If you are a physics major just out of your university bachelor’s degree and looking for a good entry level position, you have come to the right place! Before we get started, first give yourself a pat on the back. You have already made it so far. Even though you may feel as though this is just the beginning, you have gotten through some of the most challenging parts of entering the professional world – getting the physics degree. Take a moment to revel in your accomplishments and to reflect about all that you have learned thus far with your college major or advanced degree. Everything you have experienced will help guide you through what will be right for you in the future.
Choosing to pursue a STEM career in a very difficult field is already an accomplishment in itself. The STEM field has been growing at an exponential rate. According to the Education Commission of the States, from 2017 to 2027, the number of STEM occupations will grow 13% compared to 9% for non-STEM jobs, and according to Glassdoor, the average base pay of a physicist in the U.S. is around $95,391.
Now, it’s time to start considering what options for employment are in your field after completing your bachelor’s degree and which choices for employment might be the best suited for you. We will cover where to look for entry level jobs for physics majors, how to create a great resume to highlight your skills and accomplishments, and lastly, five careers that may be the right fit for you.
Websites to Find Entry Level Physics Jobs
1. Glassdoor.com This website is one of the best to look into when trying to find a good entry level position. Glassdoor gets its name for its workplace transparency and legitimacy about what it offers. Oftentimes, former employees review the companies they have worked for, giving honest and candid advice about why you should or shouldn’t work for a given company. This website also has the feature of seeing other employees’ real salaries. With these great additions to the sight, it is easy to see red flags in companies and spot a great company a mile away. You can also find CEO approval ratings, and interview questions that employees have posted. Not only will you be able to transparently see what you are in for, it is also home to many entry level job postings that you can easily apply to.
2. Indeed.com Indeed is the biggest job site in the entire world, and there are many reasons for this. This website contains the highest volume of listings, but it is also acclaimed for the number of industries it is in and the different lifestyles it caters. This is one of the most talked about websites, and it is home to plenty of entry level physics positions as well. Indeed is a great and highly acclaimed site to find a career in a related field through.
3. ZipRecruiter.com This site contains many powerful tools that can help you land an entry level position. ZipRecruiter uses artificial intelligence to connect people who are looking for positions to people who are looking to hire. After you fill out a profile, the website actively attempts to match you with what the algorithm thinks is best for you based on the salary, skills, and experience that you entered into your profile. ZipRecruiter then gathers your information and alerts the companies that are hiring with your profile and resume if your skills match their job posting.
These websites are all great choices to look into for an entry level physics career. You can also contact your undergraduate degree college’s career services, talk to other students, or join physics students’ organizations to get your foot in the door and get easy exposure to new opportunities.
Components of the Perfect Resume
Now that you know where to look to land that first entry level physics gig, you might still be wondering how to make your resume stand out to those hiring sites. Let’s get into how to build a resume that screams, “hire me!”
1. Tailor each resume submission to each application. According to Physics World’s advice on how to write a good resume for getting a job, it is very important to tailor your resume to the exact position that you are applying for. They mention that it is a huge mistake to submit generic applications to different postings – so don’t do this! Take your time to reflect the exact posting in your resume, so you will stand out to the employer, and also to pass automatic checks that your resume might go through before getting to a hiring manager.
2. Errors in spelling or grammar are unacceptable. A tip from the Physicist’s Guide to Writing Your CV from the Institute of Physics: under no circumstances are any errors in your resume alright. Even though you may think that this goes without saying, it still must be said. It is well known to not make spelling or grammar errors in a resume, but putting it through a spell check or grammar check such as Grammarly often comes as an afterthought. Don’t skip this crucial yet simple step, because it may just cost you a significant opportunity.
3. Quantify your skillset. In your resume, it is very important to not just describe what you did or how you did it, but to quantify it in numbers and metrics. If you sent a newsletter out in your company on a regular basis, how many people did you send it to? How has the engagement of the newsletter increased since you started working there? Quantifying your skills is a key component of a good resume, according to Columbia’s Engineering Department’s Cover Letter & Resume Tips.
Take these tips into account when making your resume and while applying to different entry level positions. Also be sure to include any lab work or research that you have done to make yourself stand out from the crowd.
Good Entry Level Physics Jobs
After creating a compelling resume, it’s time to put it to the test. Dive deep into these different career options, and see if one may be right for you.
1. Research Assistant. After becoming a physics graduate, getting a gig as a research assistant is a great way to get more specialized experience in the field that you are interested in. Your role would be to collect data and conduct research for the company you work for to better help them analyze information that they are conducting studies on. You should be a good multitasker, able to critically think and analyze information, and be very interested in what you are researching. This opportunity may help you become a research scientist if you continue on this path. This is one of the most attainable entry level jobs in your field that you can attain right after college.
Average salary: $56,000 per year
2. Software engineer. A software engineer is another good entry level option to start out your career. Your job would likely entail helping create design, code, and implement software projects and computer programming while working with a team of scientists, engineers, and developers to create different systems for your company. Being a software engineer also means that you must be able to test both hardware and software systems to resolve faults within the systems. It helps to have a strong sense of communication and teamwork before applying.
Average salary: $86,000 per year
3. Lab Technician. As a lab technician, your role is to help your employers and colleges with experiments, testing equipment, and report on the various findings. You must be able to organize data meticulously, be very detail oriented, and be cautious to any necessary safety measures while performing tasks. If you are interested in physical science, computer science, how equipment works, or how chemicals interact, this may be the profession for you.
Average salary: $54,620 per year
4. Project Manager. Are you someone who is not afraid of public speaking, a good leader, and can manage projects on a large scale? If so, you might want to consider being a project manager. If you dream of managing others rather than having others manage you, this is a position you should at the very least look into. This career is one of the more difficult ones to attain right out of your undergraduate degree or even graduate school, since you likely need experience managing others, but it is not impossible. If you have shown very impressive skills throughout college and have demonstrated strong leadership skills within your college organizations and/or programs, you may be able to land this job if you play your cards right. Any kind of experience managing people or large projects can help you qualify for this type of position. Securing this gig may require you to have a part-time job while you are in school, but if attained, this path is highly respectable and often has opportunities for upward mobility especially if you start in a large company.
Average salary: $74,000 per year
5. Data Analyst. If you love working with math, charts, graphs, and are an analytical thinker, this may be the right way to go into after completing your degree. Being a data analyst means that you will make many reports making sense out of large sets of data given to you by your company. You will seek to find trends, patterns, and logical solutions to complex sets of information. This is somewhat akin to puzzle solving. If you find a company with a data analyst position open, that would be ideal. Yet, many companies that are offering data analyst positions do not have to do with physics, and that is alright to start if this is the type of path that you are looking for. Even though there is not necessarily a use of physics with every analyst position, having this degree usually qualifies you to take a shot at being a successful Data Analyst. It helps to have a good sense of math tools and software such as Tableau, Excel, SQL, SAS, etc. With a graduate degree or master’s degree, you will be able to attain a much higher salary, and have opportunity for job growth as well.
Average salary: $72,800 per year
Now that you know how valuable you are in the work you have already done, where to look to find potential STEM field and physical science opportunities, how to better craft your resume and a couple different positions that may be right for you, the next step is execution. Take all of the learnings that you have acquired and put them to the test. You have come this far, and there is no need to back down. You are capable, intelligent, and now prepared with all the right information. Go out there and make your dreams come true!
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