What Careers are Available with a Master’s in Physics?

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Since earning the career title of physicist usually requires students to further their education by completing a doctoral degree, many students are left wondering what careers are available with a master's in physics. Unlike some of the other scientific fields, physics is a very flexible degree that does not directly prepare students for any specific employment options after graduation unless there is a Ph.D. in hand. That being said, the following are four of the most common career choices that would be a great fit for students who have received a graduate degree in physics at the master's level.

Medical Physicist

For graduates who have supplemented their physics degree with courses related to human anatomy, biology, and medical practices, the role of medical physicist could be the perfect fit. As prescribed by a physician, medical physicists are given the responsibility of ensuring the safe and efficient delivery of radiation for the diagnosis and treatment of patients. Medical physicists work to guarantee that patients are not overexposed to harmful radiation and are positioned correctly for effective imaging results. Medical physicists work primarily with x-ray, MRI, and CT scanning systems in radiology departments of hospitals or other medical facilities.

Aerospace, Chemical, or Electrical Engineer

Within the broad field of engineering, earning a degree in physics can open numerous career opportunities in research and development. Aerospace engineers utilize their knowledge of physics, thermodynamics, aerodynamics, flight mechanics, and propulsion to coordinate the design of aircraft products within or outside the Earth's atmosphere. Taking courses in physics can also be beneficial for chemical engineers, who are responsible for supervising the manufacture process of electrical equipment from design through sale. Chemical engineers also apply the principles of physics through the production of chemicals, foods, drugs, and fuels.

Computer Programmer

In both the public and private sectors, computer programmers are in-demand for today's digital age to write the codes needed to build the software programs that make computers function appropriately. Computer programmers are responsible for turning the designs created by software engineers into instructions that a computer can easily follow through the computer languages of C++ or Java. Although having a degree in physics can be excellent preparation for understanding the inner workings of a computer, it is recommended that students pursuing this career choice supplement their major with courses related to computer science as well.

High School Physics Teacher

Within public or private secondary schools, high school physics teachers are able to integrate their expertise in physics with their passion for teaching to inspire the future generation of physicists. High school physics teachers will be responsible for planning interactive lessons, assessing students' abilities, grading students' assignments, communicating with parents about any academic concerns, preparing students for standardized testing, and designing dynamic physics lab experiments for hands-on learning. Along with a major in physics, students seeking to become an educator will need to complete a teacher preparation sequence for certification.

Overall, there is a broad array of career opportunities available to graduate students in physics who are not interested in spending additional years of schooling for receiving a doctorate. In fact, Forbes magazine recently ranked physics as the 6th best master's degree for jobs due to its mid-career median salary of $114,000 and projected employment growth of 20.3 percent. As one of the most fundamental sciences, earning a master's in physics provides graduates with highly marketable skills that can be put to good use in many booming industries, including healthcare, engineering, technology, and education.