How to Make Money with a Physics Degree (26 Best Paying Jobs)

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by Timothy Ronaldson

Updated

Physics is an extremely exciting field to study, and it’s also one that provides plenty of options for jobs with a physics degree.

While people who have a physics degree may only have a starting salary of around $58,000 a year, that can grow quite substantially over time.

Below is a list of the 26 highest paying jobs with a physics degree. 

26. Forensic Firearms Examiner

Force is a big part of physics, and it’s also a big part of firearms. That’s why this is a perfect fit for how to make money with a physics degree.

A forensic firearms examiner needs to understand how force can affect objects moving. Their expertise can be used at crime scenes where a firearm was used.

Understanding human psychology is critical for this job, which is why it also makes a fantastic career for people with a psychology degree.

This is a cool job for people who like being detectives, but want to assist them at doing their job and not taking the lead.

Median Salary: $51,647 (Comparably)

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25. Meteorologist

weather-career

If you like weather and studying the various trends and patterns surrounding it, then this is one of the best jobs with a physics degree you could get.

Meteorologists must analyze a lot of data that’s collected at weather stations, then prepare reports so accurate models can be released.

A cool part about being a meteorologist is they help save people’s lives with warnings of severe weather such as tornadoes and hurricanes.

Although this is not a job without a dress code, you can count on meteorologists to always look sharp.

Some estimates have shown that weather forecasts may have saved as many as 4,300 lives during Hurricane Andrew alone.

Median Salary: $56,880 (Payscale) 

24. Technical Writer

There are a lot of fields that require the services of a technical writer, and physics majors would be a great fit for that job.

They must have great communication skills and also a sound understanding of different scientific phenomena.

Technical writing can be a tough industry to break into, so it’s important you avoid the top reasons people don’t get the job.

The cool part about this job is they can help bridge a gap between people who are responsible for creating technology and then the people who end up using that technology.

Median Salary: $61,163 (Payscale)

23. Microbiologist

Microbiologists work on a variety of very complex projects in the research field. As such, it’s a great fit for physicists who are very skilled in this part of science.

They can perform a variety of experiments, then track the data from it to formulate predictions and write reports on it.

Microbiologist roles are also fantastic jobs for people with biochemistry degrees.

This is a great job for someone who loves math and wants to get their feet wet in playing a huge part in big research projects.

Median Salary: $66,541 (Indeed) 

22. Laser Engineer

engineer

Lasers are taking on an increasing level of importance in a variety of fields, and laser engineers are needed for that to happen.

These people will maintain, design and operate lasers, all of which takes a great understanding of the subject of physics.

A cool part about this job is it helps to produce various sophisticated equipment that is used in surgical procedures, or even in systems that the military uses for navigation.

Median Salary: $74,081 (Glassdoor)

21. Accelerator Operator

Scientific research requires the use of particle accelerators.

These are massive pieces of equipment that accelerator operators monitor and repair when needed.

It’s a great job for people who like to assist scientists who are studying subatomic particles’ behavior.

Median Salary: $78,471 (Comparably)

20. Medical Scientist

Medical scientists work on new medical technology and medicines.

Among the ways to learn how to make money with a physics degree, this is one job that could have a lasting impact on the world.

These people study medical conditions and diseases, for example, and then come up with new ways to fight, treat and cure them.

Median Salary: $80,448 (Payscale) 

19. Aeronautical Engineer

People who love to fly or are enamored by flying and space would be a perfect fit as an aeronautical engineer.

This job requires people to design, maintain and build various aircraft. They build the technology and systems that help power commercial aircraft and even space exploration flights.

Some aeronautical engineers work on exciting projects like sending humans into space or on high-powered satellites or telescopes.

Median Salary: $81,092 (Payscale) 

18. Test Engineer

Test engineers try out a company’s product and/or services to make sure that they work according to the specifications and standards that the company sets.

Not only will they document any issues or concerns they have, but they’ll also help the company get to the bottom of what’s causing the issue.

Test engineering is also a popular job for computer science graduates.

Being a test engineer is a great job for people who like to know how things work, and like to “get under the hood,” so to speak, on products and services.

Median Salary: $86,594 (Glassdoor) 

17. Biophysicist

biology

Combining the principles of physics and biology, biophysicists come up with new techniques and strategies that are related to a field of science.

They could look at how different proteins work, or how cells communicate with other cells.

The work they do can be used in medicine, agriculture, technology and a world of other things.

Biophysicists are needed in a variety of industries, which gives them a lot of choice. Their work can also be ground-breaking, which makes it a cool part about the job.

Median Salary: $87,640 (Work.Chron) 

16. Materials Scientist

Materials scientists are responsible for investigating properties and structure of synthetic and natural materials.

Then, they use what they’ve learned through their research to suggest improvements to these materials, or ways that they can be adapted for other uses as well.

This is a very cool job because it could involve creating better-performing and safer paints, or how to use ultrasound or ultraviolet light in new ways to improve society.

Median Salary: $89,383 (Payscale) 

15. Optical Engineer

Optical engineers focus on systems such as lenses, cameras and microscopes. Their field revolves around studying light so they can understand how it is created.

Once they do that, they learn how to harness its power so they can control how it’s transmitted through various devices.

Optical engineers work on cutting edge projects that can change the world, such as high-definition cameras that capture everyday experiences on the latest smartphones.

Median Salary: $91,382 (Payscale) 

14. Geophysicist

Geophysicists specialize in studying the earth. What they aim to do is understand about the earth’s past so they can determine how well it may do in the future.

By conducting experiments and research, they can predict and publish reports that are released to the general public.

