Astronomers and physicists
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Overview
Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Some physicists design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers.
Predicted employment growth
Over the next decade, jobs for physicists are expected to grow by 15%, and should have about 1,700 job openings a year.
Safety from automation
Physicists are less likely to be automated than 75% of other careers.
Workforce size
Physicists, with 17,900 workers, form a smaller workforce than 74% of careers.
Education
About 75% of astronomers and physicists have a graduate-level education, and 99% have at least a bachelor's degree.
Education attained by astronomers and physicists
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Context: workers with graduate degrees
More astronomers and physicists have graduate degrees than 96% of other careeers.
Salaries
The median (middle) salary for physicists is higher than 96% of all other jobs' middle salaries. The graph shows inflation-adjusted salaries for most physicists.
This job's median $121KAll jobs' median $39K$117K$38K20142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median Salary
Gender
Women account for 18% of astronomers and physicists -- that's a smaller percentage than 67% of other jobs.
Gender of astronomers and physicists
Men
Women
Context: Salary inequity
For each career, we compared the median (middle) men's salary to the median women's salary. For astronomers and physicists, the median men's salary was 28% more the median woman's salary.
Race/Origin
About 21% of astronomers and physicists are minority, and 28% are foreign-born.
Race/origin of astronomers and physicists
White
Black
Pacific Islander
Hispanic
Asian
American Indian
Multiracial
Other
Context: Foreign-born workers (28%)
Where are the most jobs?
We ranked the number of jobs in Physicists per thousand workers in each state, DC, and Puerto Rico. The darker the blue, the higher the job density.
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
Job benefits
Employer or union-sponsored pension plans are offered to 89% of astronomers and physicists, and 87% have company-sponsored health insurance (4% have dependents enrolled in their employer's health plan).
Employer-provided health coverage for astronomers and physicists
100% premiums covered
Partial premiums covered
Plan with no cost sharing
No health insurance
Top college degrees
Here are the top college degrees held by the 100% of people in this job who have at least a bachelor's degree. Some of degrees may link to multiple programs due to the way Census classifies college majors. Click on a program to learn more about career opportunities for people who major in that field.
The downside
Some jobs are more stressful than others, and some are just plain dangerous. The following list gives the percentages of physicists who report hazardous or difficult situations typically occurring at least once a week.
  • Time Pressure (53%)
SOURCES:24.0 O*NET
Salary and diversity
Salary overview
What do astronomers and physicists earn?

In this section, we want to give you a clear idea of what you can expect to earn in this career. We use two sources of data here: the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which asks employers to classify their workforce and to report salaries using the SOC-specialty level of reporting, and the American Community Survey (ACS), which asks people to classify their jobs using the broad classifications that ididio uses for career profiles, and to self-report their salaries. For some jobs, the differences in survey approaches between BLS and ACS can paint a very different end-picture. In particular, the ACS data is reported for the larger career group astronomers and physicists, which combines the data for 2 careers, including physicists. Whenever possible, we provide data from both sources.

The BLS-compiled salary data is reported by companies for their employees. This data is classified by SOC specialty, and excludes self-employed workers. We first show the distribution of salaries for physicists, and then we show how the middle (median) salary for physicists compares to the BLS-computed median salaries of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for physicists (BLS Salary Data)
$121K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (BLS Salary Data)
$121K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
We compiled household data from the ACS to determine the salaries that people working at least 35 hours a week report themselves to earn. Unlike the BLS estimates, this data includes self-employed wages. Additionally, we only have ACS survey data for the larger career category and not for the specialty level. We first show the full salary distribution for all astronomers and physicists, and then we show how the median (middle) salary for astronomers and physicists compares to the median ACS-reported salary of other careers.
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists (ACS Salary Data)
$95K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Context: Median salaries across careers (ACS Salary Data)
$95K$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Employers and salary
A look at employers and corresponding salaries
The donut shares the break-down of workers by employer type, and following we show the salary distributions for these workers based on those employer types. For some careers, the salaries can be vastly different between private, government, and self-employment. As with our salary overview, we view the both the BLS economists' salary profiles and the household-reported salaries from ACS to get a thorough understanding of where physicists work and for what salary. We have the great faith in the accuracy of economist-vetted BLS data; however, the BLS restrictions on which employers are surveyed skews the data a bit (read more in the sources), and the ACS responses provide different and useful categorizations of employers and salaries.
Employers of Astronomers and physicists (ACS)
Private for-profit (39.6%)
Private not-for-profit (19.2%)
Local government (2.5%)
State government (11.8%)
Federal government (24.6%)
Self-employed incorporated (0.9%)
Self-employed not incorporated (1.4%)
Working without pay (0.1%)
Distribution: Salaries of astronomers and physicists by type of employer (ACS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type calculated by aggregating individual household survey responses. These salaries were reported for the larger career group of astronomers and physicists, which combines the 2 specialties for this career.
$95K$108K$102K$101K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000Federal governmentPrivate not-for-profitPrivate for-profitAll
Distribution: Salaries of physicists by type of employer (BLS data)
Following are the salary distributions by employer type as reported by BLS based on large employer-focused surveys. We note that smaller employer categories are not included by BLS. Remember that the BLS salaries are for the specialty physicists, and may differ signficantly from the ACS salary estimates which combine several career specialties.
$121K$120K$100K$133K$69K$0$50,000$100,000$150,000$200,000$250,000Federal governmentState governmentLocal governmentPrivateAll
Age and career advancement
Salary growth for astronomers and physicists

