Employment Prospects


Approximately 16,730 physicists work in the United States, most of them in industry, in research and development laboratories, and in teaching. Other employers include the federal government, mostly in the Department of Defense. Other government physicists work in the Departments of Energy, Health and Human Services, and Commerce and for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Colleges and universities also employ physicists, who must perform research and publish their findings, in addition to teaching.

Starting Out

Many industries send personnel interviewers to college campuses with physics programs to seek out and talk to students who are about to receive degrees. Students should also attend industry, career, and science fairs to find out about job openings and interview opportunities. Associations such as the American Physical Society and the American Institute of Physics have career networking on their Web sites.

Teaching jobs in universities are often obtained either through the contacts of the student's own faculty members in the degree program or through the career services office of the university.

Jobs with government agencies require individuals to first pass a civil service examination. For more information on federal employment, check out the USA Jobs Web site, though many of these jobs are usually posted on Web sites such as

Advancement Prospects

The research physicist employed by a university advances by handling more responsibility for planning and conducting research programs. Salaries should also increase with experience in research over a period of years.

Physicists in federal government agencies advance in rank and salary as they gain experience. They may reach top positions in which they are asked to make decisions vital to the defense effort or to the safety and welfare of the country.

Scientists employed by industry are usually the highest paid in the profession and with experience can advance to research director positions.

The college or university physics teacher can advance from assistant to full professor and perhaps to head of the department. Higher rank also carries with it additional income and responsibilities.

Tips for Entry

Join the American Institute of Physics,, which offers a career network for members.

Set up an automated job search for physicist positions on a site such as to receive e-mails when positions open. This will provide useful information about what skills and experience employers are looking for and what types of positions are available.

Jobs for physicists are extremely varied. Visit Physicists Profiles on the American Physical Society's Web site at to see what kind of positions are available.

If you are interested in being a physicist with a medicine specialty, visit The American Association of Physicists in Medicine's Web site to check licensure requirements,