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Physics I'm thinking about going into physics. What are career opportunities?

  1. Oct 5, 2007 #1
    I'm thinking about going into physics, but I was wondering what kind of careers will physics lead me to.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 5, 2007 #2
    I wasn't to specific on purpose. I don't know what area interests me the most so right now I'm obviously just going through the basics.
  4. Oct 5, 2007 #3


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    Some general areas:

    Academic jobs - do a degree, do a PhD, do a few post docs and try and get a permanent academic post. Means you can do physics all the time, pay isn't bad. But have to deal with academics - need to find a promising field and stay at the front.

    Teaching - need at least a degree and in some countries an extra teaching quallification. There is a shortage of physics teachers so many countries will repay tutition - also means rapid promotion. But you have to work with kids!

    Industry - physics is the basis of most engineering, from microchip design to missiles. Most big companies will have specialist physicists. In smaller companies physics is good choice since you are asumed to be smart and practical so a good hire for any general technical jobs.

    City/Wall Street - best pay is probably for physicists working as quants (mathematical analysts) in banks/financial companies.

    IT - a lot of programming jobs, again you are assumed to be smart.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 5, 2007
  5. Oct 5, 2007 #4
    I'd like to add a bit to mgb_phys excellent post.

    Government - While it takes a bit of practice to make sense of the government job listings, there are always a fair number of physics jobs hiring. These range in duties from engineering work to scientific research, tend to pay a bit less than your other options, but can lead to lengthy careers.

    Military & Civilian Military - The military hires physicists now and then. In the US it is primarily the Navy and Air Force that do so. Personally I find it hard to spot a great research job among their duties, but they have lots of neat engineering work available. Civilian military groups also hire physicists with some regularity, and again job duties range from research to engineering.

    I'd like to comment on one item in mgb_phys post. My research has confirmed that Wall Street hires physicsts as quants, but the number of hires is extremely small and varies wildly over time. I believe a good argument can be made that the number of hires for this work in the 90's was a bit of a fad. Further, as mathematics and business departments add classes and majors addressing the duties quants perform the demand for people who haven't had that particular education is dwindling. While it deserves its place on a list of things physicists do today, I would warn against going into physics as a method of getting that job, because it may not stay on that list for long.
  6. Oct 5, 2007 #5
    Hi Kait,

    The following website might help you:


    It features interviews with female physicists in the professions of physics consulting; economics; education and public outreach; finances; college and university faculty in engineering, mathematics, and physics departments; medical physics; research; research management; teaching; and writing. Physicists can also work in politics/policy, law, and many, many other professions.

    Good luck!
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2007
  7. Oct 5, 2007 #6


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    I finished my PhD in 95 and probably half my fellow students went into the city - I don't know how it has changed since.
    Locrian is right - if you want to get rich quick do business ( or real estate ) but don't assume that doing physics condems you to a life at the lab bench.
  8. Oct 5, 2007 #7
    Right now I am a year away from a BA in business, but I don't know if that's what I want to do for the rest of my life. I need something more challenging. Thanks for all of the ideas.
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