All You Need To Know About A Physicist Career

You think about becoming a physicist but want to get some additional information in this regard before making your final career choice?

Stick with me since I will show you everything you need to know about being a physicist in the following chapters.

Not only will you learn how much you can make as a physicist, but we will also talk a lot about job satisfaction, job prospects, future outlook, educational requirements, duties, responsibilities, work-life balance and much more.

You will also find an FAQ section where I answer the most common questions about working as a physicist.

After reading this article, you will have a much better idea of what a physicist career looks like and whether you still want to become a physicist or rather want to go for a different job instead.

Without further ado, let’s get right into it!

Table of Contents

What does a Physicist do?

Physicists plan, conduct and evaluate scientific experiments and studies to draw conclusions that could benefit mankind as a whole in the long run.

Physicists also test and refute complex theories and therefore contribute to a better understanding of what our universe is made of.

Responsibilities & Duties of a Physicist

  • Conducting scientific experiments and studies
  • Testing and objecting theories
  • Doing research on complex topics
  • Studying the nature of time and how it affects all life on earth
  • Carrying out complex simulations
  • Studying the interaction of matter and energy
  • Inventing methods to make the world a better place
  • Improving our understanding of the universe
  • Using advanced technologies to prove theories
  • Collaborating with leading physicists from all over the world
  • Exchanging latest research insights

What a Typical Day of a Physicist looks like?

Physicists often work at research institutions and usually start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m.

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The first thing they do once they got to work is checking their emails and answering the most important and urgent ones.

After doing some administrative work and organizing their workday, physicists carry out complex experiments and research projects all day long and frequently take notes to preserve precious knowledge that they can use for their research papers later on.

Not only will you work with your brain quite a lot, but you will also use latest technologies and advanced computers to prove or refute theories.

Thus, you should be pretty intelligent and also passionate about this kind of work to stay happy with what you are doing in the long run.

After doing research for many hours, most physicists finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

Physicist Salary 2021

Physicist salary brackets 2021

Salary BracketsSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Top 10 %> $135,000> $67.42
Top 25 %$104,000 – $118,000$51.93 – $58.89
Bottom 25 %$67,000 – $73,000$33.44 – $36.41
Bottom 10 %$52,000 – $58,000$25.97 – $28.88
Range$52,000 – $166,000$25.97 – $82.87
Average (Mean)$87,000$43.48
Median$83,000$41.45

Physicist salary 2021 by expert level

Level of ExperienceSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Entry level$52,000 – $69,000$25.97 – $34.39
Junior$66,000 – $78,000$32.96 – $38.89
Professional$75,000 – $92,000$37.38 – $45.92
Senior Professional$87,000 – $108,000$43.41 – $53.90
Expert$106,000 – $142,000$52.92 – $70.94
Top Expert$127,000 – $166,000$63.47 – $82.87

Physicist salary by state 2021 (average)

StateSalary (per year)Salary (per hour)
Alabama$82,700$41.34
Alaska$85,200$42.59
Arizona$87,800$43.88
Arkansas$81,300$40.64
California$97,600$48.78
Colorado$83,200$41.57
Connecticut$79,100$39.53
Delaware$80,400$40.18
District of Columbia$83,900$41.94
Florida$87,800$43.88
Georgia$82,100$41.03
Guam$81,600$40.79
Hawaii$84,500$42.22
Idaho$78,200$39.08
Illinois$79,300$39.64
Indiana$81,400$40.68
Iowa$83,600$41.79
Kansas$80,800$40.36
Kentucky$77,900$38.93
Louisiana$81,500$40.72
Maine$83,800$41.89
Maryland$85,200$42.58
Massachusetts$89,700$44.84
Michigan$81,300$40.63
Minnesota$85,800$42.87
Mississippi$78,900$39.42
Missouri$76,300$38.13
Montana$80,300$40.12
Nebraska$78,100$39.04
Nevada$79,800$39.88
New Hampshire$82,500$41.23
New Jersey$84,700$42.34
New Mexico$81,400$40.68
New York$95,200$47.59
North Carolina$86,100$43.03
North Dakota$83,200$41.58
Ohio$84,700$42.33
Oklahoma$82,900$41.41
Oregon$81,800$40.87
Pennsylvania$85,100$42.54
Rhode Island$81,300$40.62
South Carolina$78,900$39.44
South Dakota$79,800$39.86
Tennessee$77,800$38.87
Texas$81,200$40.58
Utah$84,600$42.27
Vermont$82,700$41.33
Virginia$83,500$41.74
Washington$87,900$43.94
West Virginia$86,300$43.12
Wisconsin$83,200$41.58
Wyoming$79,800$39.88

