Physics provides an excellent background for a wide variety of careers in science, and in science-related and technological fields. A survey of the department's graduates has shown that about half of those responding are in science-related industrial jobs and a bit less than half go on to complete an advanced degree (MS or, more commonly, PhD) before or during employment. One-tenth of those surveyed are in the medical professions, and another one-tenth are employed in other fields. Graduates are in a wide variety of professions. Some examples include a chemical engineer, a supervisor in charge of inspection techniques for nuclear power plants, a systems engineer in ship design, a high-school teacher, a college professor, a patent attorney, and a graduate student in oceanography. Several graduates are MDs or medical students.
Industrial research and development is an appealing career opportunity and our physics curriculum prepares you for this pathway. For teaching at the secondary school level one needs also to complete the education courses necessary for certification. These courses can be fit into a Physics major's program (particularly the General/BA Track). UMass has an education school and teaching practucum courses may be done as part of the General/BA Track. For teaching at the community college level a master's degree is usually the minimum requirement. For teaching at the college or university level, and for many research jobs in government or industrial laboratories, a Ph.D. is required. Earning a PhD in science generally takes about 5-6 years and students are paid a stipend during this time (generally no tuition is due). Graduate students working toward a PhD take classes and teach for the first 1-2 years, then engage full-time in research.
The majority of the physics curriculum is designed to give students a strong training in the fundamentals of physics that can be applied to any sub-field of physics or related disciplines. The remainder of the curriculum proivdes important skills such as writing, presenting, computer programming, making measurements, special topics in mathematics, and in various elective areas such as electronics, optics, or data analysis. Many students also take courses in other sciences, mathematics, or engineering. These courses can strengthen their industrial marketability or prepare students for graduate school in inter-disciplinary programs such as biophysics, meteorology, geophysics, oceanography, computer science, polymer science, etc. The Applied/BS track can be particularly useful toward this goal.
Students planning to apply to medical or dental school can also major in physics (e.g., following the Applied track, which allows some of the pre-med requirements to count toward the major). Some medical professions, such as nuclear medicine and health physics, are directly related to physics. Physics can also be good preparation for law school. Patent law, for example, needs a technical background.
Beyond the curriculum, many of our students engage in cutting-edge research projects with faculty. This is a great experience that trains students in ways that go beyond courses. Students interested in any of the possible career options can benefit from this opportunity. (http://www.physics.umass.edu/undergraduate/research) Students can also engage in teaching projects or tutoring, and outreach with local middle schools.
Few individuals with bachelor's or advanced degrees in physics are unemployed or seriously underemployed. A physics education provides a broad background of fundamental principles and develops skills in solving complex problems, enabling effective contribution in many kinds of traditional and novel activities.
Advice on careers and job opportunities in physics may be found at https://www.physics.umass.edu/undergraduate and by consulting the UMass CNS Career Center. Further information may be found at the American Physical Society website, www.aps.org, under "careers and employment" and at the American Institute of Physics, www.aip.org.