and astronomers hold about 17,100 jobs in the United States. Physicists
accounted for about 15,600 of these, while astronomers accounted for
only about 1,500 jobs. In addition, there were about 15,500 physicists
employed in faculty positions. Those classified as
postsecondary teachers are not included in these employment numbers.
About 39 percent of physicists and astronomers worked for the scientific
research and development services industry, which includes employees of
the 36 Federally Funded Research and Development Centers. These centers,
sometimes referred to as national laboratories, perform a significant
amount of basic research in the physical sciences. They are funded by
government agencies such as the Department of Energy and the Department
of Defense, but are administered by universities or private
corporations. The Federal Government directly employed another 22
percent, mostly in the U.S. Department of Defense, but also in the
National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and in the U.S.
Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Energy. Other
physicists and astronomers worked in nonfaculty research positions at
educational institutions and hospitals.
Although physicists and
astronomers are employed in all parts of the country, most work in areas
in which universities, large research laboratories, or observatories are
Employers Look For
are the most rewarding aspects of the work physicists do?
do employers look for in a candidate? Obviously, most employers first
look for knowledge and experience that matches their specific and
immediate needs. Beyond that, however, many look for some combination of
four general skills and traits. One of those is problem solving ability
including intelligence, quantitative skills and a practical orientation,
e.g., the ability to break a complex problem down to its elementary
parts and identify a set of likely solutions. Another area is drive and
aspirations including persistence, a strong work ethic, and a high
standard of excellence.
A third area is personal impact which includes such traits as
communications skills (writing, speaking and listening), ability to work
within a team environment and a personal presence. A fourth area is
leadership including initiative and entrepreneurship, which is
especially important in the private sector. Employers are looking for
people who can assess the strengths of their company, assess the
strengths of their team and propose an idea for a new product or service
that is consistent with the company's goals both.
Regardless of where they work and their specific occupations, most
physics bachelors report that the most rewarding aspects of their
current positions is the challenge of solving interesting and complex
problems and the satisfaction of developing creative solutions to
problems. The specific problems are in a variety of disciplines. The
second most cited reward was working with people. These include the
satisfaction of working with intelligent and creative co-workers,
supervising employees and helping them develop to their full potential,
and the rewards of working with customers, clients and students. Many
physics bachelors, especially those in the private sector, report a
great deal of satisfaction from seeing a project yield a successful and
useful product. The last major category of reward reflects the
intellectual satisfaction of developing new methods, processes and
designs. PhD physicists also note the intellectual satisfaction of
successful research and adding to the knowledge base.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US Department
of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics.