufacturing or in research and development. Some teach in high schools or at 2-year colleges.
Those with only a bachelor's degree often work as technicians or research assistants. Some may be able to work in applied research jobs in private industry or in non-research positions in the government. Some become science teachers in middle schools or high schools.
If you want to be a physicist, you should study math and science. You must be good at solving problems. And you should be curious about the world around you.
Physicists must be very motivated. Speaking and writing abilities are also important. Sometimes, physicists have to write research papers or proposals. And some physicists share ideas while working on a team.
|How much does this job pay?||Back to Top|
In May 2008, physicists had an average yearly wage of $106,440.
|How many jobs are there?||Back to Top|
There were about 15,600 physicist jobs in 2008. About 29 percent of these jobs were research positions in scientific firms. Another 21 percent worked for the Federal Government. Others worked in colleges and universities, usually in research. Some were on the faculty at colleges and universities.
Physicists and astronomers worked in all parts of the country. Most worked in areas that had universities or large research and development laboratories.
|What about the future?||Back to Top|
Employment of physicists is expected to grow faster than the average for all occupations through 2018. The limited amount of money to do research means that physicists will have to compete for research jobs. But there will continue to be a need for people with physics knowledge to work with computers and in other sciences.
|Are there other jobs like this?||Back to Top|
|Where can you find more information?||Back to Top|
More BLS information about physicists and astronomers can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook. The Handbook also shows where to find out even more about this job.
Last Modified Date: March 19, 2010