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Highest Paying Scientist Jobs in the USA: Physicist Description and Salaries

Updated on February 13, 2017
Dr. Martin Balluch, physicist and philosopher.
Dr. Martin Balluch, physicist and philosopher. | Source

The highest paying physical scientist jobs in the USA belongs to physicists. They study the physical world and discover the principles and theories that govern its composition, interaction and energy. They may specialize only in theoretical research or apply their knowledge to practical problems in such varied fields as communications, electronics, optics and aerospace . They use different scientific equipment to perform their studies such as particle accelerators, mass spectrometers and lasers.

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Education

The jobs available to physicists depend on their degree. Training for these scientist jobs is available at many colleges and universities such as MIT.

  • Physicists who perform basic research require a Ph.D., typically with a specialty in a subfield. Those with this degree also often teach in colleges and universities, or advance to management.
  • Those with master’s degrees may find positions in manufacturing, or applied research and development. They may also teach at two-year colleges or secondary schools.
  • Bachelor’s degrees allow work as research assistants or as technicians in software development or engineering.

Salaries and Employment

The U.S. Department of Labor shows the following earnings stats for the profession:

  • Physicists make a mean wage of $53.86 per hour or $112,020 per year, though low medians can descend to $28.30 per hour or $58,850 per year, or rise to over $80 an hour or over $166,400 per year.
  • Scientific research and development services offer the most positions for these scientist jobs, numbering 6,850, with wages at $53.93 per hour or $112,180 per year.
  • The highest paying jobs are in specialty hospitals that do not include psychiatry or substance abuse. The 60 jobs here receive a mean $86.64 per hour or $180,210 per year.

Best Locations for Scientist Jobs

Income for physicists varies according to location:

  • The state with most scientist jobs for this profession is Illinois, with 2,930 physicists making a mean $62.92 per hour or $130,888 per year.
  • The state with the highest pay is Minnesota, where 140 jobs earn a mean $73.29 per hour or $152,450 per year.
  • For cities, Chicago has the most scientist jobs at 2,580, with wages at $63.57 per hour or $132,230 per year.
  • St. Louis, Missouri, boasts the best pay for its 50 physicists at $85.84 per hour or $178,550 per year.

Prospects

The Labor Department sees jobs for physicists increasing by 16 percent from 2008 to 2018. This faster than average growth primarily stems from the America COMPETES Act, passed in 2007 by Congress. This law doubles funding by 2016 for physical sciences through the National Science Foundation and the Department of Energy. Many scientists jobs are funded by the government through these organizations.

Prospects will be best for those with training in applied research and development, though a recent increase in the number of physics doctorates will also increase competition. Physics graduates at any level will also find good prospects, as long as they are not wedded to the title of physicist. Many of the available jobs will have different titles such as computer scientist, engineer or high school teacher.

Physicists will remain the highest paying scientist job in the country for the next few years.

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    • hanwillingham profile image

      hanwillingham 

      6 years ago

      Amazing!I almost couldn't believe that Physicist in US were highly paid. Never thought they were so much lucky as this.Thanks for the information.

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      7 years ago

      I didn't know that Physicists where that Highly Paid. Not that it is not warranted. This was a Wonderful and Interesting Read as Usual Alocsin. This certainly would be a Field for a Science Major to Consider.

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