Careers in Physics
The scope of physics extends from the smallest subatomic particles to the entire observable universe. In between, physicists study nuclear reactions, the interactions of atoms with light, properties of solids, chaotic dynamics of fluids, atmospheric processes, pulsations of stars, and the evolution of galaxies.
One of the fascinating aspects of all these seemingly disparate fields is that they are so closely related to each other. For example, the mathematics that describes electrons in a metal can also be used to predict the size of a neutron star. On a grander scale, our understanding of the earliest history of the universe depends entirely on our knowledge of the forces that act between elementary particles.
Every year, the demand for science graduates continues to grow. Dozens of industries are experiencing rapid growth in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related jobs. These jobs are being created much faster than they can be filled. From the president’s State of the Union address to the recent articles fromindustry blogs, everyone is trying to figure out how to fill the need for these highly skilled jobs.
Physics Jobs are in Many Industries
Condensed matter physicists study the physical properties of condensed phases of matter, such as liquids and solids. They study phenomena ranging from superconductivity to liquid crystals.
Astrophysicists study the physical properties of the universe, such as its physical expansion. The work of astrophysicists is closely related to that of astronomers. Astrophysics is often classified as a subfield of both astronomy and physics.
Particle and nuclear physicists study the properties of atomic and subatomic particles, such as quarks, electrons, and nuclei, and the forces that cause their interactions.
Medical physicists work in healthcare and use their knowledge of physics to develop new medical technologies and radiation-based treatments. For example, some develop better and safer radiation therapies for cancer patients. Others may develop more accurate imaging technologies that use radiation, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound imaging.
Atomic, molecular, and optical physicists study atoms, simple molecules, electrons, and light and their interactions. Some look for ways to control the states of individual atoms, which might allow further miniaturization and new materials and computer technology.
Plasma physicists study plasmas, which are considered a distinct state of matter and occur naturally in stars and interplanetary space and artificially in neon signs and plasma screen televisions. Many plasma physicists study ways to create possible fusion reactors that might be a future source of energy.
$105,430The median annual wage of physicists and astronomers was $105,430 in 2010. That works out to be $50.69 per hour. Check out the occupational handbook for more information on the job outlook for physicists.