This job can have a resounding effect on the future of the earth, and can help inspire change and new legislation.

Median Salary: $92,154 (Payscale) 

13. Research Scientist

A research scientist is responsible for running experiments on a wide variety of topics.

This could include something as simple as general physics or as exciting as future potential medicines.

They will work with other professionals in the field to work on bigger projects with large grants and such as well.

Research scientists can lead a team of younger, inexperienced scientists, too, so it can be a very fulfilling job as well.

Median Salary: $98,111 (Indeed) 

12. Professor

People who learn how to make money with a physics degree will sometimes turn to being a professor.

That’s because it’s a high-paying job, and can be extremely rewarding, too. You don’t have to just teach physics, either.

You can help your students learn in a variety of subject fields.

If you want to help shape the next generation of learners and leaders, being a professor would be a great job for you.

Median Salary: $101,810 (AAUP)

11. Solar Physicist

Solar physicists study the sun by observing it and then measuring the possible impact that it does, and can, have on the earth.

Among jobs with a physics degree, this one has one of the most variety. It could involve reducing dependence on various fossil fuels by using solar energy, or it could involve studying climate change.

These people can work for government agencies, universities, energy companies and even space agencies.

Median Salary: $104,571 (Glassdoor) 

10. Mathematician

Physics majors need to be good at math, which is why it’s a natural fit for them to be mathematicians.

This job requires analyzing data consistently, and also coming up with new methods and creating new techniques to analyze data and calculate various things.

Being a mathematician may sound boring on paper, but it’s probably one of the most important jobs for today and beyond.

Science, business, engineering and government all need mathematicians to help them analyze the trove of data they produce today.

Median Salary: $105,030 (USNews) 

9. Acoustic Engineer

acoustic-engineer

Having a keen knowledge of sound is necessary for this job. Acoustical engineers work for electronics manufacturers and architectural firms as they design buildings with sound in mind.

It’s a cool job because it could not only be used for designing recording studios or concert halls, but also minimizing levels of noise for houses that are located close to airports.

You could even design an audio system for the latest technology such as tablets and smartphones.

Median Salary: $107,615 (Glassdoor) 

8. Laboratory Manager

People who have worked for years in a lab can work their way up the ladder to become a lab manager.

These people will oversee all of the activities that are performed in a laboratory setting, as well as the people who conduct those activities.

A lab manager is responsible for a lot of organization and making sure things run smoothly.

They also deal with a lot of compliance issues, and ensure the highest quality of standards.

Median Salary: $107,916 (Salary.com) 

7. Actuary

This is one position that many might not think of among the jobs with a physics degree. However, it’s a perfect fit.

Actuaries must deal with statistics and numbers all day, as they analyze risk as it relates to financial cost.

Actuaries are needed in a variety of industries, from the government to insurance companies and more.

The sheer variety of choices for an actuary makes this job so interesting.

Median Salary: $108,350 (USNews) 

6. Chemical Engineer

Chemical engineers use a variety of specializations of science to learn about reactions, design and processes.

They can work in fields such as pharmaceuticals, food and other products most people use every day.

This is a great job for people who are not only into testing out theories in labs, but also have great management and organization skills, as they have to deal with regulations and compliance a lot as well.

Median Salary: $108,540 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

5. Health Physicist

Health physicists are focused almost entirely on radiation, and how to make sure levels of it stay within safe and acceptable limits.

These physicists use techniques that evaluate levels of radiation in different environments.

Then, they make recommendations that can help improve the safety of people and the environment around them.

This job is extremely important, so people who like to have a lot of pressure on their shoulders and have a profound impact on the world may love being a health physicist.

Median Salary: $111,207 (ZiprecRuiter)

4. Astronomer

astronomer

Galileo must have known how to make money with a physics degree, because it is one of the highest-paying jobs in the category.

Astronomers study the universe in part to educate other people.

They study stars, planets and all things in the sky to gain a better understanding of the significance of these things and the relation to some other objects.

People who like to theorize would love being astronomers, as their work is based all around theories.

Median Salary: $116,028 (Salary.com) 

3. Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear engineers create and design nuclear equipment.

They will test the designs they create, document how they’re performing and maintain them on a consistent basis.

They can also overlook all the work and services performed at a nuclear power plant.

A cool part about these jobs with a physics degree is that nuclear engineers can help pave the future of cleaner energy.

Nuclear power plants get a lot of bad press at times, but they can do a lot of good, too.

Median Salary: $116,140 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

2. Patent Agent

Patent agents help companies, educational institutions, law firms and even government agencies protect their scientific inventions.

They study the uses and specifications of the invention in question to ensure it’s unique enough to qualify for a particular patent.

Once they do that, they help the person, company or entity who created it navigate the patent process.

These agents are responsible for helping people protect some of the most important inventions in history.

Median Salary: $116,794 (Indeed) 

1. Computer Research Scientist

Cutting-edge people would love to be a computer research scientist.

This job entails researching and developing various new approaches to technology used by computers.

The complex problems around computing and strategy design are among the main responsibilities of this job.

Not only is this a high-paying job, but it’s highly rewarding one, too.

These people are responsible for doing stuff such as creating a new computer language that can quite literally change the world.

Median Salary: $126,830 (Bureau of Labor Statistics)

Conclusion

If you’re wondering how to make money with a physics degree, these jobs above can give you a good blueprint for it.

There are plenty of jobs with a physics degree that are not only well-paying, but also a lot of fun and rewarding.

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About the Author

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Tim is a classically-trained journalist who loves to share knowledge and information with others. In the past, he has worked in TV, online and print media, and currently works with companies to help design, create and strategize their messaging.