Saturday, July 17, 2010

Physics Bachelor's Initial Employment

A while back I commented on the missed opportunity of an interview article of educating people on what one can do with an undergraduate physics degree. We can certainly provide a lot more detailed information than what was contained in that news article. And example came this week. The AIP has released the latest data on the initial employment of physics Bachelor degree holder based on a 2006/2007 survey. 39% were employed, 4% were still seeking employment, while the rest pursued graduate degrees.

The survey than broke down those who were employed into the various areas of employment. The largest were in the private sector (59%).

Physics bachelor’s working in the private sector accepted positions with a diverse set of employers doing a wide range of activities (see Figure 3). Over 70% of the physics bachelor’s who accepted employment in the private sector work in a STEM field. As has been true in the past, employment in the field of engineering represents the largest proportion of these private sector positions, followed by computer science and information technology positions. Non-STEM positions accounted for 29% of the new bachelor’s employed in the private sector. The types of positions in this category are very diverse, with "finance" and "marketing and sales" being most frequently cited.

This new statistics should give a lot more information on the various profession that a physics Bachelor degree holder has the potential of going into.



tony said...

This data confirms what a lot of people think but no one really ever talks about--certainly not to physics undergrads.

When taking a physics faculty position at a university (especially true of PhD-granting universities), one's relationship with undergraduate students is pretty well defined and aligned with certain goals. If a student could potentially work in your lab or that of a colleague they're encouraged to continue their studies and began working in a lab as early as possible. If a student doesn't fall into that category, or isn't interested in that path, faculty might suggest the non-academic professions where they've experienced working with physics undergrads: optical engineering, electrical engineering, CS/programming, ect . . . Finally, if none of those options are suitable, it's the rare faculty member who has the understanding and connections to broaden your career search.

Data, like what you've shared above, are important to helping physics undergrads feel supported encouraged to pursue their own passions instead of heading to grad school like many of their colleagues. The culture of my physics undergrad class was such that if you weren't going to grad school you probably weren't in the right place. It wouldn't be surprising to find this persists through many other universities with large physics programs, too.

Jim said...

I've asked AIP to clarify their initial employment data before to no avail.

The specific question I've asked is what percentage of people with ONLY a physics bachelor's degree are working in an engineering field.

More generally, what is the employment data for people with ONLY a physics bachelor's degree?

The data doesn't help make decisions about earning a physics degree if some unknown percentage of those graduates have a bachelor's degree in physics AND something else, such as engineering.

Since the largest percentage of graduates working in private sector STEM jobs are in "engineering", the question of how many of them earned physics degrees along with engineering degrees is very important. It is possible that the physics degree has little or nothing to do with the graduate's ability to enter an engineering career.

David Mallon said...

This is good news for me since I will be graduating this December. Thanks for sharing!