Wayne State University

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Physics and Astronomy Career Outlook

A Degree in Physics

Physics is crucial to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. It is the most basic and fundamental science and it encompasses the study of the universe from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles (aps.org).

Students earning a degree in physics or astronomy conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.

 

Transferable Skills

A physics or astronomy degree offers skills in:

  • Science – using scientific rules and methods to solve problems
  • Mathematics – using mathematics to solve problems
  • Deductive reasoning – the ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense
  • Inductive reasoning – the ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events)
  • Critical thinking – using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems
  • Complex problem solving – identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions
  • Processing information – compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data
  • Laboratory and research skills to analyze data and solve complex problems

 

Some Careers in Physics
 

Career Median Salary Market Growth
Aerospace Engineer $107,830 -2% or lower
Astrophysicist/Astronomer $104, 100 2 – 4%
Automotive Engineering $83,590 5 – 8%
Biochemist and Biophysicist $82,150 5 – 8%
Energy Engineer $95,900 2 – 4%
Chemist and Materials Scientist $91,000 2 – 4%
Civil Engineer $82,220 5 – 8%
Computer and Information Research Scientist $110,620 9 – 13%
Computer Hardware Engineer $111,730 2 – 4%
Electrical and Electronics Engineer $93,010 -1 – 1%
Geoscientist (Except Hydrologists and Geographers) $89,700 9 – 13%
Mathmatician $111,110 14% or higher
Mechanical Engineer $83,590 5 – 8%
Nuclear Engineer $102,950 -2% or lower
Nuclear Medicine Physician $187,200 14% or higher
Physicist $111,580 5 – 8%
Post Secondary Teacher $82,840 14% or higher


Source: O*NET Online, in partnership with the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration

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Graduate Study

This degree also provides a solid foundation for graduate study in:

  • Astrophysics
  • Physics
  • Medical physics
  • Nuclear physics
  • Patent law
  • Engineering

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Notable People With a Physics Major

  • James Cameron  (Film maker, director, producer, screenwriter for The Terminator, Titanic, Avatar)
  • Marie Curie (Research of radioactivity, first woman to receive Nobel Prize)
  • Albert Einstein (Developed the general theory of relativity and E=mc2)
  • Brian May (Co-founder, lead guitarist, and singer of rock group, Queen; astrophysicist)
  • Elon Musk  (Founder/CEO of SpaceX, co-founder, CEO and product architect of Tesla, Inc.)
  • Vera Rubin (Studied galaxy rotation rates, provided evidence for the existence of dark matter)
  • Carl Sagan (Astronomer, cosmologist, astrophysicist, astrobiologist, author, science communicator)
  • Neil deGrasse Tyson (Astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator)