Physics Careers

Perhaps surprisingly, studying the somewhat esoteric subject of physics turns out to be excellent preparation for a great variety of practical career paths. We hear time and time again from our alumni and employers that studying subjects such as the twin paradox, wave-particle duality or the curvature of space-time pays off handsomely in terms of future employment and career satisfaction.

For example, Alumnus Steven Guggenheimer '87, a corporate vice president at Microsoft, writes on our alumni testimonials page, "It was during my [business school] courses that I realized that the analytical abilities, honed on physics problems at UCD, were exactly what I needed to attack the broad range of business case studies that were part of the graduate curriculum."

But converting this excellent preparation into actual job offers is not necessarily that straightforward. This page is here to help.

National and International Resources

Guidance for UC Davis Students in Particular

Accessing the UC Davis Physics Alumni Network

  • It does happen sometimes that someone gets a job by sending in their resume in response to a job ad. But the best job-hunting strategies rely heavily on your network of contacts. You are fortunate that we have a vast network of alumni and by virtue of being a UC Davis physics degree recipient, they are part of your network.
  • A very powerful way to access this network begins with your LinkedIn account. If you don't have one, visit LinkedIn and get one now. Countless speakers in our Alumni Seminar Series have advised students to get LinkedIn accounts; their value is broadly recognized.
  • Once you have an account, you can start using the UC Davis Alumni LinkedIn search tool. With this tool you can find LinkedIn profiles of UC Davis alumni by filtering on a number of fields including "Where they live", "Where they work", "What they do", "What they studied", etc. At the time of writing (5/13/19) there are 2,164 UC Davis alumni in the LinkedIn who studied Physics. Of these, 751 live in the San Francisco Bay area, and of these, 13 work at Apple. Having done whatever filtering you like, you can then look at the profiles that have passed through your filter. For example, of the above-mentioned 2164, 751 live in the San Francisco Bay area, and of these, 13 work at Apple. Links to the profiles of these 13 are given below the filtering options. Give it a try!
  • Now that you've filtered from thousands down to tens, reviewed these profiles, and selected a few, you are ready to make first contact. Your end goal is clearly a job that you like, and in order to get there you need more information. What is it like to work in this particular field? What credentials and skills does one need? How did alumni of UC Davis physics manage to get their first job in this area? So your initial contact will probably include a request for an informational interview. This page has some useful advice about particular do's and don'ts for an informational interview, as well as suggestions for how to send that first email.

The Alumni Seminar Series, the Degree of Satisfaction Blog, and PHY 190: Careers in Physics

  • The department runs a seminar series every spring, The Alumni Seminar Series, which is a great way to learn about career opportunities, and to start gathering powerful nodes in your network. Speakers are usually alumni, and almost always someone with a degree in physics who has left academia. We also have a blog, Degree of Satisfaction, that grew out of the seminar series as an effort aimed at bringing this valuable information to a broader audience.
  • We have a 1-unit course every Fall, PHY 190: Practical Considerations for a Career in Physics. This seminar is designed to give physics majors an in-depth appreciation of the practical aspects they need to consider for a career in Physics: understanding the sub-disciplines in the various research areas of physics, the opportunities available for undergraduate research, resources available to choose an appropriate graduate program, the application process and preparation necessary for graduate school or careers in industry, plus the assistantship/fellowship application process. For the half of the sessions, physics faculty who work with UG's will present an overview of their research areas; in the other half by discussions on vita (CV) and resume preparations, writing a personal statement, the opportunities for undergraduate research, the importance of letters of recommendation -- who do you ask!?, internships and undergraduate research programs (REU's), graduate programs in Physics, etc. This is meant to be a hands-on seminar, so please bring any and all questions. Based on examples of successful strategies, you will be asked to prepare some of your own materials, such as a CV and personal statement.

UC Davis Internship and Career Resources

  • The university has an Internship and Career Center with resources for undergraduate and graduate students. Warning: many summer internships require applications as early as January. Don't delay your search.
  • The Department of Physics has just formed an Internship Committee that will be active in the 2019-2020 academic year, with the goal of facilitating placements for our students, starting summer 2020. Watch this space for more information as it is available.


National and International Resources

National Resources We Most Recommend

  • The Physics Careers Toolbox This is an excellent resource for the job-seeker with a physics degree. "If you are considering entering the workforce after earning a bachelor's degree, the nine tools in the Careers Toolbox can help you discover your options and prepare for success."
  • The American Institute of Physics provides a rich variety of career resources.

Job Listings/Search

Career Planning and Information

Jobs in Education

Organizations and Associations