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
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),
(e.g., licenses, board certification, and teaching certificates),
- type of
employer (e.g., academe, private sector, government), and
- years of
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.