Summary Report for:
19-2012.00 - Physicists
Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.
Sample of reported job titles: Biophysics Scientist, Health Physicist, Medical Physicist, Physicist, Research Consultant, Research Physicist, Research Scientist, Scientist
Tasks | Technology Skills | Tools Used | Knowledge | Skills | Abilities | Work Activities | Detailed Work Activities | Work Context | Job Zone | Education | Credentials | Interests | Work Styles | Work Values | Related Occupations | Wages & Employment | Job Openings | Additional Information
- 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.
- Conduct research pertaining to potential environmental impacts of atomic energy-related industrial development to determine licensing qualifications.
- Observe the structure and properties of matter, and the transformation and propagation of energy, using equipment such as masers, lasers, and telescopes, to explore and identify the basic principles governing these phenomena.
- Develop theories and laws on the basis of observation and experiments, and apply these theories and laws to problems in areas such as nuclear energy, optics, and aerospace technology.
- Collaborate with other scientists in the design, development, and testing of experimental, industrial, or medical equipment, instrumentation, and procedures.
- Analytical or scientific software — CERN Physics Analysis Workstation PAW; COMSOL Multiphysics; The MathWorks MATLAB ; Wolfram Research Mathematica (see all 25 examples)
- Cloud-based management software — OpenStack
- Computer aided design CAD software — Autodesk AutoCAD ; Mathsoft Mathcad; RibbonSoft QCad
- Configuration management software — Puppet ; VMware
- Data base management system software — SQLite
- Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access ; MySQL ; Oracle software ; Structured query language SQL
- Desktop publishing software — Scribus
- Development environment software — Eclipse IDE ; Microsoft Azure ; Microsoft Visual Studio ; National Instruments LabVIEW (see all 11 examples)
- Enterprise application integration software — Extensible markup language XML
- Expert system software — Ansible software
- File versioning software — Git
- Graphics or photo imaging software — Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop ; GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP; Ploticus; XV (see all 5 examples)
- Music or sound editing software — Adobe Systems Adobe Audition
- Object or component oriented development software — C++ ; Oracle Java ; Perl ; Python (see all 5 examples)
- Office suite software — Microsoft Office
- Operating system software — Linux ; Microsoft Windows ; UNIX
- Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint
- Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel
- Video creation and editing software — Lenox Softworks VideoPoint
- Word processing software — Microsoft Word
Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.
- Amplifiers — Conditioning amplifiers
- Analytical balances
- Atomic absorption AA spectrometers
- Autosamplers — Headspace autosamplers
- Binocular light compound microscopes — Measuring microscopes
- Capacitance meters — Capacitance bridges
- Chromatographic detectors — Atomic emission detectors AED; Photodetectors
- Cryogenic or liquid nitrogen freezers — Helium refrigerators
- Desktop computers
- Digital camcorders or video cameras — High-speed video cameras
- Electromagnets — Laboratory electromagnets
- Electron microscopes
- Electronic counters — Particle counters
- Force or torque sensors — Vernier force sensors
- Frequency analyzers — Analog frequency analyzers; Portable fast Fourier transform FFT analyzers; Spectrum analyzers; Two-channel fast Fourier transform FFT analyzers
- Frequency calibrator or simulator — Two-channel dynamic signal analyzers
- Frequency counters or timer or dividers — Photon counting systems
- Galvanometers — Galvanostats
- Gas chromatographs — Gas chromatography equipment
- Geiger counters — Geiger-Muller counters
- Goggles — Safety goggles
- High vacuum equipment — Diffusion-pumped vacuum systems; Turbo-pumped vacuum systems
- Infrared spectrometers — Fourier transform infrared FTIR spectrometers
- Injectors — Gas chromatography GC injectors
- Interferometers — Mickelson interferometers; Microwave interferometers
- Ionization chambers
- Laboratory balances — Big G torsion balances
- Laboratory box furnaces
- Laboratory centrifugal pumps
- Laboratory safety furnaces — Annealing furnaces
- Laboratory vacuum pumps — Diffusion pumps
- Laboratory vibrators — Vibration exciters
- Laser beam analyzers — Laser power meters
- Laser filters — Cavity dumpers or drivers
- Lasers — Argon ion lasers; Diode lasers; Single frequency dye lasers; Zeeman split lasers (see all 7 examples)
- Leak testing equipment — Leak detection equipment
- Light scattering equipment — Light scattering devices
- Magnetometer geophysical instruments — Gaussmeters
- Magnetometers — Vibrating sample magnetometers
- Mass spectrometers — Isotope ratio mass spectrometers
- Medical computed tomography CT or CAT scanners or tubes — Computed tomography CT scanners
- Medical magnetic resonance imaging MRI scanners — Magnetic resonance imaging MRI systems
- Medical radiation films or badges — Radiation detecting film badges
- Mobile or transportable medical linear accelerators — Cyclotrons; High-energy accelerators; Linear accelerators; Positive ion accelerators (see all 5 examples)
- Monochromators — Double monochromators; Grating monochromators; Scanning monochromators
- Multimeters — Digital multimeters
- Network analyzers — Two-channel network analyzers
- Notebook computers — Laptop computers
- Nuclear magnetic resonance NMR spectrometers — Nuclear magnetic resonance NMR spectroscopes
- Optical beamsplitters — Optical beamsplitting devices
- Optical breadboards — Optical tables
- Optical choppers
- Oscilloscopes — Digital oscilloscopes
- Personal computers
- Photo attachments for microscopes — Charge-coupled device CCD cameras
- Photosensitive diodes — High-resolution semiconductor detectors
- Plotter printers — Digital plotters
- Pneumatic vacuum equipment — Vacuum stations
- Polarizers — Programmable phase modulators
