Career Prospects for Graduate Students
Life after Graduate School
It is often assumed that a PhD in physics is only useful if the recipient is going to become a professor someday. However, only ~15-20% of PhD recipients will end up in tenure-track faculty positions! What this means is that the vast majority of Physics PhD holders work in other fields, supported by the consistently lower-than-average unemployment rates for science and engineering PhDs. Indeed, a PhD in physics is excellent training for a wide variety of careers in education and research, including in academia, government, industry, and finance. Some of the most important skills learned during a PhD in physics can be translated to almost any career, such as solving challenging problems, mathematical modeling and analysis, and oral and written presentation.
Career prospects for Physics PhDs
Broadly speaking, physics PhDs can be found in academia (not limited to research! 29-33%), government (14-17%), or industry (45-49%). Recent Georgia Tech Physics PhDs (since 2000) echo these numbers, as seen in the chart below. These graduates have gone on to faculty positions at Kansas State, U. Nebraska, UNC, and others; companies such as Intel, Google, and Texas Instruments; and US national labs.
Careers by sector after receiving a PhD in Physics from Georgia Tech (2000 or later). Non-STEM includes fields such as consulting and data analysis.
Careers by sector after receiving a PhD in Physics from Georgia Tech (all years).
Expanding our view over all GT Physics PhD graduates reveals a shift towards more working in academia. While this may be a reflection of changing opportunities, we also find that some graduates who started in one field switch to academia later.
Breakdown of GT Physics PhDs employed in education by type of school, including research or teaching universities and colleges as well as K-12 schools (all years).
For those GT PhD graduates working in academia, we find the majority are at research-focused colleges and universities. While a few of these include the roughly 2/3 of new Physics PhDs in a postdoc or similar temporary position one year after completing their degree, practically all transition to permanent employment over time.
Although GT PhD graduates have a good track record of finding employment in industry and academia, this does not mean the way there is necessarily obvious. For more information, consult the resources listed below. Also, take advantage of Georgia Tech's Career Center: http://career.gatech.edu/. They will help you craft a resume, find opportunities, and even explore possible career paths. They also have a GT-specific job board that has opportunities only for GT students called Career Buzz.
- The Real Story About Employment for Physics PhDs
- Initial employment of physics doctorates
- Job prospects for physicists
- Common careers of physicists in the private sector
Finally, be sure to check out Versatile PhD. This resource for exploring non-academic careers has job postings, panel discussions, success stories, and an online community. Georgia Tech pays for all the premium content on this site as well!