Job Security of Physicists

Physicists enjoy pretty decent job security since educational barriers to entry in this field are pretty high and not many people are able to do this kind of work since it requires having a pretty high IQ.

Consequently, once you get a job as a physicist, you will not have to worry about getting unemployed since good physicists are in high demand and you will find a new job pretty soon.

Future Outlook of Physicists

Not only do you have great job prospects as a physicist right now, but you will also have excellent job prospects in the future since there will be a lack of qualified physicists in many regions.

Consequently, you will not have to worry about becoming unemployed anytime soon and will rather have freedom of choice regarding whom you want to work for.

Working Hours of Physicists

Most physicists start their workday between 8 and 10 a.m. and finish their workday between 4 and 6 p.m.

Hence, working as a physicist is a classical 9 to 5 job and you will therefore have more than enough time to meet up with your favorite people after work or to spend on your hobbies.

Job Satisfaction of Physicists

Many physicists are pretty happy with what they are doing for a living since they love their daily tasks and also have pretty high job security while they are still able to make good money at the same time and can also make the world a better place.

Promotion Opportunities of Physicists

While you will often start out as a normal employee, you will soon get more responsibilities and if you are really passionate about what you are doing and are also willing to work hard, you may get personnel and budget responsibility pretty soon in your life as a physicist.

Career Levels of Physicists

  • Junior physicist
  • Senior physicist
  • Senior physicist with budget and/or personnel responsibility
  • Physicist managing a research department
  • Head of a research institute

Fields and Types of Physicists

  • Theoretical physicist
  • Nuclear physicist
  • Astrophysicist
  • Molecular physicist
  • Space physicist
  • Astronomical physicist
  • Optical physicist
  • Engineering physicist
  • Physicist working for a research institute
  • Physicist working in the corporate world

Educational Requirements for Physicists

Physicists need at least a bachelor’s degree in physics or a related field.

However, many physicists still hold a master’s or even a doctor’s degree due to the fact that many research projects require lots of theoretical knowledge and if you don’t get excellent education, you may not be able to dismantle and understand complex scientific problems and may not know how to approach and solve them.

How to become a Physicist

  1. Inform yourself about the advantages and disadvantages of being a physicist
  2. Enroll for your favorite physics degree
  3. Apply for an internship at a local research institute
  4. Make a good impression during your internship
  5. Stay in touch with your colleagues
  6. Finish your college degree with decent grades
  7. Apply for jobs as a physicist
  8. Master the job interview
  9. Sign your labor contract
  10. Work hard and become a real expert in your industry

Character Traits you need as a Physicist

  • Attention to detail helps you solve complex problems
  • Patience helps you overcome difficult periods of your career
  • Persistence helps solve scientific problems in the long run
  • Empathy for colleagues who have a bad day at work
  • You should believe in yourself
  • Willingness to work with rather exotic and unconventional people
  • Willingness to work in a field where results are pretty intangible
  • Strong mindset helps you overcome times when you just want to give up
  • Willingness to work on complex problems for many weeks, months or even years

Hard Skills for Physicists

  • Excellent knowledge of major concepts in physics
  • Knowledge of how the world works
  • Knowledge of major scientific rules and theories
  • Ability to do research on a high level
  • Knowledge of how to cite things correctly
  • Ability to carry out research projects in a safe manner
  • Ability to work with latest technologies
  • Digital skills help as well
  • Knowledge of rules and regulations related to research projects
  • Excellent math skills are essential to solving complex theoretical problems
  • Engineering skills can help as well
  • Strong analytical skills

