Many of the complex, global problems faced by science and industry need solutions from those with an understanding of specific technologies and areas of engineering as well as an understanding and broad background in the physical sciences. Those studying applied physics develop experimental skills, mathematical and computer literacy, and problem solving abilities. Applied physicists can be employed to carry out research and development in a large number of specialties. They work in a wide range of positions in university, government, and industrial organizations that requires strong experimental, analytical and calculation skills. According to the APAM Departmental web site, graduates might also: enter into graduate programs in physics-related areas including the applied physics areas of condensed matter, plasma, and optical physics, and biophysics, as well as areas such as high energy physics and astrophysics; enter graduate-level programs in engineering fields; or enter careers in technology areas.

  • Federal, State, or Local Government: Government agencies and labs employ those with an Applied Physics background. Agencies include the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention; National Aeronautics & Space Administration; Department of Agriculture; National Bureau of Standards; Department of Energy; National Institutes of Health; Department of Defense; National Science Foundation; Department of Health & Human Service; Occupational Safety & Health Administration; Environmental Protection Agency; Patent Office; Food & Drug Administration; and the Smithsonian Institution.
  • Research Firms or Laboratories: Conduct research and data collection as a function of consultation, laboratory services, and technician services. Many work in research and development, which leads to new products and devises, and might even design research equipment. Many of these opportunities are also found in industry.
  • Industry: In addition to research and development, some physicists also work in inspection, testing, quality control; work as engineers; or take other paths including software development. Industries they work in might include energy, nanotechnology, financial services, information technology, computer software, and medical devices.
  • Academia: Generally requires a doctorate to teach in colleges and universities or conduct research, but many also enter teaching opportunities in K-12.

See what Columbia students have gone on to do with their degree with CCE’s What Can You Do With A Degree in Applied Physics and Applied  Mathematics tipsheet.

Columbia Resources

External Resources

Professional Associations

Internship/Job Boards  

  • Pathways to Science: To find programs such as undergraduate summer research opportunities, graduate fellowships, postdoctoral positions, as well as resources and materials pertaining to recruitment, retention, and mentoring
  • National Science Foundation REU Sites: The Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) program supports active research participation by undergraduate students in any of the areas of research funded by the National Science Foundation
  • American Academy for Advancement of Science: A resource list of AAAS career development programs.
  • APS Physics: Physicists and scientists can find physics employment opportunities using the APS online career center. APS also sponsors job fairs and career workshops, and lists APS jobs and science internship information.
  • Physics Today: Physics Today is a partner in the AIP Career Network, a collection of online job sites for scientists, engineers, and computing professionals.
  • Programs to help students and recent graduates get started in the Federal workforce
  • Engineering Central: Lists engineering positions and resumes across all engineering disciplines
  • A broad-scale engineering job-search engine that many companies use to find new talent