Life After College with a Physics Degree
Physics is among the hard sciences' most versatile degrees. Industry sectors available to majors and graduate degree holders include finance, engineering, software development, teaching, public policy development, research, data science, medicine, and more. This page contains information on a small subset of paths. For more information, contact the undergraduate or graduate advisors or visit the SJSU Career Center.
Engineering, tech, and private industry sectors in general offer physics majors some of the most common and lucrative career paths. Visit the links below to explore your options and to learn more.
- SJSU Career Center
- SJSU Department of Physics and Astronomy LinkedIn page
- American Physical Society (APS) Careers
- American Institute of Physics (AIP) Career Resources
- American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) Careers in STEM
- Science Careers (featuring an interactive individual development plan tool)
- InterSECT Job Simulations
Careers in Teaching
Physics majors are highly valued as teachers. At the primary and secondary education levels (i.e., kindergarten through 12th grade), opportunities can be subdivided into those at public schools and those at private schools. Public schools offer higher salaries but require more extensive credentialing levels. Private schools tend to make hiring decisions in connection with a school-specific centralized vision. At the community college level, teaching positions require a master’s degree or beyond.
- Become a Teacher (Credentialing information from the Connie J. Lurie College of Education.)
- Lurie College of Education Student Success Center (Advising information for students interested in the teaching credential program.)
- SJSU Science Education program (Credentialing information and information obtaining an MS in Science Education.)
- BA in Physics, Preparation for Teaching degree. Contact the Department of Physics and Astronomy undergraduate advisor for more information.
- Santa Clara University Teacher Education Programs page.
- San Francisco State University Teaching Credential Programs page.
- Teach California: The State of California's teacher recruitment page.
- Get the Facts Out: Coalition of universities and physics societies seeking to help advertise teaching among STEM majors. GFO’s website provides resources to help you decide if a teaching is a good fit, and also provides information on things like certification and loan forgiveness.
- American Association of Physics Teachers, Northern California/Nevada Section (NCNAAPT): Resources on local teaching conferences, networking opportunities, field trip ideas, and more. Aspiring teachers may be especially interested to read the organization’s Becoming a Physics Teacher page.
- Teach For America (TFA): Teacher recruitment and placement program.
- Bay Area Teacher Training Institute (BATTI): Teacher recruitment and placement program.
- For private primary and secondary schools, teacher placement services are common and usually free to the applicant. See, for example, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) Teacher Placement Services page, and contact Prof. Curtis Asplund at email@example.com for further information and advice.
Careers in Government
A degree in physics can be valuable for many careers in various levels of government, though some may require additional training or experience. At the local level, see the City of San José jobs page and the County of Santa Clara job opportunities page. State-level jobs are posted at the CalCareers website, and national job opportunities can be found at the USAJOBS website. These sites can feel overwhelming sometimes, but it helps to narrow down your search based on geographic preferences and to use keywords like "physics," "data analysis," or specific topics you're interested in.
Many physics-related federal government jobs are located in the national laboratories. See the APS web page on government funded laboratory jobs for a more detailed description. A listing of open positions can be found at the National Laboratories Careers page. Many jobs in these laboratories involve the construction or maintenance of nuclear weapons or other weapons-related work. You may want to evaluate the ethics of such work. See the article "Physicists need to be talking about nuclear weapons" by Stewart Prager and Frank N. von Hippel in Physics Today for further context. Similar ethical considerations apply to some jobs in aerospace, aviation and defense industries, and in the US Intelligence Community, all of which hire many people with physics degrees.
Careers at Nonprofits
Nonprofit organizations aim to accomplish some collective, public or social benefit, rather than make profits. The number and variety of such organizations is enormous, and includes museums, community service agencies, charitable giving organizations, and public policy think tanks. You may find resources and some help navigating such jobs in California at the California Association of Nonprofits website. Some well known nonprofits that focus on scientific issues and that particularly hire people with physics degrees include the Union of Concerned Scientists and the American Association for the Advancement of Science, as well as the professional societies: the American Institute of Physics (AIP), the American Physical Society (APS), the American Astronomical Society (AAS), the American Association of Physics Teachers (AAPT), and others listed at the bottom of the AIP website.
Careers in Academia
Academic careers (working as a professor at a four-year-college or beyond) are among the easiest-to-picture careers available to physics majors. The typical path leading to a career in academia in the U.S. includes matriculating into a PhD program immediately or within one or two years after completing an undergraduate degree. (This differs from some other fields, where graduate school more commonly follows time spent in the workforce.) For more information on career paths in academia, contact the undergraduate or graduate advisors or contact a tenured or tenure-track faculty member in your field of interest directly. See also the Department’s affiliation with Cal-Bridge.