Soft Skills for Physicists

  • Good understanding of how research institutes work
  • Communication skills help you present your research results
  • People skills help you lead a team of physicists
  • Patience helps you succeed in the long run
  • You should be a good observer
  • Good understanding of research trends
  • Ability to deal with drawbacks in a healthy manner
  • Willingness to spend lots of time on things that don’t deliver any results at all
  • Willingness to deal with snarky comments of other physicists

Exit Options for Physicists

In case physicists don’t want to work for research institutes anymore, they also have many exit options in the corporate world.

For instance, physicists can work as engineers, investment bankers or consultants and you will therefore have a wide range of options waiting for you.

Physicist – Similar Careers

  • Biologist
  • Geologist
  • Astronomer
  • Researcher
  • Engineer
  • Physics teacher
  • Professor
  • Lab manager
  • Data scientist

Physicist Career FAQs

Is working as a physicist physically demanding?

Working as a physicist is not physically demanding at all since you will not have to lift heavy things but will rather use your brain and latest technologies to prove or reject complex theories.

Hence, you don’t have to stress your body as a physicist and will have a rather relaxed time at work in this regard.

Is working as a physicist mentally demanding?

Being a physicist is mentally demanding since you will work on complex problems all day long and this requires lots of brainpower.

Consequently, you will often come home mentally exhausted and may really need a break from what you are doing for a living on a regular basis to stay mentally healthy in the long run.

Is it dangerous to work as a physicist?

Working as a physicist is not dangerous since you will work in a rather safe work environment indoors and while many other people like police officers or firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis, you don’t have to worry about getting involved in serious incidents at work.

How long do physicists stay in their jobs?

Physicists often stay in their jobs for quite a long time since it takes many years or even decades to build a strong reputation and many physicists also want to devote their lives to science to make the world a better place.

Is it easy for physicists to find a new job?

Since educational barriers to entry are pretty high and you often need a doctor’s degree to work in this field, there is a lack of qualified physicists in many regions and you will therefore have excellent job prospects and it will also be easy for you to find a new job.

Is it hard to switch from being a physicist to another field of work?

Physicists can work in many different industries.

For instance, if you don’t want to work as a researcher in the long run, you could still work in the corporate world.

In fact, physicists are in high demand and can work in the field of engineering but also in completely different fields as consulting, investment banking or private equity.

Do physicists have a high social status?

Physicists have a decent social status.

However, they are still not admired as much by the general public compared to doctors who can save the lives of people on a daily basis.

Can you help out your family and friends as a physicist?

While you will become a real expert in the scientific world and work on complex problems all day long, you will still not be able to help out your loved ones since you will be pretty specialized and will not learn many practical skills at work compared to roofers, carpenters or other craftsmen who can fix and install many things around the home and provide more value to their family and friends.

Can physicists work remotely?

Physicists are often able to work remotely for a few days per week.

However, from time to time, they also have to be present at their workplace in person to carry out complex experiments since they often don’t have the necessary equipment and machines at home.

Is it easy to find a partner as a physicist?

Physicists have a pretty easy time finding a partner for a long-term relationship since they can make really good money while they also enjoy pretty high job security and also come home from work relatively early.

Consequently, they are considered good providers and excellent candidates to start a family with.

Do physicists have to work on weekends?

Physicists don’t have to work on weekends.

Instead, you can spend those days with your loved ones or on your favorite hobbies while many other people like waiters or garbage collectors frequently have to work during those times.

Do physicists have to work on holidays?

Physicists also don’t have to work on holidays but can rather use those days to make nice trips with their families or just to relax at home in their garden.

Do physicists have to work at nighttime?

Physicists also don’t have to work at nighttime most of the time.

Instead, you will be able to come home from work early quite often and this gives you the opportunity to meet up with your favorite people after work on a regular basis.

Do you have to travel as a physicist?

There is no need to travel as a physicist.

