Physicist

Physicist
By Paul Fischer
Mr. Lamberti
Career Exploration
May 30, 2010
Paul Fischer
Mr. Lamberti
Career Exploration
May 21, 2010
Physicist
         If someone is interested in working in physics, the federal government is probably the best place to start looking: over half of all physicists are hired by the government (bls.com). There are a wide variety of jobs available for physicists, from fighting crime, product development, studying motion or other practical uses to abstract physicists who try to find out about the beginning of the universe and planetary motions.
            Studying in an abstract field can be very beneficial to society, for example there are many instances when devices designed purely for science have great benefit to people. Microwaves, cell phones, even computers are at least partially side effects of pure science research for physics (bls.org). While the inventors of the devices may not profit directly (although many do), they tend to be far more concerned with ensuring that they receive proper credit. With that credit comes further funding and grants, which allow physicists to pursue their goals in science (aip.org).
            Research for the military also helps create appliances with everyday use. Lasers, nuclear power and radar are all examples of how military research has inadvertently lead to important staples in modern life. This is especially important to job-seekers, because a large portion of the jobs in physics belong to the military.
         Becoming a physicist almost certainly requires an ability to create devices, often experiments will call for things that haven’t been invented. Astronomers, for example, are continually building the next biggest and best telescope (bls.com). The side effect is that often devices have many uses, even in the real world. As far back as Sir Isaac Newton, physicists had predicted that orbital satellites could circle the earth in perpetual freefall. The satellites that today fire missiles, communicate GPS, and relay cell phone calls are a result of hundreds of years of research into the nature of gravity.
            The military race to develop a super weapon using light resulted in the invention of the modern laser. Now this work on light is used in everything from CD players to manufacturing cars. Lasers are so powerful today that they can alter the retina in a damaged eye. The work of combining different technologies to fit one need often falls to physicists, who say problem-solving is among their most important job skills (aip.org).
         An advantage of entering physics as a career choice is that, while the academics may be rigorous, usually requiring at least a PhD, there are not a lot of unusual workplace hazards, as with other specialized fields such as nuclear technicians. Physicists also tend to work regular hours, although some at special laboratories or observatories may have strange hours (bls.org). Like many professions in the scientific field, a lot of physicists’ time can be eaten by the tedious process of applying for grants.
            In some cases, this may take more time than their actual work in science. Physicists also may spend a lot of time teaching students, which can detract from their research opportunities, even at large universities. While, like medicine, the demand for physicists is not likely to drop any time soon, physicists are not paid nearly as well, and actually need a comparable level of education just to survive. Some researchers earn on the poverty line, and it can be hard to raise a family on such a low salary. University tenure tracks offer a viable direction for physicists who are willing to sacrifice research time to teach students. Sometimes, graduate students can prove helpful with dull research or experiments.
            Working as a physicist, above all, takes a devotion to science that very few have. They need to value credit above money, and the advancement of technology has to be above all. Should that be the case, their worth to society is incontrovertible, and their work is central to the modern world.
         Pay is usually based on the willingness of a physicist to network and seek grants. In the US there are 17,500 physicists, of whom only 1,500 are astronomers (bls.com). In the next decade, the field is expected to grow faster than the average employment in the country, at a brisk 16%. While the work to get there is difficult, and the pay is not amazing, with starting salaries between 30 and 55 thousand, as opposed to 60 to 70 thousand for a chemical engineering student (aip.org), job security is nearly certain, and more importantly, physics is a legitimately vital field to the scientific superiority of America.
Bibliography
“Physicists and Astronomers.” Bls.com. 17 Dec. 2009. Web. 21 May 2010. .
“Statistics.” AIP.org. American Institute of Physics, 2010. Web. 21 May 2010. . 

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