|What does a physicist do?
Physicists study the physical world. They learn about what makes
up things and how things behave. They also study energy. They
learn how it is created and transferred.
Some physicists study theoretical stuff. For example, they may
study the nature of time and how the universe began. Others take
what they learn and apply it to practical areas. This includes
things such as the development of advanced materials, electronic
and optical devices, and medical equipment.
Physicists design and perform experiments. They observe and analyze.
Then they try to explain laws about the forces of nature. These
include such things as gravity, electromagnetism, and nuclear
interactions. They also find ways to take physical laws and theories
and apply them to problems in such areas as electronics and optics.
Most physicists work in research and development. Some do basic
research to increase the pool of knowledge. Others conduct applied
research. They take what is learned in basic research and use
it to build new devices, products, and processes.
Physicists also design research equipment. Many times this equipment
has more than just the use for which it was designed. For example,
after the laser was created for its original use, it was found
that it could be used in surgery as well.
Astronomy is sometimes considered to be a part of the field of
Physicists often work regular hours in labs and offices. At times,
those who are doing work that is deeply involved in research may
work long or irregular hours. They also may have to work away
from their homes for short periods of times. This is because they
may not have the equipment they need where they usually work.
|How do you get ready to be a physicist?
Most jobs in this field are in basic research and development.
You usually need a doctoral degree to work as a physicist. Some
students in this field want permanent jobs in basic research in
universities and government laboratories. For them additional
experience and training beyond a Ph.D. degree is important. Many
Ph.D. holders teach at the college or university level.
Master's degree holders often are able to get jobs in manufacturing
and applied research and development. Some may be able to teach
in high schools or at 2-year colleges.
Those with a bachelor's degree only may work as technicians or
research assistants. Some may be able to work in applied research
jobs in private industry or nonresearch positions in the government.
Some become science teachers in middle schools or high schools.
If you want to be a physicist, you should be good in math. You
should also be good at solving problems and analyzing things.
You should be curious about things. You should be able to picture
results in your mind. You should be a self-starter. Speaking and
writing abilities are important. This is because the work is often
done in teams. Sometimes physicists have to write research papers
or proposals. There are also times when they must explain things
to clients or customers who are not familiar with the field.
|How much does a physicist make?
The middle half of all physicists earned between $66,680 and
$107,410 in 2002. The lowest-paid 10 percent earned less than
$50,350. The highest-paid 10 percent earned more than $129,250.
There were about 14,000 physicist and astronomer jobs in 2002.
Nearly one-third of these jobs were in scientific research and
development services firms. Another third worked for the Federal
Government. Others worked in colleges and universities, usually
in research. Some were on the faculty at colleges and universities.
Physicists and astronomers worked in all parts of the country.
Most worked in areas that had universities or large research and
Employment of physicists is expected to grow more slowly than
the average for all jobs through 2012. The limited amount of money
to do research means that physicists will have to compete for
basic research jobs. However, there will continue to be demand
for people with a physics background to work in the computer field
and other applied sciences.
|Are there other jobs like this?
|Where can you find more information?
More BLS information about physicists and astronomers
can be found in the Occupational Outlook Handbook.
The Handbook also shows where to find out even
more about this job.
Outlook Handbook -- U.S. Department of Labor Bureau of Labor Statistics