Physics is a science that attempts to explain the functions of the universe with math and theories. Read on to learn more about areas of specialization, employment outlook, salaries and degree programs for physicists.
Physicists use math to understand and explain how the world works, interpreting the phenomena of the universe in theoretical and mathematical terms. They are usually employed as physics researchers or teachers, helping others understand the mechanics of the world.
As an aspiring scientist, you may specialize in applied or theoretical physics, biophysics or quantum physics and mechanics. Additional areas of concentration include astrophysics and nuclear physics.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projected an average increase of 10% in employment for physicists nationwide between 2012 and 2022. This is a highly competitive field, and research opportunities may be dependent upon federal funds. While it may take candidates with a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the field a while to obtain a permanent position, employment of college and university teachers in general was expected to grow by 19% nationwide, or faster than average, through 2022. As of May 2013, the median annual salary for a physicist was $110,110. In the same period, postsecondary physics teachers earned a median annual salary of $80,590 (www.bls.gov).
An undergraduate major in physics can help you acquire the scientific knowledge and skills you need to pursue a variety of professions, depending on your level of expertise. For example, as a qualified graduate with a bachelor's degree in physics, you might obtain a position as a physics lab technician or become an elementary or high school teacher. If you're interested in the latter, you should be aware in advance that, although the requirements vary from state to state, they often include obtaining a teaching certification or license.
Earning a master's degree in physics can help you qualify for a position in research and scientific development, either in the private or public sector. A Ph.D. in physics might also provide you with the credentials you need to work as a research physicist or college professor.