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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, Physicist, Research Consultant, Research Physicist, Research Scientist, Scientist

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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

Tasks

  • Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.
  • Describe and express observations and conclusions in mathematical terms.
  • Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.
  • Report experimental results by writing papers for scientific journals or by presenting information at scientific conferences.
  • Design computer simulations to model physical data so that it can be better understood.
  • Collaborate with other scientists in the design, development, and testing of experimental, industrial, or medical equipment, instrumentation, and procedures.
  • Direct testing and monitoring of contamination of radioactive equipment, and recording of personnel and plant area radiation exposure data.
  • 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.
  • Teach physics to students.
  • Develop manufacturing, assembly, and fabrication processes of lasers, masers, infrared, and other light-emitting and light-sensitive devices.
  • Conduct application evaluations and analyze results to determine commercial, industrial, scientific, medical, military, or other uses for electro-optical devices.
  • Develop standards of permissible concentrations of radioisotopes in liquids and gases.

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Technology Skills

  • Analytical or scientific software — CERN Physics Analysis Workstation PAW; COMSOL Multiphysics; Spectral Dynamics STAR; Vector Fields OPERA-3d (see all 25 examples)
  • Computer aided design CAD software Hot technology — Autodesk AutoCAD Hot technology ; Mathsoft Mathcad; RibbonSoft QCad
  • Data base management system software — SQLite
  • Data base user interface and query software — Microsoft Access Hot technology ; MySQL Hot technology
  • Desktop publishing software — Scribus
  • Development environment software — C Hot technology ; Formula translation/translator FORTRAN; Microsoft Visual Basic Hot technology ; Pascal (see all 7 examples)
  • Graphics or photo imaging software — Adobe Systems Adobe Photoshop Hot technology ; GNU Image Manipulation Program GIMP; Xfig; XV (see all 5 examples)
  • Music or sound editing software — Adobe Systems Adobe Audition
  • Object or component oriented development software — Microsoft Visual C++; Practical extraction and reporting language Perl Hot technology ; Python Hot technology ; Sun Microsystems Java
  • Office suite software — Microsoft Office
  • Operating system software — Linux Hot technology ; UNIX Hot technology
  • Presentation software — Microsoft PowerPoint Hot technology
  • Spreadsheet software — Microsoft Excel Hot technology
  • Video creation and editing software — Lenox Softworks VideoPoint
  • Web platform development software — JavaScript Hot technology
  • Word processing software — Microsoft Word

Hot technology Hot Technology — a technology requirement frequently included in employer job postings.

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Tools Used

  • Accelerometers
  • 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
  • Cryostats
  • 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
  • Photometers
  • 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)
  • Spectrophotometers
  • Telescopes
  • 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

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Knowledge

  • 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.
  • English Language — Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.
  • 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.

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Skills

  • Science — Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.
  • Mathematics — Using mathematics to solve problems.
  • Critical Thinking — Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.
  • Complex Problem Solving — Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.
  • Reading Comprehension — Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.
  • Speaking — Talking to others to convey information effectively.
  • 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.
  • Active Learning — Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.
  • Judgment and Decision Making — Considering the relative costs and benefits of potential actions to choose the most appropriate one.
  • Learning Strategies — Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.
  • Writing — Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.
  • Instructing — Teaching others how to do something.
  • Programming — Writing computer programs for various purposes.
  • Monitoring — Monitoring/Assessing performance of yourself, other individuals, or organizations to make improvements or take corrective action.
  • Systems Analysis — Determining how a system should work and how changes in conditions, operations, and the environment will affect outcomes.
  • Time Management — Managing one's own time and the time of others.
  • Coordination — Adjusting actions in relation to others' actions.
  • Persuasion — Persuading others to change their minds or behavior.
  • Social Perceptiveness — Being aware of others' reactions and understanding why they react as they do.
  • 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.
  • Service Orientation — Actively looking for ways to help people.
  • Technology Design — Generating or adapting equipment and technology to serve user needs.

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Abilities

  • Mathematical Reasoning — The ability to choose the right mathematical methods or formulas to solve a problem.
  • Inductive Reasoning — The ability to combine pieces of information to form general rules or conclusions (includes finding a relationship among seemingly unrelated events).
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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).
  • 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).
  • Category Flexibility — The ability to generate or use different sets of rules for combining or grouping things in different ways.
  • 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 there is a problem.
  • Speech Clarity — The ability to speak clearly so others can understand you.
  • Near Vision — The ability to see details at close range (within a few feet of the observer).
  • Speech Recognition — The ability to identify and understand the speech of another person.
  • Written Expression — The ability to communicate information and ideas in writing so others will understand.
  • Visualization — The ability to imagine how something will look after it is moved around or when its parts are moved or rearranged.
  • Speed of Closure — The ability to quickly make sense of, combine, and organize information into meaningful patterns.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Selective Attention — The ability to concentrate on a task over a period of time without being distracted.
  • Memorization — The ability to remember information such as words, numbers, pictures, and procedures.
  • Far Vision — The ability to see details at a distance.

