What Can You Do With a PhD in Physics?

Students who pursue a PhD in Physics will not only have the teaching experience necessary to work in higher levels of academia, but they will also have a great amount of hands-on experience within a laboratory setting. This experience allows them to qualify for jobs like biophysicist and natural sciences manager.

Students who wish to obtain a PhD in Physics begin their journey by taking classes in topics like quantum mechanics, equilibrium statistical physics, and an introduction to graduate research. Though students spend some time in the classroom, much of their time is spent in the laboratory conducting independent research. They typically also get some hands-on experience teaching fellow students, opening the door to jobs like those listed below.

PhD in Physics Careers and Salary

With the help of their faculty mentors and additional physics coursework, recent graduates have a strong knowledge of the materials that make up our universe and are well equipped to explain their findings to others. PhD candidates take laboratory training seminars and work alongside seasoned faculty within a laboratory setting, learning the skills and the tools necessary to conduct their own research effectively and the ways in which they can go about solving current real-world issues related to physics. Below you will find a list of some potential careers that PhD in Physics graduates can pursue as well as information related to their job growth and median salary.

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth(2016-2026)*
Postsecondary Physics Teachers $87,340 10%
Biophysicists $91,190 (for all biochemists and biophysicists) 11% (for all biochemists and biophysicists)
Physicists and Astronomers $117,220 14%
Natural Sciences Managers $118,970 10%
Petroleum Engineers $132,280 15%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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PhD in Physics Jobs

Postsecondary Physics Teachers

Postsecondary physics teachers keep up to date on the latest findings within their field of study and schedule meetings with fellow faculty to ensure that their coursework adequately prepares students for work within their field upon graduation. They make certain that students have a good idea of how what they learn can be applied to the real world and hold classroom discussions to foster a deeper understanding of physics as a whole. PhD program graduates have a good understanding of not only how to conduct labs, but they are also able to assist students in conducting their own research in an effective manner.


Physics PhD program graduates who have a background in biology or pursue specialization options within their graduate program can opt for careers as biophysicists. These professionals study the chemical composition and physical properties of living organism and cells. They conduct studies to determine how drugs, hormones, serums, foods, and other substances affect the cellular processes and tissue structures of living organisms. Furthermore, they oversee all laboratory operations and manage staff to ensure that proper procedures are being followed and that the quality of work is up to par. Students who have obtained a PhD will be well versed in how things should work within a laboratory setting, and this advanced degree can qualify them to conduct independent research in the field.

Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers conduct studies of our universe and formulate scientific theories based on the evidence that they collect during their research. These same individuals use their expert knowledge to help both product designers and engineers develop new scientific equipment while also aiding in the creation of software used to model data. Additionally, they continue to publish scholarly journals detailing their research and go about presenting these findings to fellow scientists and students alike. A PhD in Physics can meet the typical minimum requirement for research careers in this field.

Natural Sciences Managers

Natural sciences managers hold meetings with senior executives to determine what their research goals are and use that information to go about creating cost effective and efficient strategies as they relate to research and development. They set standards for both research and development and ensure that these same standards are met by staff members. Furthermore, they oversee the hiring of staff members related to a given project and give them guidance when necessary as well as review all work being conducted to ensure its accuracy. Having worked in the lab continuously on their way to a PhD, recent graduates will have a good idea of how to manage research in such a setting.

Petroleum Engineers

Petroleum engineers develop plans for extracting oil and gas and aid in the creation of new machinery that will allow them to go about the process in a more efficient and safer manner. These same individuals might also use their advanced knowledge to determine which sites could yield the greatest return on investment. They also work on-site to ensure that all equipment is installed properly and that regular maintenance and operation procedures are followed. Individuals with a PhD in Physics and an engineering background have the ability to work in research and development in this industry.

By obtaining a PhD in Physics, graduates acquire the education, skills, and hands-on experience necessary to access several careers within the field of physics. Options include teaching at the college level and conducting independent research in the corporate or academic sector.

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