Employment of physicists and astronomers is projected to grow 7 percent from 2014 to 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations.
Growth in the federal government's spending for research in physics and astronomy is expected to be more or less flat, but it should continue to drive the need for physicists and astronomers, especially at colleges, universities, and national laboratories.
Federal spending is the primary source of physics- and astronomy-related research funds, especially for basic research. Additional federal funding for energy and for advanced manufacturing research is expected to continue to drive the need for physicists.
People with a physics background will continue to be in demand in medicine, information technology, communications technology, semiconductor technology, and other applied research-and-development fields.
Competition for permanent research appointments, such as those at colleges and universities, is expected to be strong. Increasingly, those with a Ph.D. may need to work through multiple postdoctoral appointments before finding a permanent position. In addition, the number of research proposals submitted for funding has been growing faster than the amount of funds available, causing more competition for research grants.
Despite competition for traditional research jobs, prospects should be good for physicists in applied research, development, and related technical fields. Graduates with any academic degree in physics or astronomy, from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate, will find their knowledge of science and mathematics useful for entry into many other occupations. Database management skills also are beneficial, because of the large datasets these professionals work with.
A large part of physics and astronomy research depends on federal funds, so federal budgets have a substantial impact on job prospects from year to year, especially for astronomers, who are more likely than physicists to depend on federal funding for their work.
Physicists and Astronomers
Percent change in employment, projected 2014-24
Physicists and astronomers
Total, all occupations
Note: All Occupations includes all occupations in the U.S. Economy. Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Employment Projections program