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!

David Stephenson

David Stephenson - Professor of Planetary Science

David Stevenson was born in New Zealand in 1948. Growing up there, he started developing his love for science by reading the works of science fiction authors like Isaac Asimov, Robert Forward, and Fred Hoyle.  After finishing university in New Zealand, David came to Cornell University where he took classes with famous science fiction writer Carl Sagan.  Studying the interior of Jupiter at Cornell, David fell in love with the idea of using physics to understand Earth and other planets. "It's a playground for the application of physics, " he says.

David wrote a paper describing his unusual idea about how to probe the Earth's core in the prestigious scientific journal Nature. In his paper, David describes the process as beginning with pouring a massive quantity of liquid iron down a crack in Earth's surface, which due to its massive weight would continue to tunnel downward until it reached the molten core. A probe placed in the liquid iron on the surface would then be carried along with the iron (getting to the core in about a week) where it could measure the core's temperature, pressure, and chemical composition and report them using tiny artificial earthquakes that could be detected from the surface.

In spite of seeing the benefits of being able to probe the Earth's core,  David maintains a sense of humor about the difficulty of realizing such a plan. "Before, people thought this was a ridiculous idea, " he said. "I hope that I've shifted the viewpoint from ridiculous to merely unlikely."