The biggest take-away from the following two charts is the relationship between salary and experience that we can infer from age. Does this job seem to attract especially younger or older workers? Does it reward experience?

Take a minute a look at how much you might expect your salary to increase with each five years' experience, as well as how the numbers working in this career changes. We only provide this data when there are enough consistent ACS survey responses to allow a reasonable margin of error, so for some careers you will see gaps in our reporting of salary by age.

$79K$134K$104K$59K$121K$131K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KSalary distribution20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64
05001K2K2KNumber employed20-2425-2930-3435-3940-4445-4950-5455-5960-64

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Gender and Equity
Astronomers and physicists and gender

With 18% women, this occupation has a lower percentage of women than 67% of careers.

Context: Women in the workforce
18%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Gender of Astronomers and physicists
Men (82%)
Women (18%)
Distribution: Salaries by gender

We only have enough data to accuarately show the salary distribution for men. This chart shows you the salary range for most workers by gender.

$100K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KMen
Context: Salary Inequity

Nationwide there are twenty careers for which men do not have a higher median (middle) salary than women. The chart below shows the salary inequity, the percentage by which the median men's salary is higher than the median women's salary, for most jobs. Astronomers and physicists have one of the higher percentage increases for men's salary, with the increase for the men's median salary over the women's median salary in this job even higher than that for 76% of other jobs.

28%0%20%40%60%80%100%

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Race/Origin
Race and origin of astronomers and physicists

The representation of minority and foreign-born workers is quite different between careers, and the relative pay of those workers also varies significantly between careers. The percentage of minority astronomers and physicists falls in about the middle of all careers' percentages. This career hires a larger percentage of foreign-born workers than most other careers.

Race/origin of astronomers and physicists
White (77% )
Asian (15% )
Black (5% )
Multiracial (2% )
Other (1% )
American Indian (0% )
Context: Representation of minorities in the workforce
21%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Context: Representation of foreign-born workers
28%0%20%40%60%80%100%
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists by race/origin

For some careers, there is a pay disparity depending on race or origin, though this is not prevalent. We calculate standard errors for all of our calculations, and when the error is high we do not show results. Therefore, for some jobs will have omitted race/origin categories.

$87K$101K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAsianWhite
Distribution: Salaries for astronomers and physicists by nativity
$93K$98K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KAll foreign-bornAll native citizens

Our only sources for career data containing age, gender, or origin/race come from the Census Bureau. To provide these breakdowns, we have aggregated ACS person-level career survey responses by career, gender, race, and age. These graphics reflect the results of our aggregations, and are useful for identifying trends. A careful statistical study of the impact of age, gender, and race on salaries would correct for other factors that could be contributing to salary differences.

Pathways to this career
Education requirements and salary
Education attained by physicists

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), physicists typically hold a doctoral or professional degree.

Sometimes the typical education identified by the BLS differs a bit from the reality of the how much education current workers actually have. The donut shows the education level held by people currently working as astronomers and physicists as reported in responses to the American Community Survey. Following, we investigate whether education level influences salary for astronomers and physicists.

Education attained by astronomers and physicists
None
High School
Some College
Associate's Degree
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Professional Deg/Doct
Doctorate
Details: Education and training recommended for physicists

A Ph.D. in physics, astronomy, or a related field is needed for jobs in research or academia or for independent research positions in industry.

Graduate students usually concentrate in a subfield of physics or astronomy, such as condensed matter physics or cosmology. In addition to taking courses in physics or astronomy, Ph.D. students need to take courses in math, such as calculus, linear algebra, and statistics. Computer science classes also are essential, because physicists and astronomers often develop specialized computer programs that are used to gather, analyze, and model data.

