2017 Physicists and Astronomers
Median Pay: US$110,980
Entry Level: Doctoral or professional degree
Summary
Physicists and astronomers study the ways in which various forms of matter and energy interact. Theoretical physicists and astronomers may study the nature of time or the origin of the universe. Some physicists design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers.
Duties

Physicists and astronomers typically do the following:

  • Develop scientific theories and models that attempt to explain the properties of the natural world, such as the force of gravity or the formation of atoms
  • Plan and conduct scientific experiments and studies to test theories and discover properties of matter and energy
  • Write proposals and apply for research grants
  • Do complex mathematical calculations to analyze physical and astronomical data, such as data that may indicate the existence of planets in distant solar systems
  • Design new scientific equipment, such as telescopes and lasers
  • Develop computer software to analyze and model data
  • Write scientific papers that may be published in scholarly journals
  • Present research findings at scientific conferences and lectures

Physicists explore the fundamental properties and laws that govern space, time, energy, and matter. Some physicists study theoretical areas, such as the fundamental properties of atoms and molecules and the evolution of the universe. Others design and perform experiments with sophisticated equipment such as particle accelerators, electron microscopes, and lasers. Many apply their knowledge of physics to practical areas, such as developing advanced materials and medical equipment.

Astronomers study planets, stars, galaxies, and other celestial bodies. They use ground-based equipment, such as radio and optical telescopes, and space-based equipment, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. Some astronomers focus their research on objects in our solar system, such as the sun or planets. Others study distant stars, galaxies, and phenomena such as neutron stars and black holes, and some monitor space debris that could interfere with satellite operations.

Many physicists and astronomers work in basic research with the aim of increasing scientific knowledge. These researchers may attempt to develop theories that better explain what gravity is or how the universe works or was formed. Other physicists and astronomers work in applied research. They use the knowledge gained from basic research to affect new developments in areas such as energy, electronics, communications, navigation, and medical technology. For example, because of the work of physicists, lasers are used in surgery and microwave ovens are used in most kitchens.

Astronomers and physicists typically work on research teams together with engineers, technicians, and other scientists. Some senior astronomers and physicists may be responsible for assigning tasks to other team members and monitoring their progress. They may also be responsible for finding funding for their projects and therefore may need to write applications for research grants.

Although all of physics involves the same fundamental principles, physicists generally specialize in one of many subfields. The following are examples of types of physicists:

Astrophysicists study the physics of the universe. "strophysics" is a term that is often used interchangeably with "astronomy."

Atomic, molecular, and optical physicists study atoms, simple molecules, electrons, and light, as well as the interactions among them. Some look for ways to control the states of individual atoms, because such control might allow for further miniaturization or might contribute toward the development of new materials or computer technology.

Condensed matter physicists study the physical properties of condensed phases of matter, such as liquids and solids. They study phenomena ranging from superconductivity to liquid crystals.

Medical physicists work in healthcare and use their knowledge of physics to develop new medical technologies and radiation-based treatments. For example, some develop better and safer radiation therapies for cancer patients. Others may develop more accurate imaging technologies that use various forms of radiant energy, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and ultrasound imaging.

Particle and nuclear physicists study the properties of atomic and subatomic particles, such as quarks, electrons, and nuclei, and the forces that cause their interactions. 

Plasma physicists study plasmas, which are considered a distinct state of matter and occur naturally in stars and interplanetary space and artificially in neon signs and plasma screen televisions. Many plasma physicists study ways to create fusion reactors that might be a future source of energy.

Unlike physicists, astronomers cannot experiment on their subjects, because they are so far away that they cannot be touched or interacted with. Therefore, astronomers generally make observations or work on theory. Observational astronomers observe celestial objects and collect data on them. Theoretical astronomers analyze, model, and theorize about systems and how they work and evolve. Some astronomers specialize further into other subfields. The following are examples of types of astronomers who specialize by the objects and phenomena they study:

Cosmologists and extragalactic astronomers study the entire universe. They study the history, the creation and evolution, and the possible futures of the universe and its galaxies. These scientists have recently developed several theories important to the study of physics and astronomy, including string, dark-matter, and dark-energy theories.

Galactic, planetary, solar, and stellar astronomers study different phenomena that take place in the universe, specializing in certain parts of it. For example, solar astronomers study the sun, while stellar astronomers study other stars and associated phenomena.

High-energy astrophysicists collect and analyze x rays, gamma rays, and other forms of high-energy rays that can help locate and study black holes or neutron stars.

Observational astronomers and optical astronomers use optical telescopes to study their subjects.

Radio astronomers use radio telescopes to analyze the radio spectrum for data about their subjects.

Growing numbers of physicists work in interdisciplinary fields, such as biophysics, chemical physics, and geophysics. For more information, see the profiles on biochemists and biophysicists and geoscientists.

Many people with a physics or astronomy background become professors or teachers. For more information, see the profiles on high school teachers and postsecondary teachers.

