5 High-Paying Careers in Physics

Published: Jul 17, 2023

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Physics is an area of study in which practitioners employ a variety of methods in order to better understand the world we live in, as well as the entirety of the Universe at large. The demand for roles in physics is expected to grow by 8% between now and 2031, which is faster than the average for all other occupations. Here are some exciting and high-paying careers in the field of physics.


If you’re endlessly fascinated by stars, galaxies, planets, black holes, and all the other known and as-of-yet undiscovered mysteries of the Universe, then this is the career for you. Astrophysicists study each and every aspect of our Universe, developing and testing new theories to help us learn more about the enigmatic final frontier. These professionals often employ high-powered telescopes to collect data, and then analyze said data to solve problems and answer the big questions.

Astrophysicists often find themselves working for universities or government agencies, and require a whole ton of education before they can start. At the bare minimum, you’ll need a bachelor’s degree in physics, astronomy, or a related field; however, if you want to get into the theoretical side of things, you’ll need a PhD. As an astrophysicist you can expect to make anywhere between $90,000 and $118,000 per year.

Test Engineer

Test engineers can be found in almost every industry, and their task is to make sure that a product meets the quality standards set forth by a company or organization. They are involved in devising and running a variety of tests, documenting results, troubleshooting any issues that are discovered, and ensuring that a product functions properly and is ready for use. Most of the products you use in your everyday life have undergone rigorous testing performed by a test engineer.

Those who are interested in a career as a test engineer will require a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering, mechanical engineering, or a related field depending on their industry of choice. In most cases, a test engineer must also possess certifications in quality assurance or other areas. On average, a test engineer can make up to $78,000 per year.

Optical Engineer

Microscopes, telescopes, lasers—these are all very cool devices, but did you know they’re all made with the assistance of an optical engineer? These professionals are experts when it comes to the study of light and how it can be implemented in a variety of ways. Similar to test engineers, they are also involved with ensuring that a product functions properly and performs to high standards.

At minimum, a bachelor’s degree in engineering is required to become an optical engineer; however, if you want to take your career further you’ll most likely have to get yourself a master’s degree, or even a doctorate in certain cases. As an optical engineer you can make anywhere from $120,000 to $140,000 a year.

Experimental Physicist

When thinking about scientists it’s easy to imagine white coats, expensive equipment, and laboratories, and that sort of setting is exactly where most experimental physicists find themselves. In this role, you’ll be developing hypotheses and theories, and testing them in order to make ground-breaking discoveries that help us to better understand some of the biggest mysteries of existence.

This is one of those professions where the requirements can vary a bit. You could start your career with a bachelor’s degree in physics, engineering, or a related field, but for higher-level positions you might be required to have a doctorate. Similarly, the salary of an experimental physicist varies quite wildly, ranging from anywhere between $55,000 to $185,000 per year.

Chief Medical Physicist

Those who have an interest in physics and the medical field might want to look into a career as a chief medical physicist. These professionals are responsible for the development and administering of treatments to patients who are undergoing radiation therapy. Along with this, chief medical physicists oversee radiology departments at medical facilities, ensuring that all equipment is in working order and being used correctly.

The road to becoming a chief medical physicist is a long one. You’ll first need to obtain a master’s degree in medical physics or a related field, along with certification from the American Board of Radiology (ABR). In most cases, you’ll also need several years of experience before you are awarded with the “keys to the car,” as they say. All your hard work will pay off in the end, as you can expect to make anywhere between $250,000 to $300,000 per year in this role.

Physics allows us to approach and analyze incredibly complex problems, and its principles can be applied to virtually every aspect of our lives. It is the basis for all other sciences and will be a key component to future technological advances in a variety of industries. A career in physics offers many exciting pathways to choose from, all of which are very rewarding, and you can expect to make a pretty nice salary too!