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Job Skills How to work on weapons research for a government Agency?

  1. Jul 15, 2016 #1
    And by weapons I mean the new revolutional weapons, like lasers, plasma, bio-weapons, EMP, drones....
    Can a physicist work on these Projects?
    Do you need a PhD?
    How do they employ scientists? You just ask for job or do they ask and find you?
    Is there a competition?
    What degree is recommended? Is nuclear/plasma/particle physics good?
    Do you know one of these projects and an agency that is working on It?
    How much do they pay?

    I'm just curious to know who works on this stuff and how do they got there
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 15, 2016 #2
    Physicists can work on these projects, along side with engineers and computer scientists.
    Perhaps >50 % have Ph D's these days, but not everyone does.
    You need to look at and apply from USAjobs website? (not sure ? maybe job fairs?). (You know of any employer where they ask and find you?: uncommon)
    Competition is as tough as getting any other professional employment, (Very tough).
    Nuclear, plasma, particle good., so is biophysics, condensed matter, courses in fluid dynamics, aerodynamics, robotics, etc. The govt agencies are looking for a jack of all trades, who knows how to learn and apply techniques to anything. Your specific background may not be exercised in your work assignments.
    Do not know of any specific projects ,(See USAjobs)
    Pay and benefits are (probably) on par with physicists in industrial labs. Physicists may get less than engineers and computer scientists though.
  4. Jul 17, 2016 #3
    I also want to work in a national lab but more so in the field of renewable energy. I posted to follow the feed of answers on this post.
  5. Jul 19, 2016 #4


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    Much of this kind of work work is being carried out by contractors (such as Lockheed and Northrup Grumman) using both government research funds and internal R&D investment. Some of the science underlying these technologies is being worked on in some of the National Labs.

    1. You don't need a PhD although if you don't have one most likely you'll be working for someone who does. I have a PhD and my boss doesn't so there are exceptions (I don't work in weapons design).

    2. Yes, they employ scientists. You hear about openings through your contact network, job fairs, and looking on websites. They won't "find you" unless you are already well known and have specific capabilities they need for a project (this is rare). They also employ engineers and computer professionals. In my experience in working projects similar to what you're talking about (but not military related) I would say the split is 1/3 scientist, 2/3 engineer. There aren't many technicians anymore in R&D although they can still be found in construction and maintenance.

    3. A Ph.D. is a good idea, particularly if you want to be a scientist. The best degree depends on the technology you'd be researching or developing. For example, a laser or accelerator physicist might be a better fit for a particle beam weapon than a condensed matter physicist. If you want to be an engineer you can be more flexible.

    4. If you're working for a National Lab, it is one of the best jobs for a physicist (in my opinion). Engineers in the labs are somewhat underpaid compared to what they could make in industry but that actually makes it easier to get a job there if you want it. If it is important to you to be top dog where you work, you should consider being a physicist.

    You'll have to google what companies are working on what technologies. Isn't hard to find...
  6. Jul 24, 2016 #5
    weapons research and renewable energy do not exactly go together. You may need to make a choice.
  7. Jul 24, 2016 #6
    Uh the OP and I had different responses. He/she wanted to do weapons research and I wanted to do renewable energy.
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