Physics Majors Enjoy Broad Career Choices
In regard to the article
in recent issues of APS News
about increasing the number of physics graduates:
Why do we need more physics graduates? Certainly not because there are want ads in the paper that read “Wanted–physicist” or letters in the personal columns that start “Looking for that special someone, must be able to solve Schrodinger equation.” We all agree, there are very few job descriptions outside of national labs and academia for physicists. That is unlikely to change any time soon and there is little APS can do about it. However, how many technical and scientific jobs are filled by physicists?
Surprisingly, quite a few! Most physics majors wind up doing work that falls outside of the traditional realm of a physics course of study. I’m not talking about physics majors in disguise as chemists, materials engineers, laser jocks, or such. I’m talking about people trained as physicists doing very non-physics related work: doctors, lawyers, economists, etc.
Does the fact that a number of our students wind up not doing physics mean we need to change our curriculum to meet and foresee their needs? No! A physics degree is one of the most challenging courses of study. It attracts students by virtue of its intellectual and mathematical rigor and it is precisely that sort of training that make a physics major a very attractive commodity to any potential employer. Certainly, we should try to pull in modern developments into courses where possible. Physics is an evolving discipline, but we should not sacrifice the intellectual rigor of the physics discipline to simply boost numbers. That would dramatically undermine our field by populating it with less qualified and poorly trained people calling themselves “a physicist”.
One of the more impressive (and least known) statistic that points to the success of physics majors going on to non-physics related graduate studies is that physics majors consistently out-perform chemistry and biology majors on the MCAT exam. So, want to increase your chances in going to Med School? Be a physics major. Want to increase your chances in going to law school? Be a physics major. Eric Bittner Houston, TX Ed. Note:
APS News has been running a series of articles, “Profiles in Versatility,” that highlights people trained as physicists who have pursued a wide variety of careers. These can be viewed online at www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/features/profiles.cfm.