Careers in Physics
- What is Physics?
Physics is the study of matter and energy and their interactions. The fundamental ideas of physics underlie all of the basic sciences -
astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology - and all of applied sciences and engineering.
- What do physics majors do?
Richmond Physics graduates have followed many different paths after leaving the University as teachers, scientists, engineers,
physicians, lawyers, and problem solvers in industry.
They have gone on to scientific careers at places
like Princeton, Chicago, MIT, North Carolina, and Virginia in fields from particle physics to planetary science.
Perhaps you too want to join the Adventure!
You can find more stuff
here and here.
- How does physics help?
Majoring in physics is superb preparation for virtually all careers. Physics majors have the highest or second-highest
average scores of ALL
undergraduate majors on the
(for law school) and the
GMAT (for graduate business school).
In other words, physics is a better preparation for getting an MBA (Masters in Business Administration) than majoring in
For people interested in going to medical school, physics majors score second highest of all undergraduate majors on the
(Medical College Admissions Test) behind students majoring in biomedical engineering.
- What do physics majors make?
Lots. See the recent articles on salaries and the current job market for physicists from the
American Physical Society, the
Institute of Physics in England, and the
American Institute of Physics.
Check out the graphic
here that is based on survey data from the National Association of Colleges and Employers.
On a national scale Physics is the highest earning major offered by the University of Richmond.
More detailed information is in the next entry.
More recently and even after the financial collapse of 2008,
physics major starting salaries remain high as reported here.
- Earning Potential of a Bachelor's degree in Physics
A study by the National Science Foundation and the
Bureau of Labor Statistics examined the earning potentials of
all Bachelor degree holders in the United States
Daniel E. Hecker, Earnings of College Graduates,
Monthly Labor Review, December, 1995, p. 3).
Wage earners were separated into three categories---(i)
young (aged 25-34), (ii) midcareer (aged 35-44), and (iii)
older (aged 45-64).
Physics degree holders are continually ranked amongst the highest
for all age groups. In the young group, Physics is ranked fourth at
13% above the median and trailing only Pharmacy, Engineering, and
In midcareer Physics is ranked fifth at 16% above
the median (behind Engineering, Mathematics, Pharmacy and Computer
In late career, Physics is number 1 at 25% above the
median! Note that Physics majors typically have a higher earning
potential than many majors that would be thought to create high
(like economics, business, accounting, etc.).
A survey by the Department of Labor for the
Washington, DC area shows that Physicists are the fourth highest
wage-earners (below Lawyers, Dentists, and Doctors) in the
Professional, Paraprofessional, and Technical occupation
category and are compensated at rates that are typically
10-25% higher than traditional engineers.
The Physicist median compensation is $36.36 per hour.
Overall, Physicists are the FIFTH highest wage-earners
out of approximately 500 job categories surveyed by the
Department of Labor. Further details can be found at the DOL study.
A Physics degree has the highest potential for earnings than
nearly any other field!
- Who's hiring?
The American Institute of Physics keeps a
webpage here on hiring
opportunities for people with bachelors debrees in physics.
- On to graduate school!
If you are interested in building your physics education
beyond college, there is some useful advice
There is more specific guidance on our site
- Importance of science training in the workforce -
Even workers in non-technical fields find that scientific
training gives them an advantage in the workplace.
There is more
here from a recent survey by the National
For information on graduate and professional school
opportunities in physics
more information is available in a book
produced by the National Academy of Sciences.
The book is described
The Physics Department has a copy of the book that
is available for physics majors to help them plan their
- There is more information on careers in Physics at the
Statistical Research website of the
American Institute of Physics (AIP)
where they discuss surveys
of people with doctorates, master's degrees and bachelor's degrees in physics.
- You can even look for a job here
on the AIP website.
- Some of the places where physicists end up are
described in these success stories
from the American Institute of Physics.
- Some of the unique careers of 'hidden physicists'
Does It Matter Where I Go to College?