What Can You Do With A Physics Degree?

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Physics is a natural science involving the study of interactions between matter and energy. What can you do with a degree in physics? Many people pursue careers as educators and physicists, but those are not the only paths you can take. In this article, you will find 3 schools that offer advanced physics programs, a selection of career paths for physics majors, and a list of examples of places that hire people with physics degrees.

Areas of Physics

Physics can be broken down into areas of study that focus more closely on specific aspects of the subject. A list of just some of these areas are listed below.

Astrophysics – study and application of the laws of physics on the physical composition and placement of stars and planets

Biophysics and medical physics – study and application of the laws and theories of physics in relation to biology and medicine

Fluid and plasma physics – study and application of the laws and theories of physics in relation to liquid and plasma

Nuclear physics – study and application of the laws and theories of physics in relation to interactions of nuclei; often the study of nuclear energy

Optical and laser physics – study of how matter interacts with light; also, study of electromagnetic radiation

How to Get a Physics Degree

Most research colleges and universities offer excellent physics programs for students looking to venture into the world of physics. In order to prepare  yourself for further education in physics, it would be wise to take physics and advanced math courses during your junior and/or senior year of high school. You should always apply to multiple higher education schools, especially if you’re going to apply to private schools. Private colleges and universities are incredibly selective of the students the admit, so it is crucial that you dedicate yourself to your studies throughout high school in order to generate impressive transcripts and SAT scores.

The physics department at the University of Oxford is one of the largest in the U.K, offering its students two programs of choice. Students who are interested in physics can choose Physics or Physics and Philosophy. Unlike most higher education schools, upon completing 3 years as Physics and Philosophy majors at Oxford, students can choose to graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in Physics and Philosophy or they can go on to their fourth year in which they will either complete a philosophy thesis or physics project. Students in the physics department develop research skills in classical statistical mechanics, quantum mechanics, classical space-time theories, and more. The physics department also houses exceptionally noteworthy laboratories that also help provide students with the best educational experiences available to prepare them for the working world or to continue their education after earning a bachelors degree.

Columbia University is a private Ivy League research school located in New York City. Its physics department is particularly noteworthy with its combination of education and research in areas like high energy nuclear physics, astrophysics, optical physics, atomic physics, and more. Students can earn a bachelors degree in physics at Columbia University, and the school offers a Master of Arts in Physics in order to prepare students for a Master of Philosophy or doctoral degree in physics, as well.

Brown University in Providence, RI, offers its physics students the opportunity to learn from educators who are also research specialists. Students can earn a Bachelor of Science or Bachelor of Arts in Physics and also have the newly acquired educational opportunity to study abroad in Spain with no previous knowledge in Spanish necessary. Almost 60 percent of undergraduate students who major in physics at Brown go on to further their education in order to earn a masters or doctoral degree in physics or another related field. Graduate programs at Brown include both a masters and doctoral degree in physics. It is important to note that undergraduate students who decide to earn a doctoral degree at Brown can earn their masters degree in this transition but students who solely enter the masters program without the intention of earning a doctoral degree and then change their minds must reapply to the doctoral program. Since Brown University is a private school, its doctoral program is even more difficult to enter, so it is crucial that undergraduate students make the decision on their transitions before completing the requirements for their bachelor degrees.

Careers in Physics

You should begin thinking about career possibilities in physics while you’re earning your bachelors degree in order to better form your studies around your future in order to increase your probability of landing your dream job. The positions listed here are only a handful from which you can choose.

Entry Level Careers in Physics

Once you earn a bachelors degree in physics and you are still building your experience, you may qualify for some or all of the options described here.

Physics Teacher

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High school physics teachers typically educate juniors and seniors, providing them with the basic understandings of physics and accompanying mathematical formulas. In order to become a high school physics teacher, you need a bachelors degree in either physics or physics education. If your bachelors degree is strictly physics, you can also earn a teaching certificate later. Teachers have impeccable verbal and written communication skills in order to properly instruct their students and assist with any questions or comments their students or their students’ parents may have.

Physics teachers can earn around $50,000 annually, depending on their education and experience levels.

Materials Scientist

Entry level materials scientists perform research under and often for senior level research scientists. They look at structural components of paints, ceramics, alloys, and more in order to assist in product improvement for companies, organizations, and in some cases even government agencies. Materials scientists typically possess bachelor degrees in anything from chemical engineering to physics and have advanced research and analysis skills. They also have good communication skills in order to report their findings to upper level management.

Materials scientists can make over $55,000 annually, based on levels of education and experience.

Advanced Careers in Physics

After completing the required courses to earn your masters degree or doctoral degree in physics or another related field, you may find that you qualify for any or all of the positions described below.

Solar Engineer

Solar engineers typically work for solar equipment manufacturers in laboratories or offices in order to create new innovative ways to utilize solar power as an alternate source of energy. They then record their work and any observed and acquired data in databases or other record-keeping programs in order to later present their findings to their superiors. Solar engineers are excellent at verbal and written communication and possess a masters degree in physics, chemistry, or another related field in addition to a bachelors degree in physics or another relevant subject. They are also able to work independently with little supervision or in teams.

Solar engineers can earn over $66,000 annually, based on education and experience levels.

Pyrotechnic Engineer

Pyrotechnic engineers design and create explosives for entertainment use, like fireworks displays on holidays and for concerts and sports events. They possess degrees in chemistry and physics in order to understand the ins and outs of concocting successful and effective explosives that meet proper rules and regulations. Therefore, most pyrotechnic engineers have learned experience in research and experimentation. Education requirements and certifications usually vary by state, but it is particularly important that they have extensive knowledge in chemistry and physics.

Pyrotechnic engineers can earn around $75,000 annually.

Science Advisor

Science advisors suggest ways of improving specific programs and/or services related to the area in which the advisor specializes. Science advisors are often responsible for heading projects crucial to the company’s success. They possess bachelor, master, and even doctoral degrees in specific scientific areas like physics or chemistry and have excellent communication skills. They also possess the ability to multitask, as science advisors often have multiple projects occurring regularly.

Science advisors can earn around $81,000 annually, depending on education and experience levels.

Companies that Hire People with Physics Degrees

Many companies around the world are in search of people in your shoes, people who are interested in physics and those who have earned a physics degree. Places everywhere want to hire individuals with high mathematical and scientific knowledge to improve their companies and the world, one problem at a time. Your job is to find the places with careers available in what you want to do with the rest of your life. Below is a list of places looking to hire qualified applicants for jobs related to physics.

Thorlabs, Inc. – locations in the U.S., U.K., China, and Germany; hires positions for applications engineers, optical design engineers, mechanical engineers, photonics lab specialists, etc.

Campbell Scientific, Inc. – locations across the globe; hires positions for application engineers, project managers, etc.

National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) – founded in 1901 and located in Gaithersburg, MD; hires positions for physicists, materials scientists, physics engineers, etc.

Facebook – locations across the globe; hires positions for marketing science leaders, data and analytics scientists, etc.

Aramco Services Company – located in Houston, TX, and other parts of the U.S.; hires positions for process engineer specialists, chemical engineers, network analysts, lab tech specialists, lab scientists, etc.

Physics is a very intense science with many career paths from which to choose. Discover which most intrigues you, and don’t stop until you reach your goal.

Author: Rose Boettinger

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