Physicists and astronomers essential career information:
- 2012 median pay: $105,430
- 2012, number of jobs: 20,600
- Employment growth forecast, 2010-2020: 14 percent
- Entry level education requirements: Doctoral or professional degree
Physicists and astronomers; what they do:
Ever wonder about the secrets of the universe or how medical technology can save the lives of millions? Physicists and astronomers have been studying and finding answers to these questions and many others for many years. Physicists and astronomers study all aspects of the universe and develop new technologies and innovative theories based on years of intensive research.
Together, physicists and astronomers often overlap in research contributions and scientific theories. People in both occupations perform experiments and research studies, discover matter and energy properties, write research grants and conduct mathematical formulations to understand data.
A physicist career includes developing and designing scientific equipment and computer software used to analyze information, write and publish scientific papers and articles, teach at universities and present theories and research findings at conferences and lecture series.
Physicist careers include studying and creating methods with the use of certain laws that dictate space, matter and energy
An astronomer career includes researching celestial phenomena and other properties of galaxies. Both occupations conduct this research to increase knowledge and solve everyday problems.
Physicist and astronomer job titles:
- Medical Physicist
- Particle Physicist
- Astronomy Professor
- Health Physicist
- Quantum Physicist
- Astro Physicist
- Theoretical Physicist
- Nuclear Physicist
Physicists and Astronomers Education, Certification and License Requirements
Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. to work in the field of astronomy and physics. A Ph.D. in Physics and a Ph.D. in Astronomy can each take up to 7 years to complete. Before seeking a doctorate, candidates typically take courses such as computer science, calculus and linear algebra to ease the transition into graduate work and analyzing data and performing research.
Students with a Master in Physics degree usually find work in applied research in industries such as healthcare. Those who choose to only obtain a bachelor’s degree in physics or astronomy are not qualified to perform independent research; however, they can gain employment as research assistants or technicians in related fields.
Many individuals begin their physicist career or astronomer career in a postdoctoral research position working under experienced scientists. These jobs can last up to three years and usually result in published research and theories.
Physicists and astronomers seeking to enter governmental jobs in areas such as nuclear energy need U.S. citizenship and major security clearances.
Physicist and astronomer programs cover subjects such as:
- Quantum physics
- Classical mechanics
- Statistical physics
- Experimental physics
- Differential equations
- Space systems engineering
Career Advancement Opportunities
With time and dedication, physicists and astronomers can work towards earning managerial jobs, greater independence in their respective positions, tenure in professorial positions, and larger budgets.
Physicists and Astronomers Job Outlook
Forecast: 14 percent employment growth for physicists and astronomers between 2010 and 2020, about as fast as average for all occupations.
An increase in federal government spending for research in areas such as physics and astronomy increases the demand for the occupations at colleges, universities and national laboratories. Government spending in the areas of energy and manufacturing research increases the demand for physicists.
Physicists and Astronomers Salary
- 2012 median annual wage: $104,720
- 2012 workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $138,640
- 2012, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage: $65,710
- 2012 median annual wage: $106,840
- 2012 workers at the 75th percentile annual wage: $140,550
- 2012, workers at the 25th percentile annual wage: $79,830
Physicists and Astronomers Major Employers
- Colleges, universities and professional schools
- Federal government
- Research and development in physical, engineering and life sciences
- Healthcare (physicists only)
- Management, technical and scientific consulting services (physicists only)