Physics graduates are employed in many and extraordinarily varied fields. Your training as a scientist and problem solver, your technical expertise with equipment, your computer programming knowledge and general knowledge of the forefront of technology makes you a very desirable employee. You should also be proud of your ability to tackle problems independently, to work on a team, and to communicate science in writing and orally. OSU physics offers you many opportunities to hone these skills! We're proud to deliver you to the workforce to make a positive impact on the local and global community.
- American Physical Society (APS) describes career paths and job prospects. Look at the many faces and careers of Physicists at NSBP profiles and APS profiles
- American Institute of Physics (AIP) Statistics about physics employment
- AIP Statistics about salaries for physicists
Types of employment
Research & Development
Where: University, government lab, large private company, start-up company, consulting
What: Discover new fundamental and applied knowledge, usually in physics and related disciplines.
Where: University, community college, high school, middle & elementary school, education within a company, consulting
What: Teach physics and related subjects at all levels, from children to adults, including continuing education. Also manage education programs.
Where: University, government lab, large private company, start-up company, entrepreneurial venture, science museum, planetarium
What: Support for any type of technical endeavor, often in the high-tech and energy sectors. Includes field engineering, clean room tech, semiconductors, nanotechnology, quantum tech and (electro)optics.
Where: Everywhere! Large & small private company, utility company, government agency
What: Programming, code development, systems management, and modeling.
Where: Large & small private company, utility company, government agency
What: Formulating approaches to solve problems using algorithms and data sources, analyzing and understanding data to improve and innovate processes.
Science writing, journalism, editing
Where: Science publications, newspapers, technical companies
What: Writing about science for many different audiences, for many types of publications. Could also be in-house writer for company or science enterprise. Science editing.
Where: Federal, state, local government
What: Develop policy, lobby
Where: Hospitals, clinics, medical practices
What: Clinical and technical expertise in radiation of all types
Law, medicine, pharmacy, other professional
What: Many professional schools welcome Physics majors as they broaden their traditional admissions base. Physics students fare well on LSAT and MCAT!
Companies that employ physicists
Local companies that OSU physics majors have joined
Intel, Hillsboro; Hewlett Packard, Corvallis; PMIC, Corvallis; Thermo Fisher, Beaverton; Voxtel, Eugene; ThorLabs, NY; Amazon, Seattle; OHSU, Portland; Boeing; Detailedly, Hood River (science editing startup); NuScale, Corvallis;
Educational institutions that OSU physics majors have joined (usually with M.S. in education or physics)
Gold Beach High School, Linn-Benton Community College, Democracy Prep Public Schools (NYC)
National/government labs employ Physicists
The Department of Energy National Laboratories are powerhouses of science and technology whose researchers support scientists and engineers from academia, government, and industry with access to specialized equipment, world-class research facilities, and skilled technical staff. They value the technical and problem-solving skills of physicists at all levels and hire accordingly.
The closest are National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL) with a lab in Albany, OR (also Anchorage, AK); Pacific Northwest National Laboratories (PNNL) in Richland, WA; and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) in Idaho Falls, ID. There are also several in the San Francisco Bay Area.
OSU physics alums are employed permanently at many of these labs and the labs also offer student internships. The DOE National Labs are a subset of the Federally Funded Research and Development Corporations (FFRDC), public-private partnerships that conduct research for the U.S. government.
Summer and academic-year internships are excellent opportunities to learn about career options.
- The Department of Energy's Science Undergraduate Laboratory Internships (SULI) program, administered by the Office of Science and Technology, offers students the chance to work at DOE National Laboratories and gain the experience needed to transition from intern to employment. Interns work directly with National Lab scientists and engineers. Internship appointments are 10 weeks in duration for the Summer Term (May through August) or 16 weeks in duration for the Fall (August through December) and Spring (January through May) Terms. Each DOE laboratory/facility offers different research opportunities; not all DOE laboratories/facilities offer internships during the Fall and Spring Terms.
- The National Science Foundation's Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program offers undergraduates the opportunity to join a cohort of ten or so undergraduates who work in the research programs of the host institution. Each student is associated with a specific research project, where he/she works closely with the faculty and other researchers. Students are granted stipends and, in many cases, assistance with housing and travel (must be US citizen or permanent resident).
- GradSchoolShopper is an AIP publication that presents information about physics graduate schools.
- Women-friendly graduate schools is a database maintained by APS.
- Society of Physics Students (SPS) grad school resources.
- Slides from a workshop on "How Do I Get into Graduate School" at CUWiP 2016 co-presented by Prof. Kai-Mei Fu (UW) and Prof. Stephanie Majewski (UO).
- Current graduate schools of some OSU Physics majors (Physics unless otherwise stated): Oregon State University (Physics & EECS); University of Washington; UC Irvine (Materials Science); University of Rochester; Stanford University (Mechanical Engineering); Portland State University (Education); Princeton University (Computational Biology); University of Texas at Dallas; University of Arizona (Optical Sciences); Arizona State University; Imperial College, London (Mathematics); Cedars Sinai (Medical Physics); University of Oregon; U. Oregon Masters Industrial Intern Program; University of Waterloo; Ohio State University; Washington State University;
- OSU Career Development Center resources
- Slides from a workshop on "Making the Most of Your Undergraduate Career" at CUWiP 2016 co-presented by Prof. Janet Tate (OSU) and Prof. DJ Wagner (Grove City College) aimed at beginning physics majors.
- Join OSU Physics LinkedIn page - create your own LinkedIn profile and request to connect. Over 400 alumni are members.
Professional society resources for job-seekers: Resume writing, career planning, jobs listings, etc.
Tip: Dig deeper into the links on the careers pages of professional societies. Many of them are rich mines of information.
AIP career resources
- List of resources
- Careers Toolbox about all aspects of preparing for a career.
- Physics World Careers 2020 is an AIP publication with lots of information about careers.
APS career resources (and several sublinks in that menu)
- List of resources
- Careers 2020 is an APS publication with lots of information about careers.
- APS has a good resume writing page.
- APS internship listing.
- American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) career resources.
- National Society of Black Physicists (NSBP) jobs listings and profiles.
- National Society of Hispanic Physicists (NSHP) career resources and jobs listings.
- Society of Physics Students (SPS) jobs listings, career resources, and career toolbox.
- Biophysical Society (BPS) career resources.
- Materials Research Society (MRS) career resources and job board.
- American Astronomical Society (AAS) career resources.
- American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) career resources and job description and listing.
Resources for advisors
These are some best practices documents and other resources intended for those who advise job-seekers. It may be helpful for job seekers, too, to know what we should be doing and to offer suggestions about how we can improve.