Those with a master’s degree in physics may qualify for jobs in applied research and development for manufacturing and healthcare companies. Many master’s degree programs specialize in preparing students for physics-related research-and-development positions that do not require a Ph.D.

Most physics and astronomy graduate students have a bachelor’s degree in physics or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in physics is often considered good preparation for Ph.D. programs in astronomy, although an undergraduate degree in astronomy may be preferred by some universities. Undergraduate physics programs provide a broad background in the natural sciences and mathematics. Typical courses include classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, optics, and electromagnetism.

Students may choose to complete an internship during their undergraduate curriculum in order to gain additional hands-on experience. The American Astronomical Society has a directory of internships for astronomy students, and the American Physical Society lists internships for students in physics.

Jobseekers with only a bachelor’s degree in physics usually are qualified to work as technicians and research assistants in related fields, such as engineering and computer science. Those with a bachelor’s degree in astronomy also may qualify to work as an assistant at an observatory. Students who do not want to continue their studies to the doctoral level may want to take courses in instrument building and computer science.

Some master’s degree and bachelor’s degree holders find work in the federal government. Others may become science teachers in middle schools and high schools.

Details: Licensing and certification recommended for physicists

Some positions with the federal government, such as those involving nuclear energy and other sensitive research areas, may require applicants to be U.S. citizens and hold a security clearance.

Distribution: Salary by education level

What level of education is truly needed for astronomers and physicists? Below we see the distribution of astronomers and physicists salaries based on the education attained. These comparisons are based on all survey responses by those who identified themselves as astronomers and physicists, and are not intended as a statistical analysis of salary differences that would correct for non-educational factors that could contribute to high or low earnings.

$73K$108K$0$50K$100K$150K$200KBachelor's Degree (24%)Doctorate (48%)
Bachelor's degree pathways
College majors held by astronomers and physicists

This table shows the college majors held by people working as astronomers and physicists. Select any degree to see detailed information. We are able to connect careers to degrees using the American Community Survey (ACS), and their degrees are defined a little differently from our programs, which are based on standard CIP classifications. Therefore, selecting some degrees will lead to a selection of CIP-level programs from which to choose.

If you see "**" before the name of a degree/program, that means this field is one that the Department of Education believes is preparatory for this career. However, you can see from this list that those recommendations are far from your only path to this job!

Degree
Select any title to learn more about that degree
Percentage of Astronomers and physicists with this degree
Salary for all majors
Salary distribution (across jobs). Showing 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
Final education level of all people with this major
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Gender of people this bachelor's degree
Men
Women
The link between degrees and careers
The link between degrees and careers

With the following "sankey" diagram, you can follow the top ten bachelor's degrees held by people working as astronomers and physicists, and then, in turn, you can see the 10 occupations that hire the most of each degree's graduates. This visualization links fields of studies and careers, suggesting both similar careers and options for degrees. The full list of bachelor's degrees held by astronomers and physicists given in the previous section reminds us that there are many paths to these careers beyond what we can summarize here.

This job
Top 10 majors
Each major's top ten jobs
Postsecondary teachersApplications and systems software developersManagers (specialized areas)Physical scientists (specialized areas)Engineers (specialized areas)Physicians and surgeonsElementary and middle school teachersComputer programmersEpidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsChief executives and legislatorsChemists and materials scientistsPharmacistsDentistsSecondary school teachersComputer systems analystsComputer and information systems managersActuariesAccountants and auditorsRegistered nursesClinical laboratory technologists and techniciansElectrical and electronics engineersArchitectural and engineering managersCivil engineersAstronomers and physicistsComputer support specialistsEducation administratorsFirst-line supervisors of retail sales workersWholesale and manufacturing sales representativesMedical and health services managersPolice officersSocial workersProbation officers and correctional treatment specialistsSecurity Guards and Gaming Surveillance OfficersBailiffs, correctional officers, and jailersLawyers, judges, and magistratesDetectives and criminal investigatorsFirst-Line Supervisors of Police and DetectivesMechanical engineersIndustrial engineersAerospace engineersManagement analystsPhysicsChemistryMathematicsBiologyElectrical EngineeringAstronomy andAstrophysicsMultidisciplinary or GeneralScienceCriminal Justice and FireProtectionMechanical EngineeringGeneral EngineeringAll other degrees
Switching Careers
Most common new jobs
The most common next careers for astronomers and physicists

What jobs will most astronomers and physicists hold next year?

