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Jobs that Use Physics: Options and Requirements

Physics is a study that seeks to understand the nature and processes of matter and energy. Continue reading for an overview of the education requirements, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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Physics is a widely applicable subject and humans' understanding of it is constantly evolving. Interdisciplinary thinking required for this field makes teamwork an essential aspect of the job. Take a look at two job examples to get a feel if physics is a good fit for you.

Essential Information

From large concepts, such as gravity and outer space, to microscopic items, like electrons and atoms, understanding physics allows people to figure out how natural processes work. Workers in multiple fields, such as the medical and energy production industries, apply this knowledge to creating products and providing services. Physics jobs may also require someone to understand chemistry, mathematics and biology. Many careers require a college degree and/or licensure.

Career Nuclear Medicine Technologist Photonics Engineer
Required Education Associate or bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree (employers that emphasize research in photonics may require graduate degree)
Certification Requirements Some states and/or employers require certification All states require licensure for those who provide public consultation services
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 2% 1% (for all electrical engineers)
Median Salary (2015)* $73,360 $93,010 (for all electrical engineers)

Source: *US Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Physics is a wide field and can be utilized in a number of careers. Because of the technical and difficult nature of physics, those who choose to work in this area typically make more money than the average American. Below are job descriptions and education requirements for nuclear medicine technologists and photonics engineers.

Nuclear Medicine Technologist

Nuclear medicine technologists work with radioactive technologies to treat and diagnose patients. By applying physics to nuclear medicine, technologists determine how radioactive particles break down when in contact with infected human cells. Technologists then identify chemical changes in the body caused by a reaction from radioactive medicines, also called radiopharmaceuticals. In order to examine the internal organs and bones, technologists use nuclear-based imaging equipment, such as x-rays and scanners.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicted a 2% increase in employment for nuclear medicine technologists from 2014 until 2024. These professionals had a median annual salary of $73,360, the BLS reported in May 2015.

Photonics Engineer

Engineers working in the field of photonics use physics to predict how light photons can be used to provide power and improve communication devices. For example, devices using lasers and fiber optics are based on the physics of directing light photons into a particular path. Many photonic engineers work for applied science research facilities that focus on solving certain issues. For instance, the national defense industry needs sophisticated devices that can improve guidance systems, and photonic engineers create and test laser guidance systems to fulfill this need.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

Although the BLS doesn't have information for photonics engineers, it reported the related group of electrical engineers was expected to see employment grow by 1% during the 2014-2024 decade. The median salary was $93,010 for electrical engineers as of May 2015, the BLS said.

Requirements for Physics Jobs

Education Requirements

Nuclear medicine technologists can obtain their education in three different ways. Those currently certified to work in the medical industry could take a 1-year nuclear medicine graduate certificate program. Those without prior training can earn an associate's or bachelor's degree in nuclear medicine. Coursework includes imaging procedures, biology, nuclear physics, human anatomy and radioactive pharmaceuticals at varying levels, depending on undergraduate or graduate-level studies.

Information from the BLS stated that most entry-level engineering positions required a bachelor's degree. Employers that emphasize research in photonics might require engineers to earn a graduate degree. Most bachelor's degree programs that offer coursework or concentrations in photonics are available as electrical engineering majors. Coursework in these programs includes chemistry, physics, electronics and optics technology.

Licensing and Certification Requirements

Not every state requires nuclear medicine technologists to be licensed, although the BLS reported that about half of the states had licensing requirements in place in 2015. All states regulate licensure for engineers who provide public consultation services. An engineering license is obtained in two stages - a training license that is awarded to graduates of an engineering program who pass an entry-level test and a professional license that requires four years' experience and additional testing.

Professional certification is usually voluntary for both of these professions. However, the BLS stated that medical insurance companies typically only cover procedures performed by nuclear medicine technologists who are certified. The two most common organizations providing certification include the Nuclear Medicine Technology Certification Board and the American Registry of Radiologic Technologists.

Physic offers a wide variety of jobs both hands-on and theoretical, exploring the largest and smallest realms of nature. It is a well-paying and respected career but it requires significant education. The slower-than-average job growth make it a competitive job requiring a long-term consistent commitment.

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