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Career profile Physicist

Also known as Biophysics Scientist, Health Physicist, Medical Physicist, Physicist, Research Consultant, Research Physicist, Research Scientist, Scientist

Physicist

Also known as Biophysics Scientist, Health Physicist, Medical Physicist

Interests Profile
  • Investigative
  • Realistic
  • Artistic
Pay Range
$67,450 - $208,000+ (annual)
Required Skills
  • Science
  • Reading Comprehension
  • Mathematics
Knowledge Areas
  • Physics
  • Mathematics
  • Engineering and Technology
Core tasks
  • Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.
  • Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.
  • Describe and express observations and conclusions in mathematical terms.
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What does a Physicist do?

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

What kind of tasks does a Physicist perform regularly?

Physicists are often responsible for overseeing or executing some or all of the following tasks:

  • Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.
  • Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.
  • Describe and express observations and conclusions in mathematical terms.
  • Design computer simulations to model physical data so that it can be better understood.
  • Write research proposals to receive funding.
  • Teach physics to students.
  • Report experimental results by writing papers for scientific journals or by presenting information at scientific conferences.

The above responsibilities are specific to Physicists. More generally, Physicists are involved in several broader types of activities:

Analyzing Data or Information
Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
Working with Computers
Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
Getting Information
Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
Processing Information
Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
Making Decisions and Solving Problems
Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.

What is a Physicist salary?

The median salary for a Physicist is $129,850, and the average salary is $137,700. Both the median and average roughly describe the middle of the Physicist salary range, but the average is more easily affected by extremely high or low salaries.

Many Physicists earn significantly more or less than the average, due to several factors. About 10% of Physicists earn less than $67,450 per year, 25% earn less than $95,020, 75% earn less than $170,810, and 90% earn more than $208,000.

Between the years of 2020 and 2030, the number of Physicists is expected to change by 8.6%, and there should be roughly 1,300 open positions for Physicists every year.

Median annual salary
$129,850
Typical salary range
$67,450 - Over $208,000
Projected growth (2020 - 2030)
8.6%

What personality traits are common among Physicists?

Interests

Career interests describe a person's preferences for different types of working environments and activities. When a person's interest match the demands of an occupation, people are usually more engaged and satisfied in that role.

Compared to most occupations, those who work as a Physicist are usually higher in their Investigative and Realistic interests.

Physicists typically have very strong Investigative interests. Investigative occupations frequently involve working with ideas, and require an extensive amount of thinking. These occupations can involve searching for facts and figuring out problems mentally.

Also, Physicists typically have moderate Realistic interests. Realistic occupations frequently involve work activities that include practical, hands-on problems and solutions. They often deal with plants, animals, and real-world materials like wood, tools, and machinery. Many of the occupations require working outside, and do not involve a lot of paperwork or working closely with others.

Values

People differ in their values, or what is most important to them for building job satisfaction and fulfillment.

Compared to most people, those working as a Physicist tend to value Recognition, Working Conditions, and Achievement.

Most importantly, Physicists very strongly value Recognition. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious.

Second, Physicists very strongly value Working Conditions. Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions.

Lastly, Physicists very strongly value Achievement. Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment.

Psychological Demands

Each occupation brings its own set of psychological demands, which describe the characteristics necessary to perform the job well.

In order to perform their job successfully, people who work as Physicists must consistently demonstrate qualities such as innovation, achievement/effort, and analytical thinking.

Below, you'll find a list of qualities typically required of Physicists, ranked by importance:

Innovation
Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
Achievement/Effort
Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
Analytical Thinking
Job requires analyzing information and using logic to address work-related issues and problems.
Initiative
Job requires a willingness to take on responsibilities and challenges.
Attention to Detail
Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work tasks.

What education and training do Physicists need?

Many Physicists have earned a graduate degree. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a doctoral degree, such as a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D..

Physicists may need some on-the-job training, but most candidates will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.

Educational degrees among Physicists

  • 19.8% earned a Bachelor's degree
  • 19.5% earned a Master's degree
  • 60.8% earned a doctorate or professional degree

Knowledge and expertise required by Physicists

Physicists may benefit from understanding of specialized subject areas, such as physics, mathematics, or engineering and technology knowledge.

The list below shows several areas in which most Physicists might want to build proficiency, ranked by importance.

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.
Mathematics
Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.
Engineering and Technology
Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.
Computers and Electronics
Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.
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.

Important Abilities needed by Physicists

Physicists must develop a particular set of abilities to perform their job well. Abilities are individual capacities that influence a person's information processing, sensory perception, motor coordination, and physical strength or endurance. Individuals may naturally have certain abilities without explicit training, but most abilities can be sharpened somewhat through practice.

For example, Physicists need abilities such as mathematical reasoning, written comprehension, and number facility in order to perform their job at a high level. The list below shows several important abilities for Physicists, ranked by their relative importance.

Mathematical Reasoning
The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
Written Comprehension
The ability to read and understand information and ideas presented in writing.
Number Facility
The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
Oral Comprehension
The ability to listen to and understand information and ideas presented through spoken words and sentences.
Oral Expression
The ability to communicate information and ideas in speaking so others will understand.

Critical Skills needed by Physicists

Skills are developed capacities that enable people to function effectively in real-world settings. Unlike abilities, skills are typically easier to build through practice and experience. Skills influence effectiveness in areas such as learning, working with others, design, troubleshooting, and more.

Physicists frequently use skills like science, reading comprehension, and mathematics to perform their job effectively. The list below shows several critical skills for Physicists, ranked by their relative importance.

Science
Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
Reading Comprehension
Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work-related documents.
Mathematics
Using mathematics to solve problems.
Speaking
Talking to others to convey information effectively.
Critical Thinking
Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions, or approaches to problems.

What is the source of this information?

The information provided on this page is adapted from data and descriptions published by the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment and Training Administration under the CC BY 4.0 license. TraitLab has modified some information for ease of use and reading, and the U.S. Department of Labor, Employment, and Training Administration has not approved, endorsed, or tested these modifications.

If you have any questions or suggestions about this information, please send a message.