Physics majors gain skills that can be applied over a wide range of disciplines in a range of settings including companies, schools and universities, and national labs. (See the American Institute of Physics data plots.)
How do I choose a career?
- Each physics major has an academic advisor (see Advising) who is part of our faculty. The advisor typically remains with the student through graduation. Advising meetings take place at least once per semester (required for enrollment), and more often as needed. We urge all of our students to check in with their advisors regularly. Advising meetings include discussions of student's long-term goals, UMass goals, ways to reach those goals, and the courses for the following semester.
- First-year students should also take the 1-credit Physics 185, which begins training in professional development for physics majors, starts them thinking like a scientist, and includes research presentations from faculty on their research in physics.
- In their junior year, students can take Physics 397P, a 1-credit Physics Professional and Career Development Seminar. Students who plan to apply for graduate programs can take our 1-credit Physics 498G, which helps to start on the process and make it less mysterious.
- Every year, we host visitors to campus who meet with students and talk about their careers. We focus in particular on physicists who have pursued careers outside academia to help students build a network and see in detail what career options are out there. We have been running this program since 2016, and now we are pleased to have many alumni volunteers!
- The College of Natural Science within UMass has its own excellent Career Advising Center with professional staff advisors. They know the skills that physics students bring and offer good advice at any stage, including internships; exploring career options (e.g. with Handshake); preparing resumes; preparing for an interview. UMass also has an alumni network (Connect UMass) that students can use .
- The American Physical Society (APS) has monthly newsletters with feature articles about careers. See, for example, Nadine Kammerlander on studying family businesses (Feb. 2022); Zouheir Massir on soil physics (Dec. 2021); Jessica Esquivel about particle physics + workforce inclusion (Oct 2021); Jie Ren on being a data scientist (May, 2021). APS also maintains a substantial web-based set of guides and statistics, which you can visit here.
How Do I Get Started in Research?
Hear from one of our students
Ashbell Abraham made this 3-minute video about his research experience at UMass, shortly before he earned his Bachelor's Degree in Science (BS, Physics) and started the PhD program in physics at Penn State.
The Physics faculty actively pursue cutting-edge research. Indeed, there are about 90 students pursuing PhD degrees with us, and most of them work here on campus! We encourage all students who might be interested to try it out. Research is not for everyone, but we find that most students are thrilled by it and find that it deepens their enthusiasm for classes and a helps them identify a future direction. Remember: experience is not needed -- we train students! Check out the Undergraduate Research page for more information.
- On campus: students can join a research group part-time for academic credit during the semester, or full-time for pay during the summer. We are fortunate to have two endowed awards that partially support summer research: The Edward S. Chang and the Kenneth and Joan Langley awards. We host students through an REU program on campus or hire students directly using research grants. Here is a guide to finding research positions with UMass faculty.
- Off campus: during the summer, there are myriad opportunities to work with companies, national labs, or other universities. Here is a guide to finding off-campus research internships
How Do I Get Started Teaching?
- Here is a guide to a career as a high-school teacher. Students can potentially earn certification as part of our undergraduate program.
- Attend the STEM-Ed Institute seminars and make connections with a network of K-12 teachers and of recent graduates who now work in Massachusetts high schools.
- Work as teaching assistant for pay: we typically hire approximately 40 students per semester for pay, and other students for academic credit. These TAs work in the classroom with the students and faculty, answering questions and enriching the learning environment. Being a TA takes some practice but is a lot of fun and rewarding. Near the start of each semester, we post job opportunities. We hire undergraduate TAs in the summer and winter sessions as well.
- Some students work in our lecture-preparation space, where they develop and set up physics demonstrations. Students can work with faculty on physics education research.