Physics Degree Career Options

According to the American Institute of Physics, holders of a physics degree are employed in a wide range of industries, from government to education.

Government

Government positions for graduates with a physics degree include the following: working in electrical power plants, becoming an instrument operator or engaging in radiation monitoring. These positions are available at the municipal, state or federal levels. If you are interested in pursuing a job with the government, explore opportunities for students via sites such as USAjobs.

Software

Many people with a physics degree will also pursue careers in software development. Physics majors have pursued careers in developing artificial intelligence, designing software for graphic design or creating computer games. A physics major who continues into software design will also need to become proficient as a programmer and learn at least two additional programming languages to compete for positions in this industry.

Engineering

Engineering physicists help to design electronic equipment for measurement or for communication purposes. Most engineering physicists will possess a strong background in telecommunications or electronics, or they will opt to earn a combined degree in engineering and physics. Careers for engineering physicists also exist in aerospace, where people with a physics degree may develop electronic systems for aircraft, missiles or satellites.

Education

With an undergraduate physics degree, you can pursue a career in education. Usually a physics degree will take you to the secondary school setting. To become a high school teacher, you will either need to complete additional undergraduate education courses or complete a graduate degree in education, or you might opt to complete a recognized work experience program, such as Teach for America. In most states, teachers are certified, which means they possess the requisite education, such as an undergraduate degree in education, or they have completed several years of professional teaching. Becoming a teacher in your state will depend on the licensing requirements for that state, so consult the state board of education for more information.

You could also investigate opportunities in museum education, such as working at a science museum or becoming an education program coordinator. Many of these positions will only require a bachelor's degree, though you may decide to pursue a graduate program in museum studies.

Teaching positions in post-secondary institutions will usually require at least a master's degree, if not a doctorate.

Health Care

Though there are many different positions for physics in health care, a popular field is radiation oncology. In this area, radiation treatments are applied to cancer, either to stem the development or remove the disease from human tissue. Careers in radiation physics and in medical radiation technology work for physicists who are interested in applying physics to the treatment of disease. These positions will usually be available at hospitals and clinics with cancer treatment facilities or with research universities that are developing oncology treatments.

Physics as a Starting Point

Many physics undergraduates will continue with graduate studies in physics to pursue careers in academia and senior-level research positions.

Other graduates will apply their undergraduate physics degree to law or medical school, since a strong background in science can be an asset in both professions.

Some physics graduates will also find employment in civilian positions with the military or become officers, depending on their career plans. For these students, a physics degree can open doors to many other positions.