The data in this chart comes from person interviews for the Census Bureau's Current Population Survey. The survey interviews households eight times over a two-year period, allowing us a glimpse into how people move from job to job. You can see more details from the results of the survey in our last tab in this section, and you can read about our methodology in our source descriptions.

Here we see all of the jobs that at least 1% of astronomers and physicists reported holding in their second year's survey. Is your future job on this list?

Astronomers and physicistsPhysical scientists (specialized areas)Postsecondary teachersData entry keyersReligious workers (specialized areas)Science techniciansArchitectsEnvironmental scientists and geoscientistsEpidemiologists and Medical/Life ScientistsComputer systems analystsCompliance officersHealth Technologists and TechniciansPhysicians and surgeonsCooksManagers (specialized areas)
Lateral career moves
Lateral job transitions for astronomers and physicists

A lateral career transition is a move to a job with similar pay and responsibilities. A move to such a job can offer a change of pace without an increase in stress or a decrease in pay. The following table simply identifies all 4 jobs which were held by at least 1% of survey respondents before working as astronomers and physicists as well as 1% of respondents after working as astronomers and physicists. Select a row to investigate the job's full description and determine if it truly offers an opportunity for a lateral transition.

Lateral-move careers for astronomers and physicists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Postsecondary teachers
172,500
$0$200K$62K
Data entry keyers
16,800
$0$200K$31K
Health Technologists and Technicians
12,400
$0$200K$41K
Physical scientists (specialized areas)
2,000
$0$200K$69K
Full prior and next career listings
Prior and next careers for astronomers and physicists: full listings

What do people typically do before and after they work as astronomers and physicists? Here are the full lists of all jobs that at least 1% of astronomers and physicists surveyed reported as holding a year earlier or later.

Choose which type of transition to view
Prior jobs
Next jobs
Prior careers for astronomers and physicists
Annual openings
How many openings are expected each year?
Salary
Salary distribution for people in this occupation. Range is 0-$200,000.
Median
Middle 50%
Middle 80%
Education
High School
Some College
Bachelor's Degree
Master's Degree
Doctorate
Gender
Men
Women
Percentage Transitioning
What percentage worked in this job the previous year?
Postsecondary teachers
172,500
$0$200K$62K
8.4%
Accountants and auditors
143,000
$0$200K$60K
2.1%
Assemblers and fabricators (specialized areas)
131,900
$0$200K$30K
2.6%
Civil engineers
25,900
$0$200K$81K
1.6%
Chief executives and legislators
24,000
$0$200K$96K
6.0%
Computer occupations (specialized areas)
22,500
$0$200K$68K
3.7%
Data entry keyers
16,800
$0$200K$31K
3.4%
Health Technologists and Technicians
12,400
$0$200K$41K
3.2%
Aerospace engineers
4,600
$0$200K$101K
1.2%
Physical scientists (specialized areas)
2,000
$0$200K$69K
16.1%
Astronomers and physicists
1,900
$0$200K$95K
43.8%
No occupation
2.7%
Read about physicists
Responsibilities and activities
Responsibilities and activities

Physicists and astronomers typically do the following:

  • Develop scientific theories and models that attempt to explain the properties of the natural world, such as the force of gravity or the formation of sub-atomic particles
  • Plan and conduct scientific experiments and studies to test theories and discover properties of matter and energy
  • Write proposals and apply for funding to conduct research
  • Do complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data, such as data that may indicate the existence of planets in distant solar systems or new properties of materials
  • Design new scientific equipment, such as telescopes and lasers
  • Develop computer software to analyze and model data
  • Write scientific papers that may be published in scholarly journals
  • Present research findings at scientific conferences and lectures

Physicists explore the fundamental properties and laws that govern space, time, energy, and matter. Some physicists study theoretical areas, such as the fundamental properties of atoms and molecules and the evolution of the universe. Others design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers. Many apply their knowledge of physics to practical objectives, such as developing advanced materials and medical equipment.

Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. They use ground-based equipment, such as radio and optical telescopes, and space-based equipment, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Some astronomers study distant stars, galaxies, and phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes, and others monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations.

Many physicists and astronomers work in basic research with the aim of increasing scientific knowledge. These researchers may attempt to develop theories that better explain what gravity is or how the universe works or was formed. Other physicists and astronomers work in applied research. They use the knowledge gained from basic research to effect new developments in areas such as energy storage, electronics, communications, navigation, and medical technology.

