American Physical Society
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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!

Terence Hwa

Terence Hwa - Professor

Born in China,  Terence first came to the United States in 1979 at the age of 15.  After completing his bachelor's degree in three majors at Stanford (where he won the prestgious Apker award for outstanding achievements in Physics by undergrads),  Terence went to grad school at MIT to study statistical mechanics and condensed matter Physics.  He earned his PhD in 1990,  working on pattern formation in complex systems.

Today,  Terence continues to teach and do interdisciplinary research on the connection between the pattern description capabilities of theoretical physics,  and genomic research.  Through such research,  Hwa says that physicists face nothing less than resolving the mysteries of life created by billions of years of natural evolution."

Terence has won several awards and grants that he believes have been essential to allowing him to carry on research in a subject matters that until recently "did not belong to any fields and had no official channel of support."  Terence said,  "The career path I am taking is an unusual one,  and these awards,  starting with the Apker Award,  are crucial in helping me to overcome the many unexpected difficulties associated with pursuing my kind of path."