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!

Gabriela Gonzalez

Gabriela Gonzalez - Professor

Born in Argentina,  Gabriela first wanted to be a Math teacher, like her mother ("I still love teaching!" she says). However when she took her first physics classes in her junior and senior years of high school, she realized that Physics was for her: "I was amazed at how we could "explain" the world with Physics, and we could predict what objects would do. When I found out this also applied to stars and the Universe, and that there were unknown phenomena waiting to be discovered, I decided I couldn't do anything else!"

In her work at LIGO, Gabriela is doing just that:creating detectors which will allow us to observe phenomena which cannot be directly observed--such as neutron stars coalescing into one black hole. These violent events create signatures in the form of gravitational waves. Observing these will tell us more about the life and death of these mysterious objects.

Obviously, Gabriela's Physics training is essential to her work at LIGO. However, the concepts aren't the only useful things she has learned.

"The best lesson from [my training] was learning to ask questions--always ask 'Why?!'"  

Gabriela also said that learning how to get help from experts, staying abreast of the newest developments in your area, and learning how to collaborate with colleagues are also very important skills.

"I think these skills are very useful for any career in academia, industry or even life, they were certainly very useful for my progress, " she says.