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Careers available with a Physics degree

  1. Mar 18, 2013 #1
    Hi guys,

    I was wondering what career paths there are for people that are planning to do a degree in physics. My friend's son (13) is brilliant at physics but is put off by the fact that he doesn't know of any jobs (other than a teacher) that would be suited to a degree in physics.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 18, 2013 #2
    Note that being a "Physicist" is much more than being a teacher. In addition to teaching, university physicists do research (and also administration duties). Physicists at national labs and in industry do not have to teach. These careers generally require a PhD. Otherwise engineering is a great way to put physics ability to use and the career prospects are more diverse and less competitive than with physics.
  4. Mar 18, 2013 #3
    Agree with this completely. It is really really hard to get a job as a full-time physicist at a National Lab or in industry (or in a University for that matter). It is much easier to have a successful career as an engineer, and a good way to apply physics knowledge.
  5. Mar 18, 2013 #4
    Thanks guys!
  6. Mar 19, 2013 #5
    Some physics grad students and I made a short list of non-academic jobs which have been known to hire people with physics undergrad or grad degrees:

    • systems engineer or similar (often aerospace or automotive)
    • biophysics or computational chemistry (often medical/drug companies)
    • cryptographer or signal analyst (NSA,CIA,DoD,DIA, other government acronyms)
    • actuary or quantitative analyst (usually insurance or finance)
    • statistician or data scientist (variety of industries, e.g. medical, advertising)
    • numerical programmer (engineering, finance, various software companies)
    • patent examiner or patent attorney (USPTO, law firms, may also require a JD)
    • medical physicist (may also require an MD)

    This list oversimplifies and/or misses lots of things, but it's a start.
  7. Mar 20, 2013 #6
    I dont think most of those positions would be available to a physics BS holder unless they had extra non-physics classes, experience or special circumstances.

    Cryptographer with a physics BS?
  8. Mar 20, 2013 #7
    Medical physicists do not hold MD degrees.

    Medical physics is a profession separate from that of a physician, and training takes place in formal medical physics programs that grant M.S. or Ph.D. degrees, typically followed by clinical residencies.
  9. Mar 20, 2013 #8
    NSA recruits engineering and comp-sci majors as signal analysts and all majors as cryptanalysts, so I'd be surprised if they don't hire physics majors! That said, it's certainly true that some careers in the listed categories prefer or require graduate degrees and/or additional knowledge besides physics.

    Oops... I think our list accidentally conflated medical physicist with physics-related MD jobs like radiologists. Maybe it's more accurate to list "medical physicist" and "go to medical school after your physics degree" as two separate items.
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