- Pull spring balances — Spring scales
- Radiation detectors — Neutron detectors; Scintillation probes; Thermoluminescent dosimeters
- Roughness measuring instruments — Surface profilometers
- Scanning electron microscopes — Scanning electron microscopes SEM
- Scanning probe microscopes — Atomic force microscopes; Friction-force microscopes; Magnetic force microscopes; Scanning tunneling microscopes STM
- Semiconductor testers — Semiconductor parameter analyzers
- Signal conditioners — Power amplifiers
- Signal generators — Arbitrary function generators; Function generators; Optical detectors; Radiofrequency RF generators
- Single gas monitors — Liquid helium level sensors
- Sound measuring apparatus or decibel meter — Analog sound level meters; Digital sound level meters; Pistonphones; Sound intensity probes
- Spectrometers — Gamma ray spectrometers; High-resolution spectrometers; Prism spectrometers; Visible spectrometers (see all 5 examples)
- Transmission electron microscopes — Transmission electron microscopes TEM
- Tube furnaces — Laboratory tube furnaces
- Tweezers — Optical tweezers
- Ultraviolet UV lamps — High intensity UV sources
- Visual filters — Pinhole filters
- Voltage or current meters — Digital voltmeters DVM; Nanovoltmeters
- X ray diffraction equipment — X ray crystallography equipment
- 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.
- English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
- 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.
- Chemistry — Knowledge of the chemical composition, structure, and properties of substances and of the chemical processes and transformations that they undergo. This includes uses of chemicals and their interactions, danger signs, production techniques, and disposal methods.
- Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
- Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
- 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.
- Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
- Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
- 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.
- Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
- Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
- Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
- Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
- Programming — Writing computer programs for various purposes.
- Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
- Systems Evaluation — Identifying measures or indicators of system performance and the actions needed to improve or correct performance, relative to the goals of the system.
- Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
- Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
- Operations Analysis — Analyzing needs and product requirements to create a design.
- Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
- Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
- Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
- Management of Personnel Resources — Motivating, developing, and directing people as they work, identifying the best people for the job.
- Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
- Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
- Number Facility — The ability to add, subtract, multiply, or divide quickly and correctly.
- 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.
- Fluency of Ideas — The ability to come up with a number of ideas about a topic (the number of ideas is important, not their quality, correctness, or creativity).
- Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
- 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.
- Originality — The ability to come up with unusual or clever ideas about a given topic or situation, or to develop creative ways to solve a problem.
- Information Ordering — The ability to arrange things or actions in a certain order or pattern according to a specific rule or set of rules (e.g., patterns of numbers, letters, words, pictures, mathematical operations).
- Problem Sensitivity — The ability to tell when something is wrong or is likely to go wrong. It does not involve solving the problem, only recognizing that there is a problem.
- Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
- Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
- Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
- Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
- Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
- Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
- Flexibility of Closure — The ability to identify or detect a known pattern (a figure, object, word, or sound) that is hidden in other distracting material.
- Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
- Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
- Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.
- Perceptual Speed — The ability to quickly and accurately compare similarities and differences among sets of letters, numbers, objects, pictures, or patterns. The things to be compared may be presented at the same time or one after the other. This ability also includes comparing a presented object with a remembered object.
- 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.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge — Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
- Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates — Providing information to supervisors, co-workers, and subordinates by telephone, in written form, e-mail, or in person.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information — Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
- Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
- Communicating with People Outside the Organization — Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.
- Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
- Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
- Monitoring Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.
- Evaluating Information to Determine Compliance with Standards — Using relevant information and individual judgment to determine whether events or processes comply with laws, regulations, or standards.
