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Advice for Parents of Children that like Physics and Physical Science

If your child likes to ask why, takes things apart to figure out how they work and is excited about doing experiments in their physics and physical science classes, they may make great physicists. Of course, you might be wondering how they should prepare to become a physicist and exactly what they will for a living, once they become a physicist. The answer is that they can do a wide variety of things as a physicist. Some physicists pursue careers in medicine, others pursue careers in wind or solar energy technology development. Some physicists pursue careers in communications technology and others pursue careers as consultants to either the government or corporations. There are many options, but most of these options are hard for students to notice because, as you may have noticed, the word physics seldom appears in the career path.

So how does your student learn about the options? This website is a good place to start. They can browse through a library of Profiles of Physicists and see specific examples of how others have used college degrees in Physics to pursue exciting and diverse career paths. They can learn a bit about the various specialty areas in physics (astronomy, nuclear, materials, etc) by browsing the Physics Topics section. They can learn what companies have hired physicists with bachelors degrees in the past few years in the Physicist Employers section. When they want to get down to practical details of what types of salaries they can earn as a physicist, they can check out the Physics Career Facts section. They may also want to know how to prepare for their career and how to finance their education. The answers to these questions are found in the Information for Students section. Of course, you can learn more by browsing these sections, too!

After looking through what you find here, there are bound to be questions that you wish you could ask a real physicist, so how can you find someone to answer these questions? Check out the Physics Educational Institutions section. There are over 750 colleges and universities that grant degrees in Physics and there is bound to be one close to you. Each one of these programs employs physicists that would be happy to answer your questions and talk to your student about physics and career paths for Physicists!

Anne Catlla

Anne Catlla - Postdoctoral Associate

Anne Catlla's career in applied mathematics was a kind of fluke. When she started her undergraduate at the University of Kansas,  she started in engineering,  but after deciding it was not for her,  she moved to the education department. That too proved to be not a good fit,  and she declared a math major,  because she already had taken several math classes that she enjoyed.

When a physics professor asked her to stay and do research for him,  she agreed and enrolled in the masters program in math at the University of Kansas. She was attracted to applied mathematics because of its inclusive nature. "I think that mathematicians and physicists and applied mathematicians all will look at the same phenomena and ask different questions. The questions that a mathematician asks will be perhaps more abstract. The questions a physicist asks tend to be more interested in what was coming out of the system. I was interested in the math,  but I was also interested in the system. That drew me to applied math,  because I felt at the time like this was bridging the gap, "

After earning that degree she went on to Northwestern to earn her Ph.D.

Women are still a rare sight within math and physics departments. Although Catlla says she never faced explicit discrimination,  she did notice some minor things. "It's so much more subtle. It has to do with feeling very singled out. There were math and physics courses I took where I was the only woman. You might have a question,  and you're sitting there,  thinking to yourself,  "is this a stupid question?" And then,  if I ask the stupid question,  I'm not just the person who asked the stupid question,  I'm the woman who asked the stupid question. And so I think that that kind of pressure,  I've definitely felt many times."