Physicist salary range

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Physics is widely considered one of the more advanced and complex branches of science, requiring a great deal of higher education in order to stay competitive in the field. A physicist's salary is quite variable and contingent on a variety of factors, such as speciality or employer type.

Job Description

Physicists are scientists who specialise in matters of physics, such as motion and gravity, gas behaviour, the formation and transfer of energy, and the overall interaction between energy and matter. Theoretical physicists concern themselves with abstract concepts such as the nature of time and origin of the universe, whereas others take a more practical approach to physics----applying their knowledge to the development of apparatuses like computers, microwave appliances, laser beams and communications satellites. Their work extends to the medical field, national security and other industries.

Work Environment

Physicists find employment in colleges and universities, private research centres, hospitals and government agencies. Some work for companies that are responsible for designing electrical equipment, aircraft and missiles, while others occupy themselves with research or teach physics at the high school or college level. The majority of physicists work in well-tended laboratories or classrooms, though some specialities spend much of their time outside. Physicists must contend with a large amount of overtime work and irregular hours, especially when it comes to carrying out experiments and other special projects. Due to the nature of the profession, it is essential that physicists are able to work effectively in both individual and group settings.


Upon successful completion of a 4-year bachelor's degree, most aspiring physicists pursue graduate study in order to stay competitive in the field. A master's degree requires an additional 2 years of study and is typically good for a job in applied research in the government or private sector. Many physicists elect to work as a research assistant at a college or university while they pursue a 4-year doctoral degree, which is often required to conduct senior research projects. In graduate school, students tend to concentrate their studies in one speciality of physical science, doing research and writing reports in said speciality.

Salary Range

The average salary of a physicist in the United States was £61,256 in May 2006, though this number is subject to variation according to graduate education, location, speciality and industry. The middle 50 per cent of U.S. physicists earned approximately £47,391 to £76,102; the lowest 10 per cent earned less than £33,845, while the highest earned upwards of £93,320. According to a survey conducted by the National Association of Colleges and Employers in 2007, the average starting salary of physics doctoral degree candidates was £34,104. Furthermore, that same year the average salary of a physicist working for the federal government was £72,649.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities for physicists are projected to grow at 7 per cent----about as fast as the average for all occupations----over the course of the 2006 to 2016 decade. Job opportunities will arise due largely in part to older physicists either retiring or abandoning the field, creating a need for replacements. However, it is likely that competition for basic research positions will ensue as a result of limited scientific funding. This is not true of biotechnology and nanotechnology-related research, both of which are expected to stay strong.

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