Dosimetrist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
NYU Langone Health is a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, known for its excellence in clinical care, research, and education. It comprises more than 200 locations throughout the New York area, including five inpatient locations, a children's hospital, three...
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Dosimetrist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
NYU Langone Health is a world-class, patient-centered, integrated academic medical center, known for its excellence in clinical care, research, and education. It comprises more than 200 locations throughout the New York area, including five inpatient locations, a children's hospital, three...
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New York, NY

Radiation Therapist (Reg)

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
Applies ionizing radiation to patients in accordance with prescriptions and instructions of the Radiation Oncologist. Responsible for the simulation of patients on both traditional and CT simulators.May be involved in special procedures and Dosimetry functions as needed.Uses and checks radiation...
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Decatur, GA

Interdisciplinary, GS-1313/1550-13 (DEU-YJ)

Type: Part Time
DutiesSummaryWhat General Information Do I Need To Know About This Position?Salary: $100,820 (Step 01) to $131,064 (Step 10); NOTE: First time hires to the Federal Government are typically hired at the Step 01.There are two vacancies; however, this announcement may be used to fill additional...
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Medical Radiation Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
Responsible for ensuring the provision of high quality diagnostic imaging and radiation therapy treatments to patients in anenvironment that meets established standards for radiation safety for staff, physicians, patients and the general public and in a manner that meets the service expectations of...
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Supervisory Geophysicist, GS-1313-14 (CA-DEU)

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryWhat General Information Do I Need To Know About This Position?Salary: $114,454 (Step 01) to $148,794 (Step 10); NOTE: First time hires to the Federal Government are typically hired at the Step 01.Open to current or former Federal employees: SAC-2019-0261There is one vacancy; however,...
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Physicist III

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
Responsible for conducting independent testing and analyses, primarily involving microscopy techniques, to solve product/process and customer problems, interpreting results and preparing related reports. Also will develop new test methods, conduct independent research projects, present results in...
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Student Intern - Event Services/Communication

Type: Internship
YEAR ROUND UNDERGRADUATE STUDENT INTERN POSITIONSALARY RANGE: $23,600 - $34,00 (SI II)You ‘matter' to us! Our diverse team at Jefferson Lab includes more than 700 people, including physicists, engineers, computer professionals, technicians and more. From probing the basic building blocks of...
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Newport News, VA

Geophysicist/Geodesist, GS-1313/1372-12 (DEU-YMJ)

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryWhat General Information Do I Need To Know About This Position?Salary GS-12: $84,785 (Step 01) to $110,224 (Step 10);NOTE: First time hires to the Federal Government are typically hired at the Step 01.This is an interdisciplinary position and is being advertised concurrently with the...
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Medical Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
Moffitt Cancer Center is internationally recognized for our focus on personalized cancer care and translational research. The mission of Moffitt is clear, focused, and fully stated in nine words, "To contribute to the prevention and cure of cancer." With a tradition of excellence that...
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Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryYou will serve as a Physicist in the DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY.THIS IS AN EXPEDITED HIRING AUTHORITY ANNOUNCEMENT. The Duncan Hunter National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) FY 2009 provides that the Secretary of Defense can designate acquisition positions as shortage positions and...
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CT Technologist-PRN

Type: Part Time
Job Number: 383076Category: Allied HealthLocation: 5323 Harry Hines Blvd, Dallas, TXDepartment: 867220 - Amb-Image Cntr CtFull/Part Time/PRN: Day JobRegular/Temporary: RegularSchedule: Part-timeSecurityThis position is security-sensitive and subject to Texas Education Code 51.215, which authorizes...
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GEOPHYSICIST

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryThis position is part of the Defense Threat Reduction Agency.ResponsibilitiesAs a GEOPHYSICIST at the GS-1313-14 some of your typical work assignments may include:Acts as the senior subject matter expert in geophysics on assigned projects, tests, investigations, explorations,...
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DON RECENT GRADUATES PROGRAM INTERDISCIPLINARY PHYSICAL SCIENTIST/GEOPHYSICIST/OCEANOGRAPHER

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryDON Recent Graduates ProgramYou will serve as a Oceanogapher, Physical Scientist or Geophysicist in the Ocean Processing Branch (NP322), Synoptic Applications Division (NP32), Oceanographic Department (NP3), Naval Oceanographic Office of NAVOCEANO BAY ST LOUIS.ResponsibilitiesYou will...
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Stennis Space Center, MS

DON RECENT GRADUATES PROGRAM INTERDISCIPLINARY PHYSICAL SCIENTIST/GEOPHYSICIST/OCEANOGRAPHER

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryDON Recent Graduates ProgramYou will serve as an Oceanogapher, Physical Scientist, or Geophysicist in the Hydrographic Quality Assurance Branch (NP412), Survey Support Division (NP41), Hydrographic Department (NP4), Naval Oceanographic Office of NAVOCEANO BAY ST LOUIS....
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Stennis Space Center, MS

HEALTH PHYSICIST

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryClick on "" button below for IMPORTANT additional information.The primary purpose of this position is to perform health physics work in support of radiation safety function and host tenant support agreements; to ensure that projects proposed by the base and tenant...
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Research Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryClick on "" button below for IMPORTANT additional information.The primary purpose of this position is to conduct applied research in area of modeling atmospheric optical turbulence and its effect on high energy laser systems. Leads and conducts field campaigns to characterize...
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Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryThe PALACE Acquire Program offers you a permanent position upon completion of your formal training plan. As a Palace Acquire Intern you will experience both personal and professional growth while dealing effectively and ethically with change, complexity, and problem solving. The...
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Physicist

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryThe PALACE Acquire Program offers you a permanent position upon completion of your formal training plan. As a Palace Acquire Intern you will experience both personal and professional growth while dealing effectively and ethically with change, complexity, and problem solving. The...
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Supervisory Geophysicist, GS-1313-13 (DEU-YMJ)

Type: Full Time, Full Time Alumnus
DutiesSummaryWhat General Information Do I Need To Know About This Position?Salary: $94,618 (Step 01) to $123,004 (Step 10); NOTE: First time hires to the Federal Government are typically hired at the Step 01.There is one vacancy however, this announcement may be used to fill additional vacancies...
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