Astronomers and physicists typically work on research teams together with engineers, technicians, and other scientists. Some senior astronomers and physicists may be responsible for assigning tasks to other team members and monitoring their progress. They may also be responsible for finding funding for their projects and therefore may need to write applications for research funding.

Experimental physicists develop new equipment or sensors to study properties of matter, create theories, and test them through experiments. Theoretical and computational physicists develop new theories that can predict properties of materials, or describe unexplained experimental results. Although all of physics involves the same fundamental principles, physicists generally specialize in one of many subfields. The following are examples of types of physicists:

Astrophysicists study the physics of the universe. “Astrophysics” is a term that is often used interchangeably with “astronomy.”

Atomic, molecular, and optical physicists study atoms, simple molecules, electrons, and light, as well as the interactions among them. Some look for ways to control the states of individual atoms, because such control might allow for further miniaturization or might contribute toward the development of new materials or computer technology.

Condensed matter and materials physicists study the physical properties of matter in molecules, nanostructures, or novel compounds. They study a wide range of phenomena, such as superconductivity, liquid crystals, sensors, and nanomachines.

Medical physicists work in healthcare and use their knowledge of physics to develop new medical technologies and radiation-based treatments. For example, some develop better and safer radiation therapies for cancer patients. Others may develop more accurate imaging technologies that use various forms of radiant energy, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound imaging.

Particle and nuclear physicists study the properties of atomic and subatomic particles, such as quarks, electrons, and nuclei, and the forces that cause their interactions.

Plasma physicists study plasmas, which are considered a distinct state of matter and occur naturally in stars and interplanetary space and artificially in neon signs and plasma screen televisions. Many plasma physicists study ways to create fusion reactors that might be a future source of energy.

Unlike physicists, astronomers cannot experiment on their subjects, because they are so far away that they cannot be touched or interacted with. Therefore, astronomers generally make observations or work on theory. Observational astronomers observe celestial objects and collect data on them. Theoretical astronomers analyze, model, and theorize about systems and how they work and evolve. The following are examples of types of astronomers who specialize by the objects and phenomena they study:

Cosmologists and extragalactic astronomers study the entire universe. They study the creation, evolution, and possible futures of the universe and its galaxies. These scientists have recently developed several theories important to the study of physics and astronomy, including string, dark-matter, and dark-energy theories.

Galactic, planetary, solar, and stellar astronomers study phenomena that take place in the universe at the scale of stars, planets, and solar systems. For example, these astronomers study the sun, stellar evolution, planetary formation, and interactions between stars

Optical and radio astronomers use optical or radio telescopes to study motions and evolution of stars, galaxies, and the larger scale structure of the universe.

Growing numbers of physicists work in interdisciplinary fields, such as biophysics, chemical physics, and geophysics. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists and geoscientists.

Many people with a physics or astronomy background become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profiles on high school teachers and postsecondary teachers.

Personality and skills
Personality and skills

Can you see yourself in the ranks of physicists? Here are the skills and traits that could lead to success.

Analytical skills
Physicists and astronomers need to think logically in order to carry out scientific experiments and studies. They must be precise and accurate in their analyses because errors could invalidate their research.
Communication skills
Physicists and astronomers present their research at scientific conferences, to the public, or to government and business leaders. Physicists and astronomers write technical reports that may be published in scientific journals. They also write proposals for research funding.
Critical-thinking skills
Physicists and astronomers must carefully evaluate their own work and the work of others. They must determine whether results and conclusions are accurate and based on sound science.
Curiosity
Physicists and astronomers work in fields that are on the cutting edge of technology. They must be very keen to learn continuously throughout their careers in order to keep up with advances in a wide range of technical subjects.
Interpersonal skills
Physicists and astronomers must collaborate extensively with others in both academic and industrial research contexts. They need to work well with others toward a common goal. Interpersonal skills also should help researchers secure funding for their projects.
Math skills
Physicists and astronomers perform complex calculations involving calculus, geometry, algebra, and other areas of math. They must express their research in mathematical terms.
Problem-solving skills
Physicists and astronomers use scientific observation and analysis, as well as creative thinking, to solve complex scientific problems. Physicists and astronomers may need to redesign their approach and find a solution when an experiment or theory fails to produce the needed information or result.
Self-discipline
Physicists and astronomers need to stay motivated, since they spend a lot of time analyzing large datasets to try to discern patterns that will yield information. This work requires the ability to focus for long periods.
Trends in employment
Salary trends
Distribution and trends: Salaries for physicists
Choose actual dollars or inflation-adjusted dollars to view
Adjusted for inflation
Historic dollars

In 2018, the median (middle) salary for physicists was higher than 96% of all other jobs' middle salaries. This graphic shows how the salary distribution (adjusted for inflation) has changed for this job over recent years. The gray line, as a comparison, shows the median salary of all US workers.

