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Department of Physics

Physics Career Opportunities

A Physics degree opens the door to a wide range of career activities.  Physics is such a fundamental subject, focusing on our basic understanding of the world, that a physics graduate will have skills useful in a wide range of fields and a strong ability to tackle all types of complex problems.  Traditional career paths include research in industrial and national laboratories, as well as teaching at any level from primary through college.  The SIUE Physics Department provides a strong background for these careers with a moderate number of faculty in the growing fields of optics/photonics, computational/condensed-matter physics, and physics and astronomy education research.

Physicists' skills at solving complex problems make them desired by employers even in fields not obviously related to physics.  In recent years physics majors have found jobs in such diverse fields as investment banking, stock-market analysis, and computer programming, often at salaries above the industry norms.

The median salary for full-time employed physics majors is $60,000, while starting salaries range from $25,000 to $50,000.  The unemployment rate for physics majors six months after graduation is only 3%, which is well below the national average.

Optics/Photonics is one of the most active fields of physics.  In optics, skilled people are in very high demand due to a global shortage of trained individuals, and there are always more jobs than applicants.  Students with degrees in optics or photonics have many job opportunities in national research laboratories and industries such as telecommunications, nanotechnology, lasers, optical materials, radiation treatment, and medical imaging.

Computational/Condensed-Matter Physics is an extraordinarily diverse field of physics, encompassing topics such as semiconductors, superconductors, the quantum Hall effect, liquid crystals, and complexity theory.  In recent years, Condensed-Matter Physics (formerly referred to as Solid-State Physics) has been the driving force behind an immense number of technological applications, from sensitive medical imaging equipment to laptop computers.  As a result, computational/condensed-matter physicists are in high demand, and numerous jobs are available in both industry and academia.

Physics and Astronomy Education Researchers explore the interface between science and the human mind by investigating the interactions and conflicts between these two domains.  Students trained in this field have an arsenal of skills from physics, cognitive psychology, education, and statistics, which facilitates multiple career paths.  In addition to being uniquely qualified for teaching opportunities, graduates can follow career paths which include education/public outreach for organizations such as NASA, science center education, test development for assessment organizations such as the ACT, and industrial training.

Revised 2014 Jun 4
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