Physics has always been one of the most fascinating subjects. From the basic laws of motion to the most complex theories, physics is there to help you understand almost anything. Given how vast and fascinating this subject is, it’s no surprise that there are so many career opportunities in physics.

As a result, you can find jobs as varied as working with computers and microscopes as a part-time hobbyist to working as a research scientist for one of the world’s leading companies. The fields that you can work in are also broad, from teaching at the high school level all the way up to working as a research associate or postdoctoral researcher at one of the top universities in your field.

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Why Physics is Important

The basic knowledge of physics is crucial to understanding how things work, and because it’s fundamental to so many other fields—like biology, mathematics, chemistry, computer science and engineering—it’s a useful discipline for professionals in any industry. Plus, scientists are still learning more about physics every day. That makes it an exciting field to study.

Job Opportunities in Physics

As with most sciences, physics is a field rich with career opportunities. Whether you choose to go into research, teaching, or a different specialization entirely, there are jobs out there for you. The following are just a few positions where you can apply your physics education.

Career Fields You Can Pursue in Physics

If you’re working toward a degree or just want to brush up on your knowledge, here are 15 careers that might interest you.

15 Careers You Can Pursue in Physics

1) Physicist

Physicists create and explore fundamental theories, concepts, and laws that help us to understand and explain a wide range of physical phenomena. Many also apply their knowledge to design tools, machines, technologies, new materials, and processes. Physicists who design tools or technologies related to physics are called applied physicists. Some choose instead to pursue careers in fields like engineering or medicine while retaining their deep understanding of physics.

2) Professor 

If you’re passionate about science and want to be a part of shaping future scientists, then becoming a professor might be right up your alley. Professors typically teach at colleges and universities while conducting their own research on the side.  Whether you like working with numbers, people or machines, there are countless career options for a physics major. From teaching to research, engineering to finance, these professionals share their stories about how they’ve worked through their careers and made a difference in others’ lives along the way.

3) Scientist 

The first thing that comes to mind when people think about physics is usually a science. Scientists use their knowledge of how natural processes work and their understanding of how things interact with each other on a fundamental level to inform other fields. Physicists also frequently conduct research in areas like chemistry, biology, geology, environmental science and technology. Whether you’re interested in working for NASA or a local university, there are plenty of opportunities available!

4) Patent Examiner

Patent examiners review patent applications to ensure they meet all legal requirements before being granted a patent by the U.S. Patent Office (USPTO). If you have an advanced degree in physics and/or experience working as a physicist, then it could be worth applying for one of these jobs!

5) Engineer

There are several types of engineering fields you can pursue after earning a degree in physics. Mechanical engineers design machines and devices; electrical engineers develop new technologies related to electronics; civil engineers plan and build structures like buildings, roads, dams, bridges, etc.; aerospace engineers design aircraft; chemical engineers create new products based on chemicals; etc. 

6) Electrical Engineer

It is almost impossible to think of a business, home or car that doesn’t make use of electrical equipment today. As a result, many engineers and scientists are employed full-time to ensure these systems run as smoothly as possible. Electrical engineers design and oversee all aspects of electronic devices and systems including research, development, testing and installation. Many electrical engineers also work with machinery such as turbines or control automated manufacturing processes.

7) Radiation Therapist

Radiation therapists use radiation to treat cancer patients. They may administer a radioactive drug or deliver a high dose of radiation to kill diseased cells. They also oversee and monitor treatment sessions, ensure that equipment is working properly, and maintain records on patient treatments. Because they work with radioactive materials, they must have extensive knowledge about radiation safety procedures and regulations as well as a license from their state’s department of health services. They typically need an associate degree for entry-level positions but can advance to become supervisors or department heads with further education and experience.

8) Computer Hardware Engineer

Do you enjoy fixing and maintaining machines, computers, and electronics? If so, a career as a computer hardware engineer could be right for you. Computer hardware engineers are responsible for developing and designing devices that use microprocessors. These devices may include digital watches, cell phones, automatic doors, fire alarms, microwave ovens or industrial equipment. Computer hardware engineers often work with software developers to create specifications for how these devices will operate; they then develop blueprints based on these specs that detail how to build such machines.

9) Software Engineer

If you’re familiar with physics and comfortable with math, there are several areas where you can put your expertise to use. As a software engineer, you can create programs that model physical phenomena. Though what specific skills employers are looking for varies greatly from company to company, some basic computer science skills—like data structures and algorithms—are likely universal. Jobs are available nationwide and pay between $60K and $100K annually (or more), depending on experience level.

10) Meteorologist 

Meteorologists study weather patterns to predict weather events like hurricanes, tornadoes, or blizzards days in advance so that people can take action to protect themselves and others around them if necessary.  They work for a variety of employers including private companies, television stations, government agencies, and universities. Meteorologists are also known as broadcast meteorologists because they are often seen on TV news shows discussing current weather conditions.

11) Actuary 

Actuaries calculate risk probabilities for insurance companies, which helps them determine how much money they should charge customers to remain profitable without incurring too much risk.  This career requires a bachelor’s degree in mathematics or statistics and a strong background in calculus. Most actuaries have a master’s degree as well. The job outlook is excellent with a projected growth rate of 22% through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

12) Mathematician

Mathematicians specialize in solving complex problems using numbers and formulas rather than experiments or other real-world observation methods. They can find work at universities, government agencies, or private companies, where they can earn a salary ranging from $50,000 to $150,000 per year depending on their level of experience. The job outlook for mathematicians is good; according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data from May 2016, there were approximately 1,000 new jobs available each year between 2014 and 2024.

13) Sales Representative

If you love to speak with people, have a knack for explaining science and technology and don’t mind pushing products or services that you know are useful, sales may be your calling. Reach out to local businesses and see if they’re interested in hiring someone with your skills. Many companies hire entry-level talent as sales representatives for their upcoming product launches. Talk about reaching audiences on a large scale!

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14) Research and Development Specialist

This is a person who tests or examines research designs, experiments and prototypes to help develop new products or solve problems. Many R&D specialists have PhDs. The median annual wage for people with these jobs was $95,000 as of May 2012, according to Jobs Rated Almanac. This career is ranked No. 8 on U.S. News & World Report’s Best Science Jobs list because job growth is strong and it has high earnings potential — as long as you don’t mind working hard!

15) Data Analyst

Data analysts take information from a variety of sources and distil it down into reports that can be used by other professionals in their industries. These experts understand statistics, mathematics, and computer programs and may specialize in fields such as finance or medicine. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that by 2022, data analysts will have a job growth rate of 16 per cent. That’s much faster than average, meaning now is a great time to get started with training if you want to pursue an analytical career.

Bottom Line

When you’re passionate about what you do, it doesn’t feel like work. But at some point, you may decide that your career path is taking you down a road where you simply aren’t happy. It might be time to explore other paths and find a new direction.