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National Labs

  1. Jul 19, 2009 #1
    Just out of curiosity..When people talk about careers in physics why don't they ever take these in minds? Most people it seems to me think about taking physics to industrial work.

    And are Goverment Labs and National Labs the same thing? If not why do people not thing about those either when pursuing physics degrees? I'm sure considering goverment, national lab, private lab,industry blahblah there will always be some place for a physicist to work.

    If I'm correct skills that a physicist obtain and their sought after degrees can set them in high paying jobs/careers that may not be in physics.

    I know I'm going to pursue physics so I'm hardly asking these convince or reinforce myself.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 19, 2009 #2


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    I think people here do think about those things, but perhaps do not discuss them.

    National Labs often refers to the DOE labs, e.g. Sandia, Los Alamos, Lawrence Livermore, Idaho, Argonne, Brookhaven, Oak Ridge, . . . . National Labs. Besides DOE, there are military labs, NASA centers/labs, NOAA centers/labs, and others.
  4. Jul 20, 2009 #3
    I think the other thing is that most of the available jobs are either in industry or academia... the number of jobs available in the national labs is relatively small.

    I could be totally wrong about this though.
  5. Jul 20, 2009 #4
    I think http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/career_magazine/previous_issues/articles/1999_07_23/noDOI.12838650231875993964" [Broken] is fairly relevant.
    I was under the impression that jobs in national labs were no more scarce than jobs in academia. Though it really does seem harder to find information on them. Would anyone like to clarify on this?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Jul 22, 2009 #5
    It's harder to find information on jobs at military labs. The National labs all post job openings on there websites. Working for at a military lab can be very niche work, and the bureaucracy is through the roof and ridiculous. In the military labs you have a customer and that customer is the US military so your research has to be inline with there demands.

    To find opportunities check out the NRC website. Find some research programs you are interested in and send out emails to the PI.
  7. Jul 22, 2009 #6


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    The US Nat'l Labs advertises their jobs like anyone else. If you read Physics Today, you'll often see those same jobs advertised there. This includes both staff position and postdocs.

    Contrary to popular conception, the number of positions at a Nat'l Lab is actually quite small. Besides the fact that many of these positions are quite sought after, the Nat'l labs do not typically have a large workforce in the first place. Places such as Fermilab, Argonne, Brookhaven, etc... only APPEAR to have a large workforce, but many of the people you see there are "users", i.e. people from other institutions making use of the various facilities on these sites (such as the NSLS, RHIC, APS, etc..). So they are not really employees at those labs, but rather visitors.

    Still, there ARE frequent job openings and advertisements. Unfortunately, they tend to get a lot of applicants, and so they can usually choose the top tier candidates most of the time.

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