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Physics Major

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Physics

1,998 Master's Degrees Annually
1,875 Doctor's Degrees Annually
#70 in Popularity (Master's)
$103,830 Median Salary

Types of Degrees Physics Majors Are Getting

The following table lists how many physics graduations there were in 2018-2019 for each degree level.

Education Level Number of Grads
Master’s Degree 1,998
Doctor’s Degree 1,875
Graduate Certificate 9

What Physics Majors Need to Know

People with careers related to physics were asked what knowledge areas, skills, and abilities were important for their jobs. They weighted these areas on a scale of 1 to 5 with 5 being the highest.

Knowledge Areas for Physics Majors

According to O*NET survey takers, a major in physics should prepare you for careers in which you will need to be knowledgeable in the following areas:

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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

The following list of skills has been highlighted as some of the most essential for careers related to physics:

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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

A major in physics will prepare for your careers in which the following abilities are important:

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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?

Below is a list of occupations associated with physics:

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 Master’s Degree in Physics?

1,998 Master's Degrees Annually
21% Percent Women
16% Percent Racial-Ethnic Minorities
This major tends to be male dominated. About 79% of recent graduates are men.

Racial-Ethnic Diversity

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

Racial-Ethnic Diversity of Physics Students with Master's Degrees
Race/Ethnicity Number of Grads
Asian 87
Black or African American 38
Hispanic or Latino 149
White 935
International Students 670
Other Races/Ethnicities 119

Geographic Diversity

Physics appeals to people across the globe. About 33.5% 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?

Master’s Degree Starting Salary

Data from the U.S. Department of Education shows that physics students who graduated in 2015-2017 with a master’s degree made a median starting salary of $73,100 per year. During this timeframe, most salaries fell between $73,100 (25th percentile) and $73,100 (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 degrees 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.

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 2018-2019, 952 schools offered a physics program of some type. 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) 15 0
Certificate (1-2 years) 3 0
Certificate (2-4 Years) 1 0
Associate’s Degree 158 4
Bachelor’s Degree 8 1
Post-Baccalaureate 15 0
Master’s Degree 287 4
Post-Master’s 3 0
Doctor’s Degree (Research) 217 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 5,443
Geological & Earth Sciences 2,756
Materials Sciences 447
Astronomy & Astrophysics 410
Atmospheric Sciences & Meteorology 394
Other Physical Science 139
General Physical Sciences 102

References

More about our data sources and methodologies.

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