General Information


Conduct research into physical phenomena, develop theories on the basis of observation and experiments, and devise methods to apply physical laws and theories.

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Business Breakdown

People in this career work in these sectors.

  1. Private, for profit31.96%
  2. Federal government30.61%
  3. Private, not for profit21.33%
  4. State and local government12.65%
  5. Self-employed3.44%

Workplace at a Glance

What you can expect to experience while on the job

  • Responsibility
  • Exposure to job hazards
  • Physical activity
  • Decision making
  • Repetitiveness
  • Level of competition
  • Time pressure

Industry areas

  • Scientific Research and Development Services
  • Federal Executive Branch (OES Designation)
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools

Job Outlook

Overall employment of physicists and astronomers is projected to grow 14 percent from 2016 to 2026, faster than the average for all occupations. Physicists are projected to have employment growth in scientific research and development services, educational services, and healthcare and social assistance. The fast growth will result in only about 2,600 new jobs over the 10-year period. Astronomers is a small occupation, and the fast growth will result in only about 200 new jobs over the 10-year period. Federal spending is the primary source of physics- and astronomy-related research funds, especially for basic research. Growth in the federal government’s spending for research in physics and astronomy is expected to be more or less flat, and this will dampen the need for physicists and astronomers at institutions heavily dependent on such funding.

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Average Salary



Military salary*


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State-by-state Salary

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Most Common Education Levels

People in this career achieve this level of education.

  • Post-doctoral training 29%
  • Doctoral degree 23%
  • Master's degree 22%
  • Bachelor's degree 17%
  • Associate's degree 3%
  • High school 1%
  • Some college 1%
  • Post baccalaureate 1%
  • Less than high school 0%
  • Post-master's certificate 0%
  • First professional degree 0%
  • Post-secondary certificate 0%

Related College Majors

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  • Mathematics
  • Physics
  • Engineering and Technology
  • Computers and Electronics
  • English Language

Skills at a Glance

Skills helpful in this career

  • Verbal skills
  • Critical thinking & problem solving
  • Equipment operation & maintenance
  • Math & science skills
  • Technology design & control
  • Leadership
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