Saturday, February 20, 2010

What do physics majors do when they graduate?

Anything they want to!

Perhaps a more complete and useful answer is found in lots of places on the web. For example, WorldWideLearn has a nice discussion of physics and notes that

[W]hile some physics majors go on to become professional physicists, the majority pursue careers in fields where they can put their knowledge to more practical applications. Nearly 90 percent of all "physicists" are working in medicine, education, industry, or other professions.

With their skills in problem-solving, mathematical reasoning, computer programming, and organizing and interpreting scientific data, physics grads can move into government and industrial jobs that require an ability to think logically and creatively. Physics majors are well-suited to jobs that require step-by-step problem solving using math skills and good observational and communicational skills.

Some of the better-known careers for physics majors include academic and industrial research, electronics, alternative energy development, communications or the vital area of medical physics. Physicists are in demand for their analytical skills in many financial, fund management and research roles, in law, as weather forecasters, computer programmers, and as physics and science teachers.
The Canadian Association of Physicists notes that
Despite popular belief, physics graduates are actually highly sought after employees. A physics education emphasizes problem solving and abstract thinking and this training makes physics graduates very desirable employees in a wide variety of areas including education, finance, and journalism. These fundamental skills as well as training in practical subjects such as optics, lasers, computer interfacing, image processing and electronics also make them very desirable employees in high tech companies.
and the American Physical Society offers guidance for deciding what is the right career choice for you along with advise on how to get there. Included in the advice on how to maximize your undergraduate experience is the following points.

  • Take lots of science and math courses
  • Get involved in research as early as possible
  • Get to know your professors
  • Join the Society of Physics Students

PandA@JMU is ideally suited to pursuing these goals:

  • As a large undergraduate department, we can offer a wide variety of courses for our students. There are several courses that we take turns teaching with the math department.
  • Our students commonly get involved in research in the summer after their freshman year and some even start in their second semester.
  • All your physics (and astronomy) classes at JMU are taught by full-time faculty. You will get to know them (and they will get to know you) very well. Perhaps better than you wish!
  • We have an active SPS chapter that engages our students in lots of fun activities.
Bottom line...a physics major can be anything you want to be and JMU is ideally suited to getting you there.