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Physics: What Can I Do With This Degree?

Astronomy

  • Teaching
  • Research
  • Writing

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Observatories
  • Planetariums
  • Science museums
  • Nonprofit foundations
  • Industry (aerospace, scientific supply, mass media)
  • Federal Government: National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory, U.S. Naval Observatory, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

Information & Strategies

  • Acquire excellent verbal and written communication skills.
  • Get involved in a research project.
  • Develop a specialty area of expertise and experience.

Acoustical Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Testing

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government laboratories
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Industry (electronics, building design, medical instrumentation, communications, engineering, noise pollution, sound recording, film production)

Information & Strategies

  • Supplement program with courses in psychology, physiology, communications, political science, and sociology.
  • Obtain a graduate degree in physics for opportunities in industry.
  • Maintain an interest in music, the arts, and humanities.

Astrophysics

  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Research
  • Design
  • Astronautics

Employers

  • Government laboratories
  • Research centers
  • Airports
  • Colleges and universities
  • Commercial industry
  • Space industry
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration
  • Observatories
  • Planetariums
  • Military

Information & Strategies

  • Obtain experience through part-time or voluntary position in a planetarium, observatory or science museum.
  • Complete an internship with a research organization or related industry.
  • Participate in research with scholars in the field.
  • Contact the American Astronomical Society for more information.

Biophysics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government laboratories
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Industry (biotechnology, environment, pharmaceuticals)
  • Hospital

Information & Strategies

  • Acquire information about state licensure required for various types of technicians working in medical settings.
  • Gain experience is a laboratory assistant or hospital orderly.
  • Volunteer at a hospital or clinic.

Fluid and Plasma Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government laboratories
  • Government agencies
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Industry (automobile, jet engine, space vehicle design, controlled fusion device design)

Information & Strategies

  • Obtain a graduate degree (master's or doctorate) for opportunities in industry or research.

Geophysics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Exploration

Employers

  • Universities and colleges
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Federal government (Coast and Geological Survey, U.S. Geological Survey, Army Map Service, Naval Oceanographic Office
  • Industry (petroleum, mining, exploration)
  • Consulting firms

Information & Strategies

  • Specialize in geophysics or minor in geology.
  • Develop good background in mathematics, chemistry, engineering, and physics.
  • Maintain good physical condition.

Health Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Monitoring/Inspection

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government laboratories
  • Government agencies (Department of Defense, Department of Energy, Department of Public Health Service)
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Industry (health physics instrumentation, nuclear power, nuclear weapons, radioisotope products, nuclear accelerators, nuclear reactors)
  • Environmental firms
  • Hospitals

Information & Strategies

  • Earn a PhD and certification by the American Board of Health Physics (ABHP) for top university teaching, research, and administrative positions.
  • Complete a master's degree and certification by the ABHP for professional health physicists positions.
  • Specialize in health physics and obtain technician certification from the National Registry of Radiation Protection.
  • Acquire knowledge of government standards and regulations.

Medical Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Medical schools
  • Hospitals
  • Industry e.g. medical instrumentation
  • Government laboratories
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Government agencies

Information & Strategies

  • Gain experience working in a hospital.
  • Develop a research specialty in a medical or health related area.

Nuclear Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration
  • Law
  • Quality control
  • Operations and maintenanc

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Military
  • Industry (nuclear weapons, nuclear accelerators, nuclear reactors, nuclear instrumentation, radioisotope products)
  • Government laboratories and research centers
  • Government agencies such as Department of Defense, Department of Energy

Information & Strategies

  • A master's degree is preferred for positions in industry.
  • Develop excellent laboratory skills.
  • Acquire a strong mathematics and chemistry background.

Optical Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Teaching
  • Consulting
  • Administration

Employers

  • Colleges and universities
  • Government laboratories
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Industry (medical scanners, eyeglasses, binoculars, microscopes, lasers, holography, display technologies, x-ray, ultraviolet spectra, fiber optics)
  • Federal agencies such as NASA, Department of Energy, Department of Defense

Information & Strategies

  • Obtain a master's degree for positions in industry.
  • Supplement program with courses in electricity, magnetism, quantum mechanics, and electronics.
  • Get involved in an independent optics project during senior year.

Science Education

  • Teaching
  • Computer software development
  • Educational research
  • Writing and editing
  • Library and information sciences

Employers

  • Public school systems, K-12
  • Private schools, K-12
  • Publishing companies: books, magazines, videos
  • Software developers
  • Libraries

Information & Strategies

  • Gain experience working with young people through volunteering and tutoring.
  • Work with after school programs and summer camps.
  • Acquire appropriate state teacher certification for K-12 opportunities.
  • Visit schools and observe classrooms.
  • Create a portfolio of science experiments and activities.
  • Become skilled in the use of computers.
  • Earn a graduate degree in information science.

Technical

  • Engineering (process and testing)
  • Quality control
  • Industrial hygiene
  • Design development
  • Technical writing
  • Computer technology
  • Research

Employers

  • Research and development firms
  • Mining and petroleum companies
  • Hospitals
  • Engineering firms
  • Professional and technical journals
  • Government laboratories
  • Manufacturing and processing firms
  • Atomic and nuclear labs
  • Government agencies such as Department of Commerce, Department of Defense
  • Television and radio stations
  • Weather bureaus

Information & Strategies

  • Gain experience through internships or co-ops.
  • Complete applicable certification or licensure through professional organizations.
  • Gain knowledge about the field through informational interviews with professionals.
  • Develop work habits that are systematic, precise, and patient.
  • Develop a strong computer background.
  • Gain experience using scientific instruments and equipment.
  • Pursue a graduate degree in engineering.

Solid State Physics

  • Basic and applied research
  • Development
  • Consulting
  • Teaching
  • Administration

Employers

  • Government laboratories
  • Nonprofit research centers
  • Colleges and universities
  • Electronics industry (communications, automobile, computer, navigation/guidance systems)
  • Government agencies such as National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Department of Defense

Information & Strategies

  • Obtain experience working with electronics and computers.
  • Request applicable job listings from the American Institute of Physics.

General Information

  • A bachelor's degree will qualify for positions as research assistants, high level technicians, or computer specialists, as well as nontechnical work in publishing or sales.
  • An undergraduate degree also provides a solid background for pursuing advanced degrees in other employment areas such as law, business, accounting, or medicine.
  • Be aware that expertise and experience in a specialty area are usually required for employment opportunities directly related to physics.
  • A graduate degree and post-graduate experience will allow for more responsibility and advancement in the field of physics.
  • An earned doctorate is required for college or university teaching, advanced research, and administrative positions.
  • Some industries such as the manufacturers of electrical devices will train in the specialty of the firm.
  • A bachelor's degree and state teacher certification are required for K-12 teaching opportunities.
  • Visit government laboratories or research centers. Talk with a physicist about his/her profession and career path.
  • Join relevant professional associations. Attend their meetings and read their publications.
  • Acquire excellent oral and written communication skills.
  • Gain experience with tools, electronics, and machinery.
  • Become familiar with government job application process for positions in federal, state, or local government.
Download a PDF of this chart for easy printing.

Next Steps

Learn about North Park's physics program.

Physics at North Park University