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Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and Astronomers
Quick Facts : Physicists and Astronomers*
2010 Median Pay$105,430
Entry Level EducationDoctoral or professional degree
Work Experience in Related OccupationNone
Number of Jobs, 201220,600
Job Outlook14% (About as fast as average)
Employment Change2,800

Physicists and astronomers study the fundamental nature of the universe, ranging from the vastness of space to the smallest of subatomic particles. They develop new technologies, methods, and theories based on the results of their research to deepen our understanding of how things work and contribute to innovative, real-world applications.

What Physicists and Astronomers Do

  • Develop scientific theories and models to explain the properties of the natural world, such as atom formation
  • Plan and conduct scientific experiments and studies to test theories and discover properties of matter and energy
  • Design 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

Work Environment

Physicists and astronomers spend much of their time working in offices, but they also conduct research in laboratories and observatories. Most physicists and astronomers work full time.
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Job Outlook

Employment of physicists and astronomers is expected to increase by 14 percent from 2010 to 2020 with the growing demand for them at colleges and universities and national laboratories.
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The average salary of physicists was $106,370 in May 2010.
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Physicists and Astronomers*
Average Annual Salary, May 2010

Physicists and Astronomers


Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations


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Physicists and Astronomers*
Percent Change in Employment

Physicists and Astronomers


Life, Physical, and Social Science Occupations


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Becoming a Physicists and Astronomers

Physicists and astronomers need a Ph.D. for most jobs. After receiving a Ph.D. in physics or astronomy, many begin their careers in a temporary postdoctoral research position, which typically lasts 2 to 3 years.
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