Most physicists are employed by educational institutions, industrial firms, government laboratories, or federally funded research and development centers. Vocations in physics fall into four major categories:
Basic research has as its goal the understanding of physical phenomena without a specific application in mind. Applied research leads to the solution of problems of national importance or of significant commercial value.
- Development and Design:
Work in this area utilizes both basic and applied research to improve existing products, processes and instruments, and to develop new ones.
After earning an undergraduate or PhD physics degree, many physicists are employed in academic institutions, including instructors at the high school, community college, college, and university levels. In the latter, research and teaching are often combined.
- Management and Other Areas:
Physicists can be found in a wide variety of areas such as research administration, university administration, science reporting, technical management and marketing, and in such fields as metallurgy, electronics, food processing and packaging, health and radiation safety, pollution control, computer technology, financial services and a broad and continually expanding array of other possibilities.