Physics and Engineering Careers

Physics and Engineering Careers


The American Institute of Physics maintains statistics on careers of undergraduate physics students. Across the United States, there are approximately 8500 students graduating with a Bachelor's degree in physics each year. Of these graduates, approximately half (48%) go graduate school to pursue a Master's or Ph.D in physics or another field such as engineering. Another 46% go directly into a career. See the figure below.percentage of what people with physics bachelor's degrees do after earning a bachelor's degree Those who go into a career are found in the following employment sectors.Percentage of Physics Bachelor's degrees in various employment sectorsThe type of employment students with bachelor's degrees have is divided in the following pie chart.Pie chart of employment field of physics bachelor's degrees (2019 and 2020 data) As seen in this chart, many bachelor's degrees in physics have the title engineer or computer scientist. Most others are using their bachelor's degree to work in STEM-related fields. Berea College students who have graduated in the past 10 years have pursued Master's degrees in physics or engineering, Ph.D. degrees in physics or engineering, or have found careers immediately after graduating in areas such as environmental science, optics, and teaching.

Graduate School Preparation

A large proportion of our physics majors go on to graduate school after graduation. For your information, there is no unique standard admission process to graduate schools; the required application material, the deadline for application and the test requirements varies from school to school. However, in all cases, a good preparation in physics for graduate students includes a sound knowledge of general physics, intermediate level mechanics, electricity and magnetism, optics, statistical and thermal physics, introductory atomic physics including some principles of quantum mechanics. A corresponding mathematical background would include vector analysis, calculus, ordinary differential equations, and some knowledge of introductory complex analysis.

The American Institute of Physics has put together the Grad School Shopper, an interesting resource to gather information about the different graduate school programs.

Some of the graduate schools required scores for the general and subject (physics) test of the graduate record examination (GRE), administered by the Educational Testing Service. You can practice the physics subject test by taking the older exams.

Sample GRE exams

The Center for Teaching and Learning offers a workshop series designed to help you review for the GRE General test.