Physics

We've all heard of physicists. People in these science jobs explore the very basic mechanisms governing the motion, energy, structure, and interactions of matter. From researching entire galaxies to investigating the mysteries of subatomic particles, physicists utilize the understanding of laws of matter, energy, and motion to solve practical problems and develop new technological modalities. Some physicists conduct basic research into subjects as abstract as the origin of the universe, while others work in applied science areas, such as developing improved materials, medical equipment, and electronic devices.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that careers in physics will grow at a faster than average rate through 2018. Some of the more exciting physics careers include teaching, medical physics, optics and lasers, and geophysics. Teaching is a rewarding career that is always in demand. Physics instructors, from high school teachers to university professors, are certain to obtain employment and are an invaluable tool in helping to educate the next generation of physicists. A bachelor's degree with a major in physics is sufficient to teach in some private schools, while a master's degree is required for teaching in public schools, and a PhD is necessary for college level instructors.

Physicists generally specialize in one of many subfields, and some of these are highlighted below. Medical physicists work in clinics, hospitals, and medical schools, specializing in either diagnostic radiology or radiation therapy. For science jobs is this field, a master's or doctorate degree in physics, medical physics, or radiation biology is usually required and further training can be obtained through a residency trainee or a short postdoctoral program. To work as a medical physicist, passing a certification examination given by the American Board of Radiology or the American Board of Medical Physics is required with a specialization in one of four subfields: therapeutic radiological physics, diagnostic radiological physics, medical nuclear physics, or medical health physics. Most jobs in medical physics involve either therapy or diagnostics. For example, working with oncologists, a medical physicist specializing in radiation therapy, may determine a therapeutic dose to be delivered, establish an adequate treatment protocol, and monitor the therapeutic process to ensure that the patient receives the correct radiation dose at the correct location.

Optics-related careers with a focus on lasers enjoy a significant market demand, due in part to the ubiquitous use of lasers in such technologies as supermarket barcode scanners and laser disc players. Optics and laser-related jobs are also available in medicine (vision correction surgery), industry (using lasers to cut strong materials), the military (missile defense systems), and in scientific research (spectroscopy). Depending on what type of career one wishes to pursue in optical science, a background in electrical engineering or medicine may be particularly helpful. Another career path in optics is optoelectronics, the development of electronic devices that produce, detect, and control light, such as UV, x-rays, and visible light. Science jobs in this field include those in the design and manufacture of devices that use the photoelectric or photovoltaic effect, such as solar cells and phototransistors.

Finally, for those interested in physics and geology, a career in geophysics might be a good option. Geophysics involves applying the principles of physics to the earth sciences. A major employer is the United States Geological Survey which employs scientists, technicians, and support staff. Geophysics jobs are also available in the atmospheric sciences studying weather, atmospheric electricity, and the ionosphere. Another major employer is NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center with job opportunities in geomagnetism, planetary geology, and geophysics. Jobs in hydrology, physical oceanography, and glaciology are also an option.

Careers are also available in fields such as astrophysics (laws of physics outside Earth, other galaxies), acoustics (multiple uses of sound waves in many practical applications), nuclear physics (applications of nuclear energy), particle physics, and condensed matter physics (superconductivity, crystallography, and semiconductors). A small number of physicists also work in inspection, testing, quality control, and other production-related jobs in industry.