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Physics Overview - Preparation - Specialty Areas - Day In The Life - Earnings - Employment - Career Path Forecast - Professional Organizations 

Your earning potential is a combination of your skills and the market value of those abilities. The salaries that are common when you complete your ultimate degree will be different, in part, because of inflation and, in part, because the relative demand for technological skills constantly changes.

Variables Affecting Salaries
Although a great many variables contribute to the salary you are likely to earn, the four major factors are:
  • highest degree (e.g., bachelors, masters, PhD),
  • credentials (e.g., licenses, board certification, and teaching certificates),
  • type of employer (e.g., academe, private sector, government), and
  • years of experience.

Current Statistics
Median annual earnings of physicists is $102,890 in the United States. The middle 50 percent earned between $80,040 and $130,980. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $57,160, and the highest 10 percent earned more than 159,400.

Median annual earnings of astronomers is $101,300. The middle 50 percent earned between $63,610 and $133,630, the lowest 10 percent less than $45,330, and the highest 10 percent more than $156,720.

The average annual salary for physicists employed by the Federal Government was $118,971 in 2009; for astronomy and space scientists, it was $130,833.

The American Institute of Physics reports a median annual salary of $80,000 in for its members with Ph.D.'s (excluding those in postdoctoral positions) who were employed by a university on a 9-10 month salary; the median was $112,700 for those who held a Ph.D. and worked at a federally funded research and development center; and $110,000 for self-employed physicists who hold a Ph.D. Those working in temporary postdoctoral positions earned significantly less.

Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the  American Institute of Physics and the US Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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