You can just use our modern technologies to do video calls instead of having to meet up with scientists all over the world in person.

Consequently, while many other people will be away from home for business trips, you as a physicist can spend your leisure at home with your favorite people.

Are physicist pensions good?

Physicists receive pretty decent pensions.

They are also able to make good money and to save and invest part of their salary.

In turn, many physicists are able to receive enough money once they get older and don’t have to worry about getting into financial trouble once they quit their active careers and retire.

Are physicist salaries going up?

Physicist salaries have been going up moderately over the past years and due to a shortage of qualified people in this field and high educational requirements, salaries of physicists will likely also go up in the near future.

Can you have a positive impact on society as a physicist?

You can have a big positive impact on society as a physicist since you will do important research that could really change how we perceive the world and also gives up tips and tricks on how we can make the world a better place in general.

How long does it take to become a physicist?

Since you will often need to get a master’s or even a doctor’s degree in physics or a related field to start your career in this industry, it will take most people between 5 and 8 years before they are finally able to work as physicists in an official manner.

Is it difficult to become a physicist?

Becoming a physicist is pretty hard since physics degrees are pretty demanding and only very few people have the mental capacities to pass all the exams necessary to get their degrees.

Consequently, you should have a high IQ and should also be willing to study and work hard to succeed as a physicist in the long run.

Do you need to be smart to work as a physicist?

Since physics degrees are pretty demanding, you should also be pretty smart to pass all of your exams with reasonable grades and if you don’t have a high IQ, you should rather go for a career where you have to work with your hands instead of doing complex mental work on a regular basis.

Do physicists have a good work-life balance?

Physicists have pretty decent work-life balance since they often work in a classical 9 to 5 environment and also don’t have to work on weekends or holidays.

Thus, most physicists are pretty happy with their work-life balance since they can make decent money from what they are doing while they still have enough time to spend with their families.

Do physicists have to work many extra hours?

Physicists don’t have to work many extra hours.

Since they don’t have much time pressure most of the time, they rather work fixed shifts and once their workday is over, they will just quit working and come back to it the next morning without having to meet strict timelines as in many other jobs.

How to maximize your chances of becoming a physicist?

The more time you spend on your studies, the more likely it will be that you are able to pass all of your exams and get your degree in physics which is often a requirement to be able to work in this field.

Can physicists work part-time?

Physicists are also able to work part-time.

However, most physicists still work full-time since they often need the money and are also really passionate about their work and enjoy the research process.

Do physicists work indoors or outdoors?

Physicists work indoors most of the time.

Hence, you don’t have to worry about climatic conditions outdoors as construction workers or garbage collectors who mainly work outdoors have to do on a regular basis.

What does the workplace of a physicist look like?

Physicists often work on complex research projects.

Consequently, they are often surrounded by laboratory equipment and machines that could help them get advanced research insights on specific topics.

Do you have to look good for working as a physicist?

Your looks don’t matter for your success as a physicist.

What’s much more important is that you have a strong scientific mindset and skillset and are also quite smart and passionate about your work to really push through difficult times and to get things done.

Is a physicist career beneficial for your private life?

Being a physicist can be beneficial for your private life since you will be able to make really good money while you still work in a rather safe environment with high levels of job security and also have enough time to spend with your loved ones.

Do you need a college degree for becoming a physicist?

You need at least a bachelor’s degree in physics to call yourself a physicist.

Yet, most physicists often even get a master’s or doctor’s degree since they need a strong theoretical toolset and foundation for the complex work that is waiting for them after finishing their studies.

Do you need to be certified to work as a physicist?

Apart from your college degree, you often don’t need any additional certifications to be able to work as a physicist.

How much does it cost to become a physicist?

Since you will have to spend many years in college, it can cost you a six-figure amount to become a physicist and you should therefore make sure that working as a physicist is really what you want to do for quite a long time to make it worth the investment.

Is being a physicist a good career?

Since you can make decent money and will enjoy high levels of job security while you will still have more than enough time to spend with your loved ones, working as a physicist can be considered a good career when taking all major factors into account.

Is it easy to start your own business as a physicist?

