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By Edwin Goldin, Director AIP Career Services Division
After years of coaxing employers of physicists to attend physics society meetings, the Job Center at the APS March Meeting in Los Angeles set new records for job opportunities and potential fulfillment. A grand total of 364 job seekers were represented to 72 employers present who were looking to fill 190 jobs. Another 100 job announcements were posted at the Center for perusal by anyone attending the meeting. Both McKinsey, Inc., a leading global management consulting company, and Manpower Technical, the world's largest contract placement firm, were accepting resumes for an additional unspecified number of present and future positions.
As a result, the Job Center directly arranged 276 interviews in its three days of operation. It is not surprising that word of job offers and ongoing interest, generated right on the spot, quickly filtered back over the transom. A Lawrence Livermore representative said that a hire was found for a job that they were trying to fill for a long time. A Xontech employer mentioned that she was bringing candidates back to the main office for further interviewing the same week. Both Wolfram Research and Raytheon representatives commented that they experienced many good candidates for a spectrum of jobs. (Wolfram has already made two offers.) Penn State employers remarked that they found good candidates for their position.
While these results are exciting and welcome to all involved, there are patterns among the job offerings that need to be made explicit since they point to be a changing landscape.
First of all, the increase in numbers of employers and jobs is met by a still significantly large number of physicist job seekers. The backlog of years of high numbers of PhD graduates and the increasing numbers of postdocs in recent years still leaves many physicists looking for their first "potentially permanent" job.
Next, the type of jobs is shifting strongly toward industrial sectors. More than half of all jobs posted were in private businesses. Offers from Federally Funded Research and Development Centers (FFRDCs) and other government areas remain low and appear to be dropping.
Academic jobs appear to have doubled over the past two years but many of these are postdocs which are showing signs of being vacated, and even shunned, by recent PhDs seeking permanent work. [Editor's Note: For comparison, the overall employment breakdown for US APS members has been approximately: 1/2 Academic (including students and postdocs), 1/4 industry, and 1/4 government plus other for several decades.]
Furthermore, twenty percent of the industrial jobs posted by employers at the physics Job Center were beyond the more usual areas of science and engineering. These nontraditional jobs fell into categories of biotechnology, computer software, financial services and publishing.
These are signs of migration from traditional work for physicists to a broader spectrum of career paths, while "potentially permanent" academic jobs remain tight (See page 5 APS News, February 1998). Physicists are expanding their expectations and becoming even more flexible in applying their skills, experience and education to employment and careers in the broad marketplace. March jobs bring April hiring. It would seem that employers are seeking physicists in larger numbers for expanding ranges of jobs. Physics job seekers, to their credit, are responding to the call.
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