What Can You Do with a Graduate Degree in Physics?

Physics explores the ways in which matter and energy interact. Read on for details pertaining to possible careers with a master's or doctoral degree in this field. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Master's Degree in Physics

There are two types of master's programs in physics. The first is a professional degree program, which can prepare you for immediate entry into the workforce. The second, a traditional master's program, will aim to prepare you to later receive doctoral-level education. Through research, you might find general physics programs as well as those that allow you to specialize in a sub-field, such as materials and condensed matter, medical and health physics, applied physics, nanoscience or photonics.

As a graduate of a professional master's program, you might find employment as a physics laboratory assistant in an industrial or academic setting, but you're unlikely to land a position as a lead physicist without a doctorate. Instead, you might apply your knowledge in a field that's not specific to physics. In fact, the Society of Physics Students reports that approximately 90% of physics graduates go on to work as 'hidden physicists,' which means they have a background in physics but don't work as physicists (www.spsnational.org). Some fields that employ physics graduates are discussed in the following sections.

Important Facts About Physics Careers

Computer ProgrammerTechnical WriterHigh School Physics Teacher
Median Salary (2014)$77,550$69,030$48,514
Job Outlook (2014-2024)-8% (decline)10%6% (for all high school teachers)
CertificationRequired by some employersNot required, but may increase opportunitiesLicense or certification required for all public school teachers
Key SkillsAnalysis, trouble-shooting Writing, technical skillsPatience, communication

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), graduates with master's degrees in physics don't have sufficient training to conduct university research (www.bls.gov). However, you might secure a teaching position at the middle or high school level.

Writing

As a graduate of a master's program in physics, you might pen textbooks or other technical books. You also might write, edit or publish a physics journal.

Computer Science

Some graduates of physics programs may become computer programmers. You also could develop physics software, write code or work in Internet technology.

Consulting

Depending upon your area of specialization, you could secure a position as a consultant in any number of industries. For example, if you concentrated your studies in medical physics, you might work as a consultant in the medical field.

Engineering

With a graduate degree in physics, you might find a job in engineering. In this position, you might put your skills to use by developing instruments or electronics.

Specialized Disciplines

There are a number of specialized fields that employ graduates of master's programs in physics. For example, you might work as a geophysicist with a gas and oil company, government agency, or a mining or engineering firm.

Ph.D. in Physics

In addition to the jobs detailed above, a Ph.D. in Physics program might prepare you to teach or perform research at a college or university. You also might work as a lead researcher with a governmental institution or hospital as well as in private industry.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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