It is relatively hard to start your own business as a physicist since you will often specialize in quite theoretical topics that are hard to apply to the real world.

Consequently, you will often lack the practical skillset to succeed in the business world and will often also not have the right mindset to make your own business succeed.

Can physicists teach themselves?

Physicists do pretty advanced and complex work and it is therefore not possible to teach yourself all the things you need to succeed as a physicist.

Instead, you have to spend many years in college to really hone your craft and to get really good at doing scientific work.

Do physicists make good money?

Physicists can make pretty decent money.

While they will often not make as much as dentists or judges, most physicists still make significantly more than the average person out there.

Is it ever too late to become a physicist?

Since you will have to spend many years on education, you should start your physicist career relatively early in your life to make it worth the time and money you have to put in upfront.

Do physicists have to quit their careers early?

Most physicists don’t have to quit their careers early since they don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner as welders or fallers have to do and often suffer from serious physical health issues that force them to quit their careers early.

What is the hardest thing about working as a physicist?

The hardest part about working as a physicist is that you need a strong mindset and really believe in yourself to push through difficult periods.

You also need patience and perseverance to get through periods when your work just feels like a huge waste of time.

Can you provide for your family by working as a physicist?

Since you can make decent money as a physicist, you will also have an easy time providing for your family and don’t have to worry about financial problems that much.

Your spouse may even be able to stay at home with the kids while you will be able to make enough money from your physicist career to cover all expenses.

Will physicists suffer from old-age poverty?

Thanks to the good money physicists are able to make during their active careers, most physicists receive decent pensions and are also able to set enough money aside so that they don’t have to worry about old-age poverty that much.

Can physicists retire early?

If you save and invest lots of money during your active career and don’t spend much on unnecessary consumption, you might be able to retire early in your 50s as a physicist while most other people out there have to work until they reach official retirement age in their 60s.

Do physicists get a fixed or variable salary?

Most physicists get a fixed salary and don’t have to deal with huge income swings as salesmen and other people who work on commissions have to deal with on a regular basis.

Can you get rich as a physicist?

While you can make good money from your job as a physicist, it will be pretty hard for you to get rich.

If you really want to get rich, you should rather become a doctor or start your own business instead of working as an employed physicist.

Do physicists need a second job?

Thanks to the good salary physicists are able to make, most of them don’t need a second job and can rather spend lots of leisure with their families.

Do you get continuous training as a physicist?

You will not get continuous training during your physicist career.

Instead, it will be on you to get really good at what you are doing and to hone your craft to stay competitive and ahead of the game in the long run.

Do you get sick pay as a physicist?

Many physicists receive sick pay.

However, if you are not sure in this regard, you should just ask someone who works as a physicist in your region to get further information on this topic.

Do physicists have a high level of responsibility?

Physicists have a high level of responsibility since their research insights could really have an impact on how our world will look like in the future and you should therefore be careful what to publish as a scientist.

Can physicists work abroad?

Physicists are needed all over the world and it will therefore also be easy to work abroad.

However, you should still not expect working conditions and salaries to be equal to what you are used to at home in foreign countries.

Is it stressful to work as a physicist?

While working as a physicist can be mentally demanding, you will still not have to deal with lots of time pressure and can do your work in a rather relaxed manner most of the time.

Is it boring to work as a physicist?

Being a physicist will never become boring since you will work on complex research projects all day long and many of the projects you work on will be pretty exciting and might have the power to make the world a better place.

Is being a physicist hard?

Working as a physicist can be hard on a mental level since you will have to stress your brain quite a lot to solve complex problems and to publish high-quality research papers.

However, you still don’t have to work in a heavy physical manner and don’t have to ruin your body compared to many other people who work with their hands in a heavy physical manner.

Are physicists at risk of burnout?

Since physicists don’t have to deal with lots of stress at work, most physicists are not at great risk of burnout and other mental issues but can rather enjoy their time at work.

Moreover, since physicists often come home early, they also have enough time to relax and recover from work.

Is there a dress code for physicists?

