Inside Physicist Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"I Was Surprised At How Much Computer Programming Is Involved...
I'm surprised that the study of astronomy involves a lot of computer programming. No longer to astronomers view celestial objects through an eye piece. It's all done via computers and mostly automated." (Science Operations Specialist; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New Mexico
School: Studied Astrophysics at University Of California, Los Angeles in California; completed Bachelor degree in 2010

"Gender More Important Than Ability...
I was surprised that my gender affected my chances of getting a job. A lot of physics professors are older men and for some reason they don't prefer their research assistant to be female. I was also surprised to find that a B.S. degree in Physics will basically get you nothing in terms of a job. You need a masters or a Ph.D. to be able to do the real physics work, which means research, or industrial advancement." (I Am A Physicist.; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in New York, female
School: Studied Physics And Mathematics at Clarkson University in New York; completed Bachelor degree in 2012

"I was surprised how much more management and teaching I do than actual research. Coming in, I was focused primarily on biomedical research and have shifted to being much more of a mentor and leader for others doing research." (Scientist And Professor; 2012)

Career: 12 years of experience, currently based in Arizona, male
School: Studied Biophysics at National Institutes Of Health in Maryland; completed Doctorate degree in 2008

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Research Assistant: "The best part of my career is the freedom to explore topics that interest me, so long as they further advance the mission of the organization. This means that if I think I have a better way to do what we are already doing, I don't have to ask for permission - rather, I just do it, and if it works, everyone else will implement it as well. This also leads to peer reviewed articles, so that my work gets recognition from the community as a whole." (2011)

Geophysicist: "The best part of the job is being able to pinpoint oil and gas sitting thousands of feet deep in the earth's crust that we can extract for our day-to-day use. The worst part is that we're not always right. In a small but significant number of cases your best bet proves a bust and all you find is water, after spending millions of dollars drilling a well." (2010)

Career Tips

"Three Subjects To Master When Wanting A Career In Astronomy...
If you want to study astrophysics, it's important to take as many mathematics, physics, and computer programming courses as possible. Having knowledge of the popular programming languages used in astronomy will help you acquire positions and move up in the industry." (Science Operations Specialist; 2014)

"More Advanced Degree Better Job Outlook...
A more advanced degree is important in the field of physics. Strive to get a Ph.D. with a strong focus in the field of physics that you most enjoy. This degree will gain you access to the prime physics positions. Make sure to study as much as possible for the Physics GRE subject test, because most graduate programs use these scores to weed out the multitude of applicants." (I Am A Physicist.; 2014)

"What's The Worst That Could Happen...
Take as many courses as possible in physics and computer programming. The more knowledge you have in these areas, the more useful you will be. Consider spending a lot of spare time reading technical websites on line to learn the jargon and different image quality metrics. Don't be afraid to try new things with technology. The worst that can happen is that you break something, but then you learn how to fix it, and learn its inner workings for better manipulation in the future." (Research Assistant; 2011)

"Study Physics...
As challenging as it may sound to take physics courses, this is at the heart of a geophysics career. I encourage you to think about courses that you like and, if physics is one of them, to pursue the more advanced ones. This is something that is always going to help you understand the earth and its mantle." (Geophysicist; 2010)