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Physicists use mathematical terms to describe the structure of the universe and the interaction between matter and energy. They develop theories that describe the fundamental forces and laws of nature. Physicists are the force behind new technologies that have a profound effect on our lives such as laser surgery and microwave ovens.

Representative Job Titles and Areas of Specialization

Acoustician Mathematical Physicist
Aeronomist Medical Physicist
Astronomer Microwave Physicist
Astrophysicist Molecular Physicist
Atomic Physicist Nuclear Physicist
Biophysicist Oceanographer
Ceramist Particle Physicist
Chemical Physicist Planetary Physicist
Communications Physicist Plasma Physicist
Computer Analyst Process Engineer
Computer Programmer Product Engineer
Cryogenicist Professor/Lecturer/Instructor/Teacher
Crystallographer Quality Assurance Engineer
Electron Physicist Reliability Engineer
Electronics Engineer Rheologist
Engineering Physicist Science Writer/Editor
Failure Diagnosis Engineer Scientific Equipment Salesperson
Geodesist Solid-State Physicist
Geophysicist Space Physicist
High Energy Physicist Statistical Physicist
Hydrologist Thermal Physicist
Laser Physicist Weights and Measures Inspector
Materials Scientist  
* See Training section

Nature of the Work

Most physicists work in research and development of new technologies. Some conduct basic research to increase scientific knowledge. Others conduct applied research to develop new devices, products and processes.

Today, more physicists are specializing in fields combining physics with a related science such as biology, chemistry, geology and engineering.

Places of Employment

Aerospace industry National Aeronautics and Space Administration
Army, Navy, Air Force Independent laboratories
Central Intelligence Agency National laboratories
Colleges, universities, high schools National oceanic and atmospheric agencies
Communications industries Administration
Telecommunication equipment companies Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Department of Energy Petroleum producers
Electronic industries Department of State
Federal Bureau of Investigation Utilities
Medical/scientific instrument companies Appliance manufacturers
Makers of business machines, computers Audio equipment companies


A bachelor's degree in Physics can get you a position in quality assurance, technical sales or assisting physicists in research and development laboratories. If that sort of career appeals to you, you should choose more applied courses as an undergrad and get some and career-related experience while in school.

Most entry-level positions bearing the title "physicist" require Graduate training in physics or a closely related field. If you want to teach and perform research at a university or administer a research and development program, you will need a Ph.D.

For further information and/or career counseling contact the UCR Career Center, (951) 827-3631.

Supplemental Material

The following documents may provide further ideas for exploration.

More Information

General Campus Information

University of California, Riverside
900 University Ave.
Riverside, CA 92521
Tel: (951) 827-1012

Department Information

Career Center
Career Center Plaza

Tel: (951) 827-3631
Fax: (951) 827-2447
Student Questions: careercounseling@ucr.edu
Employer Questions: careerrecruiting@ucr.edu