Why is a degree in physics important?
A degree in physics is useful beyond traditional jobs in research and teaching at the college level. The Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in physics provides a traditional liberal arts education with a solid set of core courses in physics. Skills learned in a physics degree transfer well to other professions such as law, medicine, technology or business.
Interdisciplinary studies are encouraged, and special concentrations are available for students interested in computational physics and pre-health care. There's a lot you can do with a bachelor's degree, and advanced degrees can take you even further.
Types of career paths
Nearly 90 percent of all "physicists" are working in medicine, education, industry, or other professions. Some of the better-known careers for physics majors include:
- Technology: Cutting-edge technologies such as superconductivity, optics, lasers, and others demand people who understand the science at the root of these innovations. A background in physics is useful in research and testing new technologies and new devices.
- Business: As a physics major, you'll be well-versed in many forms of mathematics. This can make you a good candidate for jobs in finance or economics. Your familiarity with complex formulas, large amounts of data, and other mathematical principles can come in handy when calculating loans, dividends, amortizations, bids or other valuations. Similarly, the field of economics can take advantage of your skills in developing models, predictions or projections regarding economic conditions.
- Medicine: Diagnostic tools are one of the most useful applications of physics in the medical field. From MRIs to CAT scans, physics plays an important role in health care. Potential employers such as hospitals or manufacturers of these technologies can benefit from individuals with a physics background.
- Law: Advances in technology and other discoveries have opened up a great need for people in the legal profession who can understand the complexities of science, particularly physics. A law degree, on top of a physics degree, is handy in the areas of patents, contracts, or intellectual property.
How can physics transfer to so many career paths?
It might be more appropriate to think of physics as more of a way of thinking than as a profession. The methodology of physics trains students to take a logical, problem-solving approach in whatever situations they might find themselves. It prepares students in the concepts and methods of science that can be applied in many different professional areas and research topics.
Physics majors are well suited to jobs that require step-by-by problem solving using skills in math with abilities in observation and communication.
What do physics majors do after graduation?American Physical Society/Careers InSight (links to a PowerPoint presentations on the APS web site)