American Physical Society
Parent with graduate

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!

Amanda Joy McDonald

Amanda Joy McDonald - Actuary

Joy earned a BS in physics from Southern Nazarene University,  Bethany,  OK,  in 1989,  where she published a paper in the Journal of Undergraduate Research in Physics. She was elected into Sigma Pi Sigma in the SNU chapter when it was chartered in
1994. Joy began her career as an actuary before graduation by taking the first actuarial exam in
November 1988.

Then life intervened. She took several years off from Fellowship studies to raise children while still working as an actuary for American Fidelity. In 2006,  realizing she was approaching the twentieth anniversary of starting the Fellows program,  Joy set a goal to achieve the FSA before that anniversary. That goal was realized a few months early when Joy completed the final requirement in July 2008. Joy concentrated her actuarial studies in Group and Health Insurance.

Joy has remained a highly visible "hidden physicist" throughout her actuarial career. She presents talks to university math clubs and chapters of the Society of Physics Students,  describing how a background in Physics prepares one well for actuarial studies.