What Can You Do With a Physics Degree?
| Genevieve Carlton
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A physics degree explores the nature and properties of space, time, energy, and force, preparing graduates for careers in engineering, aerospace, and the environment.
Physics majors investigate the origins of the universe, the nature of time, and interactions between objects at every level. With a physics degree, graduates can develop energy-generating machines and life-saving medical devices. They can also specialize in areas like astronomy, atmospheric science, biophysics, and medical physics.
Physics is a versatile STEM degree that builds analytical and critical thinking skills that benefit professionals in many different industries. Physics researchers, teachers, technicians, and scientists make a difference in the world.
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Top Physics Degree Jobs
A physics degree builds strong analytical and problem-solving skills. Many industries hire physics majors for roles that require scientific training, analytical abilities, or mathematical strengths. For example, physics graduates work in the tech industry, healthcare, education, and engineering.
The science training in a physics program also prepares graduates for careers in the military, the atmospheric sciences, business, and the environmental sciences. To pursue specialized roles in engineering, computer science, or biomedicine, physics majors can take electives, a minor, or a double major in their target field. The following information explores common physics degree jobs, including salary and job growth data.
Natural sciences managers oversee research scientists, including physicists, chemists, laboratory scientists, and technicians. They direct research and development activities and manage testing and quality control processes.
Physicists and astronomers explore the relationship between matter and energy. They conduct experiments to understand the subatomic particles that make up the universe. Physicists and astronomers specialize in theoretical or applied approaches to physics.
These research scientists develop algorithms and invent software and technology to solve problems. They specialize in areas like science, medicine, and business. Data scientists also fall into this category.
Nuclear engineers research nuclear energy and radiation. They create instruments and tools to use nuclear energy, develop uses for radioactive materials, and develop nuclear power sources. Some nuclear engineers specialize in industrial and medical applications of nuclear power.
These scientists study weather conditions, the climate, and weather events. Some, like meteorologists, create weather forecasts based on field data and models. Atmospheric scientists also create data collection tools and research climate change.
Biophysicists study the physical principles behind living things, including biological processes such as lifespan growth, cell development, and heredity. By applying physics to living systems, they gain a deeper understanding of biological systems and living organisms.
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers apply engineering principles to biological and medical problems. They design medical equipment, create new biological devices, and develop computer software to operate biomechanical equipment.
These engineers use science and engineering to create solutions to environmental challenges. They develop waste disposal methods, design new recycling systems, and limit the damage caused by pollution.
Physics college professors instruct undergraduate and graduate students in the subject. They teach classes, demonstrate physics principles, and assess student learning. Many professors also conduct research in their specialty areas and publish their findings.
Mechanical engineers research and design devices like generators and engines. They also build and test machines to improve their performance, create new tools, and serve industry needs.
These professionals design and construct public works projects, including roads, bridges, and tunnels. They also oversee infrastructure systems in the private sector. Civil engineers conduct research, educate decision-makers, and plan projects.
Nuclear technicians staff nuclear energy plants. They also conduct nuclear research, working closely with with engineers and physicists. These technicians operate equipment and monitor radiation levels.
Chemists and material scientists examine substances to understand how they behave. They use tools to explore atomic and molecular structures, testing and developing new materials. Many hold physics or chemistry degrees.
These professionals apply their natural sciences training to improve population health and promote environmentally friendly policies. They help organizations reduce pollution, oversee clean-up efforts, and recommend environmental policies.
High school teachers educate students in core subjects like physics, chemistry, biology, and mathematics, preparing high schoolers for college or the workforce. They assess pupils' learning and implement curricula for their districts.
Chemical technicians operate laboratory instruments and use scientific techniques to conduct research or test chemical products. They assist chemists and chemical engineers in laboratories.
What Kinds of Physics Degrees Are There?
Both undergraduate and graduate students can earn physics degrees that align with niche career paths. For example, medical laboratory scientists need bachelor's degrees, while physicists typically hold doctorates. This section explores degree requirements and common career paths for individuals with physics degrees.
Associate Degree in Physics
An associate degree introduces students to physics through foundational courses in biology, chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Many community colleges offer transfer-ready associate degrees for undergraduates considering bachelor's degrees. Graduates can work as technicians in laboratory settings or pursue higher degrees.
Associate in Physics Degree Jobs
- Chemical technician
- Food science technician
- Nuclear technician
Bachelor of Physics Degree
Bachelor's-level physics majors study quantum physics, statistics, mathematics, and the natural sciences. The degree leads to jobs in laboratory settings — for example, as material scientists — along with careers in education.
During a bachelor's program, physics majors strengthen their critical thinking, analytical, and problem-solving skills. In addition to physics courses, majors take classes in biology, engineering, chemistry, and mathematics. Majors choose between bachelor of arts and bachelor of science degrees in physics, which cover similar topics but have different general education requirements.
Bachelor's Degree in Physics Jobs
- Clinical laboratory technologist
- Material scientist
- Physics teacher
Master's Degree in Physics
A master's degree offers graduate-level coursework and concentrations in astrophysics, biological physics, and medical physics. After a two-year master's degree, professionals pursue careers as researchers, laboratory scientists, and natural sciences managers.
Master's in Physics Degree Jobs
- Natural sciences manager
- Computer and information research scientist
- Physics researcher
Doctoral Degree in Physics
A doctorate in physics prepares graduates for employment as research scientists, physicists, and physics professors. The top research and academic roles require candidates to have doctoral degrees, which typically take 4-5 years.
During a doctoral program, graduate students complete advanced coursework, doctoral exams, original research, and dissertations.
Physics Doctoral Degree Jobs
- Physics professor
Physics Degree Program Accreditation
Prospective physics majors should always choose regionally accredited schools. Regionally accredited schools meet the highest standards for educating students and granting degrees.
In addition, some physics programs hold programmatic accreditation, which is earned based on graduation requirements, faculty qualifications, and student learning outcomes. For example, ABET accredits applied and natural science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology degree programs, while the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs provides accreditation for medical physics programs.
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Frequently Asked Questions
Physics is a highly technical degree, including courses in quantum physics, mechanics, chemistry, mathematics, and material science. The degree requires strong math and science skills.
Graduates with physics degrees typically find employment in the sciences, engineering, and technology sectors. Common career paths include roles in aerospace, engineering, the military, laboratory science, and education.
Physics students can double major with many subjects. Double majoring in biology leads to opportunities in bioengineering, while an engineering major can lead to work on infrastructure. Incorporating a math major leads to opportunities in theoretical science or mathematics, while an education major prepares graduates for careers as physics teachers.
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