This job's median $121KAll jobs' median $39K$116K$38K200420052006200720082009201020112012201320142015201620172018$0$50K$100K$150K$200K
Projected versus actual employment
Exploring actual employment trends versus projected trends

Currently, jobs for physicists are anticipated to grow by 15% over the next decade; only 11% of jobs are predicted to grow more.

The projected employment for physicists is the best guess created by talented economists and statisticians at the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). However, as you look through several careers you'll notice that the projections are heavily influenced by past performance and may miss current trends. No one can tell the future, and as new information and better techniques are developed, actual counts and future projections may change. Here's a glimpse at the actual counts versus the projections over time.

200020102020203005,00010,00015,00020,00025,000
Employment counts
Actual measured employment
BLS 10-year predictions
Variation by state
Employment
State-by-state employment numbers

Some careers tend to be centered in specific parts of the country. For example, most jobs in fashion are in New York or California. Let's see if your dream job is easy to find in your dream location! We have a few choices for viewing the data that can help you get a full employment picture.

Job density versus job count

Which states hire the most physicists? We wonder if that's a fair question since states come in all sizes, so instead let's start with the question of which states have the highest density of people working as physicists. You can choose to view the number of jobs per state if you prefer.

BLS vs ACS data

This map defaults to employment information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), which provides job totals carefully compiled for accuracy and with a primary focus on how employers describe their workers. The BLS job totals do not count self-employed workers. We've also compiled totals using the Census Bureau's American Community Survey (ACS) which are based on how workers describe themselves. Sometimes ACS results are quite a bit different from the employer-based BLS data.

One important factor in the differences between ACS and BLS data is that the ACS numbers are for all astronomers and physicists, comprised of all specialities listed in the menu bar, and you can choose to view the BLS at the specialty or full career level.

Choose the metric to review
Jobs per 1000 working
Number of jobs
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Number of Physicists per 1,000 workers (BLS)
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.00.51.01.52.02.5
Salary
Salaries by state
Let's get a feel for where physicists earn the highest salaries. There are several choices for which data we consider and how we view that data, and each can lead to different conclusions, so please read on...
Median salary versus state ratio

We use two methods to compare salaries across states:

  • In-state comparisons: the ratio of median (middle) salaries for astronomers and physicists compared to the median salary for all people working in each state, or
  • Median salary: the unaltered median salaries for astronomers and physicists.

We hope the ratio allows perspective about how salaries may compare to the regional cost-of-living.

BLS vs ACS data

We have two sources for statewide salary information with important distinctions. The BLS data is created by surveying companies, missing individuals who are self-employed or work for smaller companies. The ACS data is compiled from multi-faceted household surveys and may reflect the inconsistencies that people may have in reporting information. The ACS salaries are for all astronomers and physicists, which combines the specialities from which you can choose at the top of the page.

Choose the metric to review
In-state comparisions
Median salary
Use this data source
BLS for this specialty
Median salary ratio: Physicists to all workers (BLS for this specialty)
The darkest shading corresponds to states in which physicists earn the highest salary when compared to other jobs in the state. We think this ratio might be a better indicator than the actual salary for your buying power as a state resident.
Select a state to see local area details
AKMEVTNHWAIDMTNDMNMINYMARIORUTWYSDIAWIINOHPANJCTCANVCONEMOILKYWVVAMDDEAZNMKSARTNNCSCDCOKLAMSALGAHITXFLPR
0.01.02.03.04.05.0
Compare to similar jobs

If this job interests you, then use the dots below to find other jobs you might like. The dots closer to the top represent jobs that are like Astronomers and physicists (shown with a blue star). Look for the dots to the right to find the best salaries! (We pulled salary data from BLS, and they give a top salary value of just over $200K to protect privacy, so our graph would go much higher if the salaries were not top coded.)

How should the career similarity be computed

There are a number of ways to measure the similarity of jobs, here are a few we provide:

  • Interests: Also known as a Holland Code - Are you a thinker? A helper? What fits your personality?
  • Environment: Are there hazards? Will you be comfortable? Will it be stressful?
  • Knowledge: What do you need to know the most about?
  • Physical Abilities: Do you need to especially strong or coordinated?
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