Careers in Physics

  • Physics will offer you powerful and beautiful tools to observe and understand the world around you. Physics also will enable you to pursue challenging, exciting, and productive careers, especially if you like math and science. As a career, physics covers many specialized fields - from acoustics, astronomy, and astrophysics to medical physics, geophysics, microelectronics, and vacuum sciences. Physics also offers a variety of work activities - lab supervisor, researcher, technician, teacher, manager. Physics will open you doors to employment opportunities throughout the world in government, industry, schools, and private organizations.

  • Other fields of science are heavily indebted to physics. For instance, the quantum theory is used by chemists to understand molecular bonding at a quantitative level. Civil and mechanical engineering use classical mechanics at their core. Physicians routinely make use of x-ray, ultrasound, and nuclear magnetic resonance for imaging, as well as the radiation from isotopes or linear accelerators for treating cancers. More recently, Wall Street has even hired physicists to perform quantitative modeling of stock and bond trends. So you see, an undergraduate degree in physics may be the best training for pursuing advanced degrees in many of the sciences.

  • Physics relies heavily on math. You should have taken algebra, trigonometry, and pre-calculus (if it was available) in high school. In college you need to take more mathematics. Also, as in other fields, computers are important tools for physicists. Computer programming classes will teach you the skills necessary for the modeling and analysis that are important in physics.

  • After you have taken general physics, with laboratory work, you will typically study some of the fields within physics such as classical mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetism, relativity, astrophysics, optics, and geophysics. A major in physics also provides an excellent foundation for pursuing a graduate degree. The masters program usually takes two years and may require a research topic. Additional six years may be needed to earn a Ph.D. One of the most important parts of the Ph.D. program is a piece of original research, conducted under the guidance of a faculty advisor. You will write up the results of your thesis and publish it in a scientific journal.

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