Pursue Your Passion and Enjoy a Growing Salary

The world is a fascinating place for physicists who study the laws and properties of space, time, matter and energy. If you love academics, labs, special equipment and finding answers to big questions, working as a physicist could make for an exciting career. Most physicists work regular business hours and have full benefits that help provide stability for working mothers.

Job Description

Physicists conduct scientific experiments regarding energy and matter, apply for research grants, formulate scientific theories, share new scientific information with their colleagues and the public, publish scholarly articles or books and teach in colleges or universities. Physicists must be skilled mathematicians and academically adept at science, as well as be good with people, yet able to work and think independently. They are natural problem solvers, systematic, thorough and meticulous about their work. Keeping accurate records and files is essential to performing research and obtaining accurate results.

Education Requirements

Educational requirements for jobs with the federal government are available with a bachelor's degree in physics, while most positions in academia require a doctoral degree in physics. For those who want to obtain a master's level degree, work may be available with healthcare companies involved in research and manufacturing. It is possible to begin work with a bachelor's degree and then get promoted as you complete additional education. This flexibility makes physics a good choice for those raising children.

Median pay for physicists is $104,740, which means that half earn more than this, while the other half earns less. The top 10 percent bring home more than $189,560, while the bottom 10 percent earn less than $57,640.

About the Industry

Roughly 30 percent of physicists work in scientific research and development services, while another 22 percent work in institutions of higher education. The rest work with the federal government, in hospitals, or with home or clinic healthcare services. The Department of Defense is a popular employer, and sometimes travel is required to laboratories that offer special equipment and instruments. Those who work in higher education often enjoy flexible office hours and regular breaks throughout the year. Most positions offer excellent benefits, which is a definite plus for those raising little ones.

Years of Experience

Pay varies widely based on years of employment, level of education and employer. If you choose to begin working after your bachelor's degree and pursue additional degrees at the same time, you could see substantial jumps in income. One prediction of income for years of experience looks like this:

  • Entry-Level: $40,918 - $100,742
  • Mid-Career:  $50,080 - $121,577
  • Experienced: $70,825 - $153,995
  • Late-Career: $68,052 - $176,860

Job Growth Trend

Job opportunities for physicists are expected to grow by 14 percent, with more than 2,600 new jobs over the next decade, which is faster than in other industries. Competition for jobs in academia is steep, and physicists may need to work in more than one post-doctoral setting before accepting a permanent position. Competition for research grants is also tough, so a strong background in grant writing and the right connections can be key to obtaining funding and employment.

Related Articles