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What Do Physicist Do?

Physicist Example Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.

A Day in the Life of a Physicist

  • Develop theories and laws on the basis of observation and experiments, and apply these theories and laws to problems in areas such as nuclear energy, optics, and aerospace technology.
  • Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.
  • Design computer simulations to model physical data so that it can be better understood.
  • Report experimental results by writing papers for scientific journals or by presenting information at scientific conferences.
  • Collaborate with other scientists in the design, development, and testing of experimental, industrial, or medical equipment, instrumentation, and procedures.
  • Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.

Qualities of a Physicist

When polled, Physicists say the following skills are most frequently used in their jobs:

Science: Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.

Mathematics: Using mathematics to solve problems.

Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Complex Problem Solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.

Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.

Types of Physicist

  • Space Physicist
  • Optical Scientist
  • Thermodynamic Physicist
  • Molecular Spectroscopist
  • Thermodynamicist

Is There Job Demand for Physicists?

There were about 17,900 jobs for Physicist in 2016 (in the United States). New jobs are being produced at a rate of 14.5% which is above the national average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 2,600 new jobs for Physicist by 2026. There will be an estimated 1,700 positions for Physicist per year.

Forecasted Number of Jobs for Physicists in U.S.

The states with the most job growth for Physicist are Arizona, Idaho, and Florida. Watch out if you plan on working in North Dakota, New Hampshire, or Nebraska. These states have the worst job growth for this type of profession.

What is the Average Salary of a Physicist

The typical yearly salary for Physicists is somewhere between $59,300 and $193,280.

Salary Ranges for Physicists

Physicists who work in Oklahoma, Wisconsin, or New Mexico, make the highest salaries.

Below is a list of the median annual salaries for Physicists in different U.S. states.

State Annual Mean Salary
Alabama $133,930
Arizona $134,390
California $115,970
Colorado $106,490
District of Columbia $144,300
Florida $143,370
Georgia $122,040
Hawaii $126,480
Idaho $114,230
Illinois $114,320
Iowa $123,140
Louisiana $143,000
Maine $121,650
Maryland $120,450
Massachusetts $150,170
Michigan $106,650
Minnesota $155,140
Mississippi $101,420
Missouri $114,890
New Hampshire $130,150
New Jersey $134,280
New Mexico $149,910
New York $138,920
North Carolina $143,070
Ohio $122,370
Oklahoma $164,190
Oregon $124,410
Pennsylvania $137,060
South Carolina $129,860
Tennessee $124,950
Texas $118,300
Utah $129,480
Vermont $111,080
Virginia $108,440
Washington $110,710
Wisconsin $150,670

What Tools & Technology do Physicists Use?

Although they’re not necessarily needed for all jobs, the following technologies are used by many Physicists:

  • Microsoft Excel
  • Microsoft Word
  • Microsoft Office
  • JavaScript
  • Microsoft PowerPoint
  • Git
  • Python
  • Microsoft Access
  • MySQL
  • Microsoft Windows
  • Autodesk AutoCAD
  • Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop
  • Structured query language SQL
  • The MathWorks MATLAB
  • Linux
  • Microsoft Visual Basic
  • Extensible markup language XML
  • UNIX
  • National Instruments LabVIEW
  • C

How to Become a Physicist

Learn what Physicist education requirements there are.

Physicist Degree Level

What work experience do I need to become a Physicist?

Physicist Work Experience

Who Employs Physicists?

Physicist Sectors

The table below shows the approximate number of Physicists employed by various industries.

Physicist Industries


Image Credit: A. T. Service via Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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