Phys21: Preparing Physics Students for 21st Century Careers
Members of academic physics departments have long prided themselves on preparing undergraduate students for careers in physics. For many faculty members, a successful physics career means an academic research and teaching position like the ones that they themselves hold. However, the overwhelming majority of people who receive a bachelor’s degree in physics are employed outside academia for all or part of their careers, and are engaged in a wide variety of work. About half of this work is in the private sector, and the remainder is in colleges and universities, high schools, the military, and national laboratories. Few physics programs are explicitly designed to prepare students for this likely career outcome.
This report is intended to help physics programs do that. It provides information about the skills and knowledge that employers of physicists are seeking, and describes ways in which physics departments can help students acquire those skills and that knowledge. Not only will departments that take up this challenge and provide the preparation their graduates need better serve all of their current students, they are also likely to attract a more diverse set of students with a broader range of career interests. In an era in which academic institutions are increasingly scrutinized regarding the return on investment that their programs provide to students (in the form of enhanced employment prospects), it is in physics departments’ interest to recognize the importance of this challenge.
This report comprises an assessment of the employment landscape that physics bachelor’s recipients are entering; a compilation of the knowledge, skills, and attitudes that graduates need for successful careers; a set of learning goals that physics departments can adopt to promote their graduates’ success; and descriptions of ways that physics departments, perhaps with assistance from industrial partners, professional societies, and funding agencies, can ensure that those learning goals are met.
Phys21 Supplement: J-TUPP Summary of Background Reports on Careers and Professional Skills
The J-TUPP committee evaluated many reports from a variety of disciplines and perspectives in order to address two major issues:
- What do industry, employment, and hiring experts expect of STEM graduates in terms of skills, knowledge, and attitudes, and what are the prospects for those graduates in the current and near-term job market?
- What are physics and other academic disciplines doing to address the employment needs of their respective graduates?
The reports that were studied to address these questions were authored by professional societies, business and economic development groups, educational institutions, and professional consulting organizations. This document provides context and summaries for each report, focusing on those aspects that correlate with learning goals.
The recommendations and conclusions from these reports are generally consistent with each other, reinforcing those made in the Phys21 Final Report.