Preparing Physics Students for Diverse Careers

COLLEGE PARK, MD, October 11, 2016 – The Joint Task Force on Undergraduate Physics Programs (J-TUPP), has assembled a new report, entitled Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers, which assesses the employment landscape that physics bachelor’s degree recipients are entering and makes recommendations on how physics departments can better prepare physics students for diverse employment.

J-TUPP was convened by the American Physical Society (APS) and the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT) with funding from the National Science Foundation. J-TUPP was charged with preparing a report that engages and informs physicists in answering the question: What skills and knowledge should the next generation of undergraduate physics degree holders possess to be well prepared for a diverse set of careers? The report provides guidance for physicists considering revising the undergraduate curriculum to improve the education of a diverse student population.

The Task Force identified several important findings. Some of those findings include:

  • The overwhelming majority of physics bachelor’s recipients are employed outside academia for all or part of their careers, and are engaged in a wide variety of work. Only about 5% pursue careers as physics professors.
  • Studies conducted by a broad range of institutions have produced a consensus that the skills college graduates need include working well in teams, understanding how science and technology are used in real-world settings, and writing and speaking well. Both graduates and their employers report that preparation for positions available to those with physics training could be significantly improved.

The Task Force has also identified ways in which physics programs can be modified to achieve the learning goals through collaborative efforts with other disciplines and employers, modification of degree requirements, and incorporation of co-curricular activities. The report makes a series of recommendations, primarily addressed to academic physics departments, including:

  • Modify programs to ensure that students have opportunities to acquire knowledge and skills needed for the careers that will be available to them.
  • Promote a departmental and faculty culture that values non-academic careers and the students who pursue them.
  • Provide mentoring and career advising to all students throughout the undergraduate program.
  • Identify the types of jobs that program graduates are currently finding, are likely to seek in the near future, or could seek if provided with appropriate preparation.
  • Adopt learning goals relevant to the knowledge and skills that graduates will need.

Visit J-TUPP for more details.

J-TUPP Contacts:

Paula Heron, J-TUPP co-chair
University of Washington
(206) 543-3894

Laurie McNeil, J-TUPP co-chair
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
(919) 962-0963

Contact: James Riordon, APS,, (301) 209-3238

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Tawanda W. Johnson
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About APS

The American Physical Society is a non-profit membership organization working to advance and diffuse the knowledge of physics through its outstanding research journals, scientific meetings, and education, outreach, advocacy, and international activities. APS represents over 53,000 members, including physicists in academia, national laboratories, and industry in the United States and throughout the world. Society offices are located in College Park, MD (Headquarters), Ridge, NY, and Washington, D.C.

About AAPT

AAPT is an international organization for physics educators, physicists, and industrial scientists — with more than 10,000 members worldwide. Dedicated to enhancing the understanding and appreciation of physics through teaching, AAPT provides awards, publications, and programs that encourage practical application of physics principles, support continuing professional development, and reward excellence in physics education. AAPT was founded in 1930 and is headquartered in the American Center for Physics in College Park, MD.