Career Information for a Degree in Physics

Degrees in physics usually cover laws of energy and matter, and their application to various problems. Find out about the curricula of these programs, and learn about career options, job growth and salary info for physics graduates.

With a bachelor's degree in physics, it is possible to become a natural science manager. A doctoral degree in physics can lead to a career as a physicist or postsecondary physics teacher.

Essential Information

A degree program in physics begins by teaching students the laws that govern matter and energy. Once they understand the major concepts, students learn how to apply these rules to theoretical and practical problems. Some physics-related careers can be entered with just a bachelor's degree, though physicist positions - and others - typically require a doctorate.

Career Titles Physicist Physics Teacher, Postsecondary Natural Science Manager
Required Education Doctoral or professional degree Doctoral degree Bachelor's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 8% 15% 3%
Average Salary (2015)* $118,500 $93,950 $136,570

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Options

Individuals who have obtained a degree in physics may work as physicists, college or university physics teachers and natural science managers. Many of these positions require graduate schooling or additional training.

Physicists

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physicists study the principles of energy, motion and matter (www.bls.gov). They apply their knowledge to the research and development of new technologies and materials, often working with engineers and other scientists. Although many careers overlap, the BLS states that physicists often specialize in a particular area, including particle, nuclear or plasma physics. The American Physical Society (APS) indicates that physicists may find work in areas outside of science, such as consulting or finance.

The BLS indicates that individuals with a bachelor's degree may find work as a research assistant or technician. A bachelor's degree may also be sufficient for some jobs with government organizations. However, most positions in research, development and consulting require graduate schooling, typically a doctorate.

The BLS predicted that employment opportunities for physicists were expected to increase by eight percent from 2014 to 2024, citing federal funding for research as the driving factor for employment growth. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for a physicist was $118,500.

Postsecondary Physics Teachers

Postsecondary physics teachers explain the subject's major concepts surrounding matter and energy. Additionally, postsecondary physics teachers may conduct research as well as teaching courses. These teachers typically need a doctorate in physics.

The BLS indicates that employment for postsecondary physics teachers is expected to rise by fifteen percent for the years 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for a secondary school physics teacher was $93,950.

Natural Science Managers

Those who study physics may become natural science managers, whom the BLS defines as the professionals who plan and direct the research activities of scientists. Depending on their employer, natural science managers may perform research to identify problems in production, quality control or other areas. They may then direct teams, which include engineers, research assistants and scientists from different disciplines, to find solutions. The BLS indicates that natural science managers often coordinate with managers in other departments, such as finance and marketing. A bachelor's degree is the minimum education required for this job.

Employment for natural science managers is expected to increase by three percent for the decade 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. In May 2015, the BLS reported that the average annual salary of a natural science manager was $136,570.

Physicists often work with other scientists to develop technology or materials; natural science managers oversee plans for scientific research. Postsecondary physics teachers instruct students in physics at colleges and universities. These professionals often need graduate degrees to qualify to work in their fields, and earned median salaries ranging from $93,950 to $136,570 as of May 2015.


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