# A physicists's paycheck (need some explanations)

1. May 28, 2010

### Elbobo

So, everyone says physicists are usually poor (unless they are incredibly brilliant or lucky). Yet:

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes192012.htm

Those numbers seem incredibly high. I understand they include medical physicists in there (I think?), but for a mean value that includes the lower-income types of physicists, that does not seem "poor" at all. Compare to mechanical engineers (who are, according to hype, supposed to be living richer):

http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes172141.htm

Can someone explain to me why the salaries in the first link are so high? Does the average physicist really make that much money without finding some groundbreaking discovery? I'd really like to go into physics as a career, but, at this point, not enough to sacrifice the supposed higher-living style of an engineer. And please don't turn this thread into a "Do what you love" discussion. I've heard it enough.

Last edited by a moderator: Apr 25, 2017
2. May 28, 2010

### Codyt

This is interesting, that is a pretty large gap. I am also looking into a career as either a physicist or a mechanical engineer. I would love both of them, but with those numbers a physicist looks a lot more appealing.

3. May 28, 2010

A couple thoughts...

Many people who get degrees in physics (at any level) dont actually become 'professional physicists'. There is alot of different opinions on who is a 'physicist'. In my opinion most people who have physics degrees are not 'physicists' but are teachers, engineers, business men etc. How you define a 'physicist' will greatly change that mean annual wage.

Secondly, there is just as much diversity in what people consider 'poor' and what people consider a 'decent wage'. These opinions are far from objective. I find that people usually define poor as anything less than the standard of living they were raised with and people define rich as anything more than the standard of living they were raised with. Personally, I wouldnt consider myself poor if I were making 30-40k. If I made 60k or more, I would consider myself rich. When I finish my PhD in physics I expect to make something in that range, 40-60k.

In the end, there are no starving physicists.

4. May 28, 2010