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!

Fred Begay

Fred Begay - Research Physicist

Fred Begay was born on the Ute Mountain Indian Reservation in Colorado. His parents were Navajo and Ute healers and spiritual leaders,  and taught him their ceremonies and religious beliefs. When he was ten,  he was sent to a government-run boarding school where they forced him to learn farming; "our parents didn't speak English,  so they couldn't say,  'I want him to take physics.'" says Fred. At the school,  speaking in Navajo or Ute was discouraged,  and any recitation of traditional prayers was threatened with punishment.

After eight years learning about farming,  Fred joined the Air Force and fought in the Korean War.  After returning from the service,  he took advantage of Veterans benefits and started classes at the University of New Mexico. Unfortunately his schooling had not prepared him for the course work,  so he had to take high school classes at night.

According to Fred,  there was a lot of overlap between what his parents had taught him,  and what he learned in physics. "It turns out many of the prayers and songs have built in lots of science,  " he says."I was immersed in all that knowledge before I even got to the first grade. "

Fred earned his undergraduate,  graduate,  and doctoral degrees from the University of New Mexico,  and went to work for the Los Alamos Nuclear Research Labs.