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Physics Major

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Physics

8,281 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
2,160 Master's Degrees Annually
#57 in Popularity
$103,830 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Physics Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many physics graduations there were in 2017-2018 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Bachelor’s Degree 8,282
Master’s Degree 2,160
Doctor’s Degree 1,880
Associate’s Degree 1,377
Basic Certificate 84
Graduate Certificate 28
Undergraduate Certificate 4

What Physics Majors Need to Know

O*NET surveyed people in occupations related to physics and asked them what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. The responses were rated on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being most important.

Knowledge Areas for Physics Majors

This major prepares you for careers in which these knowledge areas are important:

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  • English Language - Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • Mathematics - Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
  • Education and Training - Knowledge of principles and methods for curriculum and training design, teaching and instruction for individuals and groups, and the measurement of training effects.
  • Computers and Electronics - Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
  • Physics - Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.

Skills for Physics Majors

When studying physics, you’ll learn many skills that will help you be successful in a wide range of jobs - even those that do not require a degree in the field. The following is a list of some of the most common skills needed for careers associated with this major:

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  • Speaking - Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • Reading Comprehension - Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Critical Thinking - Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Active Listening - Giving full attention to what other people are saying, taking time to understand the points being made, asking questions as appropriate, and not interrupting at inappropriate times.
  • Writing - Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.

Abilities for Physics Majors

Some of the most crucial abilities to master while a physics student include the following:

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  • Oral Expression - The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.
  • Oral Comprehension - The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
  • Written Comprehension - The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
  • Deductive Reasoning - The ability to apply general rules to specific problems to produce answers that make sense.
  • Inductive Reasoning - The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).

What Can You Do With a Physics Major?

People with a physics degree often go into the following careers:

Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary
Natural Sciences Managers 9.9% $123,860
Physicists 14.5% $120,950
Physics Postsecondary Professors 10.2% $90,800
Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education 7.5% $60,320

Who Is Getting a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics?

8,282 Bachelor's Degrees Annually
21% Percent Women
25% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This is a less frequently chosen undergraduate major. Only 8,281 students graduated with a bachelor’s degree in physics in 2018, making it rank #57 in popularity. This major attracts more men than women. About 79% of the graduates in this field are male.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

At the countrywide level, the racial-ethnic distribution of physics majors is as follows:

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Physics Students with Bachelor's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 618
Black or African American 223
Hispanic or Latino 833
White 5,280
International Students 729
Other Races/Ethnicities 599

Geographic Diversity

Physics appeals to people across the globe. About 8.8% of those with this major are international students. The most popular countries for students from outside the country are:

  • China
  • India
  • Nepal
  • Iran
  • Saudi Arabia

How Much Do Physics Majors Make?

Bachelor’s Degree Starting Salary

The median early-career salary of physics students with a bachelor’s degree is $38,300 a year according to 2017-2018 data from the U.S. Department of Education. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $33,000 (25th percentile) and $43,100 (75th percentile).

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Note that some of these people may have jobs that are not directly related to a physics degree.

Salaries According to BLS

Average salaries range from $64,340 to $125,280 (25th to 75th percentile) for careers related to physics. This range includes all degree levels, so you may expect those with a more advanced degree to make more while those with less advanced degrees will typically make less.

To put that into context, according to BLS data from the first quarter of 2020, the typical high school graduate makes between $30,000 and $57,900 a year (25th through 75th percentile). The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $45,600 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,600 and $125,400.

Median Salary for a Physics Major  ( 64340 to 125280 )
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250K
Median Salary for a High School Graduate  ( 30000 to 57900 )
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250K
Median Salary for a Bachelor's Degree Holder  ( 45600 to 99000 )
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250K
Median Salary for an Advanced Degree Holder  ( 55600 to 125400 )
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250K

Some careers associated with physics require an advanced degree while some may not even require a bachelor’s. In general, the more advanced your degree the more career options will open up to you. However, there is significant time and money that needs to be invested into your education so weigh the pros and cons.

Find out what the typical degree level is for physics careers below.

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Education Level Percentage of Workers
High School Diploma - or the equivalent (for example, GED) 0.3%
Some College Courses 0.2%
Associate’s Degree (or other 2-year degree) 0.5%
Bachelor’s Degree 27.3%
Post-Baccalaureate Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Baccalaureate degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees carrying the title of Master. 6.3%
Master’s Degree 22.8%
Post-Master’s Certificate - awarded for completion of an organized program of study; designed for people who have completed a Master’s degree but do not meet the requirements of academic degrees at the doctoral level. 1.4%
Doctoral Degree 28.6%
Post-Doctoral Training 12.8%

Online Physics Programs

In the 2017-2018 academic year, 932 schools offered some type of physics program. The following table lists the number of programs by degree level, along with how many schools offered online courses in the field.

Degree Level Colleges Offering Programs Colleges Offering Online Classes
Certificate (Less Than 1 Year) 5 0
Certificate (1-2 years) 2 0
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 148 5
Bachelor’s Degree 6 1
Post-Baccalaureate 5 0
Master’s Degree 285 3
Post-Master’s 3 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 214 0
Doctor’s Degree (Professional Practice) 0 0
Doctor’s Degree (Other) 0 0

Is a Degree in Physics Worth It?

The median salary for a physics grad is $103,830 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 160% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,278,600 after 20 years!

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You may also be interested in one of the following majors related to physics.

Major Number of Grads
Chemistry 22,389
Geological & Earth Sciences 9,816
General Physical Sciences 4,387
Atmospheric Sciences & Meteorology 1,188
Astronomy & Astrophysics 1,062
Materials Sciences 598
Other Physical Science 513

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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