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Physics Major

13,699 yearly degrees
#89 in popularity
$104,000 median salary

Physics is a major that typically falls into the Physical Sciences category.

There are 148 programs available throughout the country that offer an associate’s degree in physics, 838 that offer a bachelor’s degree, and 285 that offer a master’s degree. There are also at least 214 schools in the nation where you can get your doctorate degree in the field.

Who Is Getting a Physics Degree?

In 2017, roughly 7,900 physics majors graduated with a bachelor’s degree. This makes it #56 in popularity of all the majors we track. This major tends to be male dominated. About 78.6% of recent graduates are men.

Racial Distribution

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

  • Asian: 7.5%
  • Black or African American: 2.7%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 10.1%
  • White: 63.8%
  • Non-Resident Alien: 8.8%
  • Other Races: 7.2%
Physics Majors Ethnic Diversity Statistics

Americans aren’t the only ones with an interest in physics. About 8.8% of those graduating in 2017 were international students. The most popular countries sending physics majors to the U.S. are China, India and Nepal.

What Will You Learn as a Physics Major?

An O*NET survey asked people with careers related to physics to rate how important certain subject areas were to their job. The following are some of the results of that survey. Importance was 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:

Important Knowledge Areas for Physics Majors

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:

Important Skills for Physics Majors

Abilities for Physics Majors

As a physics major, you will find yourself needing the following abilities:

Important Abilities for physics Majors

What Can You Do With a Physics Major?

Below is a list of occupations associated with physics:

Careers Related to Physics
Job Title Job Growth Rate Median Salary

Physics Postsecondary Professors

10.2%

$90,800

Physicists

14.5%

$120,950

Natural Sciences Managers

9.9%

$123,860

Secondary School Teachers, Except Special and Career/Technical Education

7.5%

$60,320

Physics Major Salary

Physics majors often go into careers where salaries can range from $64,000 to $125,000. 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, the typical high school graduate makes between $29,000 and $57,000 a year. The average person with a bachelor’s degree (any field) makes between $44,000 and $99,000. Advanced degree holders make the most with salaries between $55,000 and $120,000.

Average Salary for a Physics Major  ( 64000 to 125000 )
$0
$200k
Average Salary for High School Graduate  ( 29000 to 57000 )
$0
$200k
Average Salary with Bachelor's Degree  ( 44000 to 99000 )
$0
$200k
Average Salary with Advanced Degree  ( 55000 to 120000 )
$0
$200k

The area of the country you choose to work in will also affect your career and salary prospects. Getting a graduate degree may open up more options with higher salary potential.

Amount of Education Required for Physics Major Jobs

Some careers associated with physics may require an advanced degree, while others may not even require a bachelor’s in the field. Whatever the case may be, pursuing more education usually means that more career options will be available to you.

How much education do you really need to compete in today’s job market? People currently working in careers related to physics have obtained the following education levels.

Education Levels for Careers Associated With Physics
Level of Education Percentage of Workers

Less Than a High School Diploma

0%

High School Diploma or Equivalent

0.3%

Post-Secondary Certificate

0%

Some College Courses

0.2%

Associate's Degree or Equivalent

0.5%

Bachelor's Degree

27.3%

Post-Baccalaureate Certificate

6.3%

Master's Degree

22.8%

Post-Master's Certificate

1.4%

First Professional Degree

0%

Doctoral Degree

28.6%

Post-Doctoral Training

12.8%

Online Physics Programs

There are 838 colleges that offer a bachelor’s degree in physics, with 1 of them offering at least some courses online.

Online learners must listen or watch video lectures, participate in group chats or forums, submit papers and assignments electronically, take tests, and meet deadlines.

Many learners are drawn to online programs due to the ease of use and flexibility. Students should be warned that those who enroll in online programs can take longer to graduate than average and are more likely to drop out.

Is a Physics Major Worth It?

The median salary for a physics grad is $104,000 per year. This is based on the weighted average of the most common careers associated with the major.

This is 167% more than the average salary for an individual holding a high school degree. This adds up to a gain of about $1,298,600 after 20 years!

physics salary compared to typical high school and college graduates over a 20 year period

References

Bureau of Labor Statistics
National Center for Education Statistics
O*NET Online
Image Credit: A. T. Service via License

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