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Salary of a Physicist

  1. Apr 5, 2013 #1
    I was curious of the salary of Physicists,and since most of you guys are physicists, you will provide a more... Understandable and truthful experience then Google.
    I don't care if I'm getting payed pennies on the dollar, as long as I'm a Physicist. I'm just curious.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 5, 2013 #2


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    How are you using the term "physicist"? Like a researcher at a university, or a scientist working in industry, or...?
  4. Apr 5, 2013 #3
    A researcher at a University.
  5. Apr 6, 2013 #4
    So after college you'll make 18-20k a year for ~6 years or so while you get your phd.

    After your phd, you'll make 35-50k depending on specialty for another 5 to 6 years while you are postdocing.

    If you are very lucky (maybe 1/10 or so) you'll get a tenure track position, where you'll make 50k-90k (finally surpassing the median bachelor's degree holder only 13+ years out of college).

    By the time you hit tenure several years later, you'll be making something like 70-140.
  6. Apr 9, 2013 #5
    Just about spot on, though I would push the top end of the postdoc scale a bit higher. It really depends on your institution. I've seen it go as high as 70k for a postdoc in an in-demand field, but that's certainly not the norm.

    My sister is a tenure-track professor (not in physics) and she makes about 60k.
  7. Apr 9, 2013 #6

    Vanadium 50

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    Be careful of academic salaries, as they are often 9 months.
  8. Apr 9, 2013 #7
    That might explain the large range of salaries. My sister's 60k includes her hustling for teaching and consulting gigs during the summer.
  9. Apr 9, 2013 #8


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    NYU recently published a number of statistics at this web site.
    I was surprised to see these numbers:

    Mean full professor salary - $182,400
    Mean associate professor salary - $106,100
    Mean assistant professor salary - $99,700

    Admittedly, these include all disciplines, and some areas, like law and medicine, may skew the average higher. Still, these numbers are higher than I expected.
  10. Apr 9, 2013 #9
    That is definitely on the high side. But you're right, law and medicine professors can be REALLY high. At a major medical center like NYU many professor are also highly paid practitioners.

    Also, not it said NYU ranked 9th out of 1,251 schools in overall salary. Those NYU would very much be the upper end of the scale.
  11. Apr 9, 2013 #10
    Where are you people getting these numbers from!? Look online at any university, they post the wages for professors. Assistant professors make >80k minimum (in Canada).
  12. Apr 9, 2013 #11
  13. Apr 9, 2013 #12
    Actually, the average Canadian now has a higher income than the average American.
  14. Apr 9, 2013 #13

    George Jones

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    I think this is high. For example at two medium to large universities, the University of Waterloo and the University of Western Ontario (UWO), the current floors for assistant professor are $70203 and $68849 respectively
  15. Apr 14, 2013 #14
    If you want a good sense of what professors make, check out Chronicle.com (http://chronicle.com/article/faculty-salaries-data-2012/131431#id=144050). It's not broken out by discipline, but you can see what various ranks make at different schools.

    Yes, those salaries are probably 9 month ones. Depending on the discipline and school, those may or may not be augmented by summer research support. Also keep in mind that the higher ranks are possibly inflated by any administrators who hold the equivalent rank.

    The personal data points I have puts a full professor of physics (50ish years old) at a top liberal arts school (#1-3) at about $100k, while dropping down to ~#10-20 puts you at $80-90k. A junior tenure track faculty position in physics at WVU started at ~$65k. Three well respected physicists at UW-Madison that I know make $105k, $140k, and $165k respectively. They are all roughly the same age, though the one that makes the most is in the Engineering department. You can look up any UW salary that you want here: http://host.madison.com/data/uw_salaries/ [Broken].
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  16. Apr 14, 2013 #15


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    Here's a chart broken down by discipline.


    The average starting salary for a new professor of physics is around $56,500. That's about right in my experience. I was offered a bit more; many of my friends are making a lot less. NYU is on the extreme high end, and will get over 500 qualified applicants for every job they post. They'll interview fewer than 10 people. It's not easy to get a job as a professor in any field, and it's one of the lowest paying jobs you can get with a PhD in physics. It's also one of the most popular for many reasons.
  17. Apr 14, 2013 #16


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    Also when looking at NYU's high salaries, keep in mind that the cost of living in the NYC area is somewhat (!) higher than in say, Madison, Wisconsin, or Morgantown, West Virginia.
  18. Apr 27, 2013 #17
    How about as a scientist working in the industry, anybody has information regarding that? (not necessarily physics, even in mathematics as well)
  19. Apr 27, 2013 #18
    Varies widely depending on the specific industry. Some of the physics phds in my cohort shared salary information in order to help ourselves bargain better for salary- the physics phds I know in finance make about 150k+bonus, in statistics/big-data work its about 80k-120k. Programmers I know are making 70-90k.

    The majority of phds I know are in one of the above, but there are a few one offs.
    One ICU nurse (went back to school for RN) makes 85k.
    One failure analysis engineer at Intel making 110k
    One grant reviewer 75k
    One process engineer at a startup making 75k + stock.
    Last edited: Apr 27, 2013
  20. May 7, 2013 #19
    In engineering at least EVERY professor also had a side company based on their research (you typically can make deals with your university to work a company though they will want a piece of the action). So a salary of 80-100k was just what they made from the university. In oklahoma, we could look up the taxes and salaries of each of our professors ... generally they might make 80-100k from the university but not one of them claimed less then 180k individually.

    Petroleum engineers make the most money even as professors in my experience. Consulting for oil companies is VERY profitable. Petroleum bachelors make 80-150k out of college, masters & phd 120-200k.However, it's all about getting a percentage of the production on the wells you work on if you specialize in enhanced oil recovery. I know 2-3 guys in there 40's that managed that and let's just say they continue to work just because they want too.
    Last edited: May 7, 2013
  21. May 7, 2013 #20
    My city newspaper had an article which listed the top ten jobs for my city. Physicist was #7 and it said the average salary was $114k
  22. May 7, 2013 #21
    After getting my physics BS, I went into the IT field. Started low but about 2-3 years later (and lots of self learning) I hit the 60k mark.

    I am now making more than most physics profs at my (small) public alma mater.

    The benefit is if you're tenured and been there for a while, you'll make more. Last time I checked, most were making 60ish-80ish k per year. Btw this is more of small teaching oriented physics department.
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