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Four Great Jobs for Physics Majors

Updated on October 17, 2012

Great Jobs for Physics Majors

Are you considering majoring in physics? If so, you may have heard people express concern over your ability to find a job after college. Perhaps you've even been encouraged to major in engineering instead. Fortunately, the job opportunities for physics majors are extensive. As a physics major, you'll have a solid foundation in mathematics and physics, with a focus on problem solving and critical thinking, which will provide many outstanding job opportunities upon graduation. For example, physics majors can go into teaching, either at the high school or college level (with more schooling), they can go into math intensive fields such as actuarial science, they can go into engineering, or they can go on to become a physicist either in academia or in the private sector. These jobs are generally stable, pay well, and have excellent working conditions. In fact, majoring in physics may actually be better than an engineering degree because there may be more opportunities.

Employment for Physics Bachelors Degree
Employment for Physics Bachelors Degree | Source

Jobs for Physics Majors: Physics Teacher or Professor

One job opportunity for physics majors is to become a physics teacher, either at the high school or college level. Although approximately 60% of physics undergrad majors enroll in graduate school, teaching at the high school level is a job option if you'd like to start working right after getting a bachelor's degree in physics. Many students take classes in education to supplement their physics classes and to prepare them for teaching. According to The American Institute of Physics, job satisfaction is high for high school physics teachers and starting salaries range from about $30,000 - $40,000 per year. Teachers have a lot of time off during the summer and for Holidays so this job is a good option for those who have other interests they'd like to pursue.

Teaching at the college or university level requires a Doctorate degree. However, the rewards for a few extra years of school can be immense. Professors typically have opportunities to do research and are paid well, with starting salaries of about $50,000 for nine months, going up to over $100,000 with experience.

Jobs for Physics Majors: Mathematician or Actuary

Believe it or not, a physics degree is so math intensive that only a few extra math classes are usually required to obtain a double major in both physics and mathematics. If you're considering majoring in physics, consider getting the mathematics major as well since it will give you more opportunities for jobs.

In particular, a job as an actuary is a great one to consider. Actuaries enjoy high demand, high salaries, and great working conditions. In fact, an experienced actuary can earn $150,000 - $250,000 per year or more! So, what does an actuary do? In a nutshell, their job is to find ways to manage risk using mathematical modeling and data. In order to become an actuary, one must pass a series of examinations to become certified. It's also desirable to do an internship as a college student, if possible, in order to get real world experience.

Jobs for Physics Majors: Engineer

Almost everyone knows that engineering jobs are in high demand and pay well. Typical starting salaries are among the highest for any job, ranging from $60,000 - $98,000 per year. In fact, according to Payscale.com, six of the top ten jobs for highest starting salary are in engineering. Petroleum engineering tops the list at $98,000, but aerospace, chemical, nuclear, and electrical engineering also pay well.

The great thing about engineering is that there are so many different types of engineering degrees to choose from but the commonality among all of them is that they all use science, mathematics, and knowledge of the forces of nature to solve complex problems. These are precisely the things that a physics major learns to excel in. The fit between physics and engineering is huge.

Jobs for Physics Majors: Physicist

A job as a physicist requires a Ph.D., which means an additional five to seven years of school after a bachelor's degree. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics' Occupational Outlook Handbook, Physicists enjoy a median annual salary of $106,000 per year. Relative to other professions, there aren't very many physics jobs available, with only about 21,000 nationwide. However, jobs are expected to grow at a rate of 14% from 2010-2020.

A physicists uses models and theories to explain how the world works, which can lead to new technologies and methods of doing things in the world. Physicists work primarily in Research & Development in the private sector, for the government, or at large research universities. The two largest employers of physicists are NASA and the Department of Defense.

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    • Blackspaniel1 profile image

      Blackspaniel1 3 years ago

      I have two degrees in physics and two degrees in mathematics. I can say it is easier to find employment in physics. while there are feer positions, there is little competition. However, years ago I applied at an engineering firm, and was told if my degree did not say engineering and I did not have a professional engineering status, it requires a test and a period of working as an engineer, they could not say to their clients an engineer was working on the project, even though they agreed I had the required skills. Sometimes it is a rather strange way people view the world.

    • joedolphin88 profile image

      Joe 3 years ago from north miami FL

      I'd hope anyone who could get a degree in physics could get a great job because you must be a truly dedicated student.

    • kschimmel profile image

      Kimberly Schimmel 5 years ago from North Carolina, USA

      I used to work as an actuarial assistant and took some of the ASA exams. I'm sure a physics graduate would blow those exams out of the water! Great hub.

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