A wide range of industries seeks physics graduates: telecommunications, industrial physics, hospital physics, electronics, computing, quality control testing, banking, insurance, teaching, management, technical sales and the armed forces, for starters. Students who become physicists tend to specialize in one or more areas of physics, such as:
- Nuclear physics. Nuclear physics involves the study of the components, structure, and behavior of the nucleus of the atom. It has a number of practical applications in developing nuclear energy, archeological dating, smoke detectors and nuclear medicine. Nuclear diagnostic techniques have revolutionized medicine by providing ways to "see" inside the body without surgery.
- Geophysics. Geophysicists apply physical theories and measurements to discover the properties of the earth. Geophysics includes the branches of seismology, geothermometry (heating of the earth), hydrology (ground and surface water), and gravity and geodesy (the earth's gravitational field). Some of its applications are used in building highways and bridges, studying earthquakes, urban planning and archaeology.
- Atomic, molecular and optical physics. In this field, physicists study matter and light interactions at the level of the atom. The three are usually grouped together because of their interrelationships, the similarity in methods used, and their related energy scales. Atomic physics is more concerned with the study of the atom than with the forces studied in nuclear physics. Molecular physics focuses on multi-atomic structures and their internal and external interactions with matter and light. Optical physics manipulates light to gain insight into the fundamental properties of light.
- Astronomy. Astronomy is considered a subfield of physics. Astronomers observe and collect data used to explain relationships between stars and planets as well as other phenomena occurring in the universe. Astronomers, in conjunction with other types of physicists, might be called upon to solve problems connected with space flight navigation and satellite communications.
- Astrophysics. Astrophysics is the part of astronomy that deals with the physics of stars, star systems and interstellar material. Astrophysicists apply the laws of physics to understand how astronomical bodies are formed, how they interact, and how they die. Astrophysics might be used to figure out how to get to other planets, how to build things in new and safer ways, or to examine how the human body adapts to new situations.
- Space physics. Space physics is the study of the space environment from the uppermost reaches of the earth's atmosphere to deep space, especially the environment in which satellites must survive. It has important applications as society becomes increasingly dependent on satellites for communication, broadcast, weather monitoring, remote sensing, positional information and military uses. Space exploration has led to the creation of several products such as new types of ceramics, high-performance materials, and even microwave ovens.
- Physics Education. Physics grads with bachelor's degrees can become elementary or high school teachers. There is almost always a shortage of teachers in the sciences. Technical schools will also hire physics majors who have some professional experience. Public schools require a certification to teach, but not all private schools or technical schools do.
- Engineering Physics. Engineering is another outlet for the physics major. It is one of the most demanding professions, because it often deals with decisions that affect the safety of individuals. Building bridges, skyscrapers, airplanes, and electrical systems requires a solid foundation in physics. Some students will earn a degree in physics and then go on to graduate school for a master's degree in engineering. Others will double-major in physics and engineering. A few other industries that require a solid physics background are construction, chemical, food, aerospace, agriculture, energy, fuel, metallurgy, textiles and clothing, computers and transportation.
- Computer Science. Computer science offers careers for the physics major in graphics and software, artificial intelligence, data processing and computer games. Computer hardware is the result of applied physics.
How can an internship apply to this degree?
All Physics Majors are encouraged to pursue an Internship. Though Internship (COAS-S399) is not required, students may use credit earned for an approved Academic Internship toward upper-level elective requirements for the Physics Degree. Speak with your Academic Advisor and the Career Development Internship Coordinator for more information.
For more detailed and extensive information regarding careers involving this major, please refer to the Career Development Center.