- Judging the Qualities of Objects, Services, or People — Assessing the value, importance, or quality of things or people.
- Providing Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
- Training and Teaching Others — Identifying the educational needs of others, developing formal educational or training programs or classes, and teaching or instructing others.
- Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
- Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
- Coaching and Developing Others — Identifying the developmental needs of others and coaching, mentoring, or otherwise helping others to improve their knowledge or skills.
- Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
Detailed Work Activities
- Apply mathematical principles or statistical approaches to solve problems in scientific or applied fields.
- Analyze geological or geographical data.
- Develop theories or models of physical phenomena.
- Instruct college students in physical or life sciences.
- Prepare proposals or grant applications to obtain project funding.
- Prepare scientific or technical reports or presentations.
- Research environmental impact of industrial or development activities.
- Operate laboratory or field equipment.
- Collaborate on research activities with scientists or technical specialists.
- Analyze operational data to evaluate operations, processes or products.
- Develop new or advanced products or production methods.
- Advise others on management of emergencies or hazardous situations or materials.
- Establish standards for products, processes, or procedures.
- Electronic Mail — 92% responded “Every day.”
- Spend Time Sitting — 65% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
- Structured versus Unstructured Work — 67% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Freedom to Make Decisions — 75% responded “A lot of freedom.”
- Face-to-Face Discussions — 53% responded “Every day.”
- Work With Work Group or Team — 46% responded “Extremely important.”
- Duration of Typical Work Week — 59% responded “More than 40 hours.”
- Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 35% responded “Extremely important.”
- Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 68% responded “Every day.”
- Coordinate or Lead Others — 34% responded “Extremely important.”
- Telephone — 49% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
- Contact With Others — 27% responded “Constant contact with others.”
- Level of Competition — 35% responded “Extremely competitive.”
- Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 44% responded “Important results.”
- Public Speaking — 29% responded “Once a year or more but not every month.”
- Time Pressure — 39% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”
|Title||Job Zone Five: Extensive Preparation Needed|
|Education||Most of these occupations require graduate school. For example, they may require a master's degree, and some require a Ph.D., M.D., or J.D. (law degree).|
|Related Experience||Extensive skill, knowledge, and experience are needed for these occupations. Many require more than five years of experience. For example, surgeons must complete four years of college and an additional five to seven years of specialized medical training to be able to do their job.|
|Job Training||Employees may need some on-the-job training, but most of these occupations assume that the person will already have the required skills, knowledge, work-related experience, and/or training.|
|Job Zone Examples||These occupations often involve coordinating, training, supervising, or managing the activities of others to accomplish goals. Very advanced communication and organizational skills are required. Examples include pharmacists, lawyers, astronomers, biologists, clergy, neurologists, and veterinarians.|
|SVP Range||(8.0 and above)|
Interest code: IR Want to discover your interests? Take the O*NET Interest Profiler at My Next Move.
- Investigative — 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.
- Realistic — 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.
- 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.
- Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
- Independence — Job requires developing one's own ways of doing things, guiding oneself with little or no supervision, and depending on oneself to get things done.
- Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
- Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
- Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
- Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.
- Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high-stress situations.
- Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
- Self-Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
- Recognition — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer advancement, potential for leadership, and are often considered prestigious. Corresponding needs are Advancement, Authority, Recognition and Social Status.
- Working Conditions — Occupations that satisfy this work value offer job security and good working conditions. Corresponding needs are Activity, Compensation, Independence, Security, Variety and Working Conditions.
- Achievement — Occupations that satisfy this work value are results oriented and allow employees to use their strongest abilities, giving them a feeling of accomplishment. Corresponding needs are Ability Utilization and Achievement.
Wages & Employment Trends
|Median wages (2020)||$62.43 hourly, $129,850 annual|
|Employment (2020)||17,400 employees|
|Projected growth (2020-2030)||Average (5% to 10%)|
|Projected job openings (2020-2030)||1,300|
|Top industries (2020)|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2020 wage data and 2020-2030 employment projections . "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2020-2030). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.
Job Openings on the Web
Sources of Additional Information
Disclaimer: Sources are listed to provide additional information on related jobs, specialties, and/or industries. Links to non-DOL Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement.
- American Association for the Advancement of Science
- American Astronomical Society
- American Chemical Society
- American Institute of Physics
- American Nuclear Society
- American Physical Society
- Health Physics Society
- International Society for Magnetic Resonance in Medicine
- Materials Research Society
- National Registry of Radiation Protection Technologists
- Occupational Outlook Handbook: Physicists and astronomers
- Physics Careers Resource
- Sigma Xi, The Scientific Research Honor Society
- The Optical Society