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Work Activities

  • Thinking Creatively — Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
  • Interacting With Computers — Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
  • Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others — Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.
  • Processing Information — Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
  • Getting Information — Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
  • 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.
  • Analyzing Data or Information — Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
  • 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.
  • Communicating with Persons Outside 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.
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events — Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
  • Establishing and Maintaining Interpersonal Relationships — Developing constructive and cooperative working relationships with others, and maintaining them over time.
  • Provide Consultation and Advice to Others — Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.
  • Coordinating the Work and Activities of Others — Getting members of a group to work together to accomplish tasks.
  • Developing Objectives and Strategies — Establishing long-range objectives and specifying the strategies and actions to achieve them.
  • Organizing, Planning, and Prioritizing Work — Developing specific goals and plans to prioritize, organize, and accomplish your work.
  • Documenting/Recording Information — Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
  • 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.
  • Scheduling Work and Activities — Scheduling events, programs, and activities, as well as the work of others.
  • Developing and Building Teams — Encouraging and building mutual trust, respect, and cooperation among team members.
  • Monitor Processes, Materials, or Surroundings — Monitoring and reviewing information from materials, events, or the environment, to detect or assess problems.

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Detailed Work Activities

  • Analyze geological or geographical data.
  • Develop theories or models of physical phenomena.
  • Instruct college students in physical or life sciences.
  • Prepare scientific or technical reports or presentations.
  • Collaborate on research activities with scientists or technical specialists.
  • Develop new or advanced products or production methods.
  • Establish standards for products, processes, or procedures.
  • Research environmental impact of industrial or development activities.
  • Advise others on management of emergencies or hazardous situations or materials.

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Work Context

  • Electronic Mail — 77% responded “Every day.”
  • Face-to-Face Discussions — 72% responded “Every day.”
  • Structured versus Unstructured Work — 61% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Indoors, Environmentally Controlled — 79% responded “Every day.”
  • Telephone — 56% responded “Every day.”
  • Freedom to Make Decisions — 60% responded “A lot of freedom.”
  • Duration of Typical Work Week — 71% responded “More than 40 hours.”
  • Importance of Being Exact or Accurate — 49% responded “Very important.”
  • Contact With Others — 40% responded “Constant contact with others.”
  • Work With Work Group or Team — 46% responded “Very important.”
  • Spend Time Sitting — 38% responded “Continually or almost continually.”
  • Coordinate or Lead Others — 40% responded “Important.”
  • Impact of Decisions on Co-workers or Company Results — 72% responded “Important results.”
  • Letters and Memos — 63% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Time Pressure — 39% responded “Once a week or more but not every day.”
  • Responsibility for Outcomes and Results — 29% responded “Moderate responsibility.”
  • Deal With External Customers — 28% responded “Important.”
  • Level of Competition — 33% responded “Highly competitive.”
  • Frequency of Decision Making — 62% responded “Once a month or more but not every week.”

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Job Zone

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 librarians, lawyers, astronomers, biologists, clergy, surgeons, and veterinarians.
SVP Range (8.0 and above)

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Education


Percentage of Respondents
Education Level Required
29   Post-doctoral training
23   Doctoral degree
22   Master's degree

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Credentials

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Interests

Interest code: IR

  • 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.

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Work Styles

  • Attention to Detail — Job requires being careful about detail and thorough in completing work 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.
  • Persistence — Job requires persistence in the face of obstacles.
  • Integrity — Job requires being honest and ethical.
  • Adaptability/Flexibility — Job requires being open to change (positive or negative) and to considerable variety in the workplace.
  • Dependability — Job requires being reliable, responsible, and dependable, and fulfilling obligations.
  • 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.
  • Achievement/Effort — Job requires establishing and maintaining personally challenging achievement goals and exerting effort toward mastering tasks.
  • Innovation — Job requires creativity and alternative thinking to develop new ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
  • Cooperation — Job requires being pleasant with others on the job and displaying a good-natured, cooperative attitude.
  • Self Control — Job requires maintaining composure, keeping emotions in check, controlling anger, and avoiding aggressive behavior, even in very difficult situations.
  • Stress Tolerance — Job requires accepting criticism and dealing calmly and effectively with high stress situations.
  • Concern for Others — Job requires being sensitive to others' needs and feelings and being understanding and helpful on the job.
  • Leadership — Job requires a willingness to lead, take charge, and offer opinions and direction.

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Work Values

  • 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.

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Wages & Employment Trends

Median wages (2016) $55.71 hourly, $115,870 annual
State wages Local Salary Info
 
Employment (2014) 18,000 employees
Projected growth (2014-2024) Average (5% to 8%) Average (5% to 8%)
Projected job openings (2014-2024) 4,900
State trends Employment Trends
 
Top industries (2014)

Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics 2016 wage data external site and 2014-2024 employment projections external site. "Projected growth" represents the estimated change in total employment over the projections period (2014-2024). "Projected job openings" represent openings due to growth and replacement.

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Job Openings on the Web

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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.

  • Physicists and astronomers external site. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2016-17 Edition.

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