Physicists don’t dress according to a specific dress code.

Instead, they can wear whatever they feel most comfortable with while many other people who work in the corporate world have to comply with strict conservative dress codes.

What kind of physicists are paid the most?

The higher your reputation in the industry and the more value you provide, the more money you can make as a physicist and you should therefore be willing to work hard if you want to make really good money from what you are doing in the long run.

What percentage of physicists are women?

While around 22% of all physicists are women, 78% are men.

However, while this industry is still dominated by men, an increasing number of women aspire to a career in physics and percentages may therefore change in the near future.

Do I need a mentor to succeed as a physicist?

You don’t urgently need a mentor to succeed as a physicist.

However, it can still help to have someone on your side who can support you during difficult times or at the beginning of your career so that you don’t give up and stick with your dream.

Do physicists have a high life expectancy?

Physicists have a relatively high life expectancy since they are not at great risk of suffering from serious accidents at work and also don’t have to deal with lots of stress at work which makes it less likely to suffer from serious health problems.

Do physicists suffer from sleeping problems?

Since physicists don’t have to work at nighttime, they are also able to maintain a healthy sleeping pattern and most of them therefore don’t suffer from sleeping problems related to their work.

What states are best for working as a physicist?

The best states for working as a physicist are those where many research institutes are located since you will have many job opportunities in those regions and will also have a rather easy time changing your job if you are no longer happy with overall working conditions.

For instance, California or New York will be good choices in this regard.

Who do physicists work with?

Physicists often work alone on their projects without having that much social interaction during their workday.

Hence, you should be able to work independently and if you are a rather extroverted person who really wants to talk to many other people on a regular basis, you should rather become a consultant instead of a physicist.

Is working as a physicist cool?

Working as a physicist is not considered cool by most young people out there.

However, you should still not care about the opinion of others but rather do what you feel is best for you when it comes to choosing a career.

Can you start a side hustle as a physicist?

Since physicists are pretty specialized and work on rather intangible problems that have almost nothing to do with what you are used to in your daily life, physicists also have a hard time starting a side hustle since they often don’t provide enough value to the general public.

Do you have to be creative as a physicist?

Creativity helps you solve complex problems in the scientific world.

This is especially true when you are stuck and don’t know how to solve complex problems.

In such a case, creativity may help you find workarounds and may finally help you succeed with your projects in the long run.

Do physicists suffer from being overweight?

Since physicists don’t have to work in a physical manner, they don’t burn sufficient calories at work and often suffer from being overweight or even obesity in the long run.

How employable are physicists?

Physicists are in high demand right now and have an easy time finding a job since educational barriers in this field are pretty high and there is a shortage of qualified physicists in many regions.

Are physicists happy with their jobs?

Most physicists are pretty happy with what they are doing for a living since they can make decent money while they still have more than enough time for their families and can also work on complex problems to make the world a better place.

Is working as a physicist exciting?

Working as a physicist can be pretty exciting since you can work on latest research problems to improve our understanding of the world and the universe to finally improve living standards of millions of people out there.

Can you have a positive impact on our environment as a physicist?

As a physicist, you can have a positive impact on our environment in case you specialize in this field and spend your time doing research on projects that could slow down global warming in the long run.

What are the pros and cons of working as a physicist?

If you still aspire to become a physicist, you should also have a look at additional pros and cons of a physicist career.

Sources

https://www.aip.org/statistics/employment

Interviews and own research.

About the author

My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people about the different career paths that are possible in our current state of the world. In my opinion, people often make the mistake to choose their profession solely based on how much money they can earn from it instead of doing what makes them really happy.

This is quite sad and I just want to give people a more objective picture of how a fulfilling career could look like. I did the same when I started working in consulting after finishing my Master’s degree in Economics. However, I’ve quit pretty soon after that since I haven’t found true meaning in my job.

Now I can do what I really love to do and I want to enable as many other people as well to go this exciting path towards happiness instead of money.

I conducted various interviews with employees to give you a good impression of what working in different fields will look like and that you can make the best possible decision regarding your future career choice.

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