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Oswego Career Ladders - Physicist

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Industry: Energy
Area: Solar Power

Knowledge of the sun's ability to produce both heat and electricity has led to the invention of numerous technologies for capturing the sun's energy. However, scientists have only begun to scratch the surface in developing new strategies for harnessing the potential of solar energy. For example some Physicists believe that the best available source of energy will be the solar energy which strikes the moon. Others are researching space projects that would involve power plants in low Earth orbit (LEO) that would use solar panels to collect energy then convert it to microwave energy and beam it to the planet, where it would be converted to electricity. Broader schemes would put power plants in higher orbits or other points in space, then beam the energy to Earth-orbiting reflectors.

Research Physicists play a major role in formulating and proposing these ideas. Industrial Physicists and engineers have the task of taking these ideas from theory to practice.

Work Settings

Physicists often work regular hours in laboratories and offices. At times, however, those who are deeply involved in research may work long or irregular hours.


Because most jobs are in basic research and development, a doctoral degree is the usual educational requirement for physicists

Job Outlook

Employment of physicists and astronomers is expected to grow more slowly than average for all occupations through 2014. The limited science research funds available from the federal government still will result in competition for basic research jobs among Ph.D. holders.


Median annual earnings of physicists were $87,450 in May 2004. The middle 50 percent earned between $66,590 and $109,420. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $49,450, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $132,780.

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