According to the AIP, about 10 percent of people who earn a bachelor’s degree in physics work for a national laboratory or government facility as a scientist or technician. Sample titles include accelerator systems operator, advanced technology engineer, engineering physicist, laboratory technician, radar developer, and systems engineer.
Other research and technical opportunities for people with a bachelor’s degree include research assistant, research associate, research technician, lab technician, lab assistant, accelerator operator, and physical sciences technician.
In addition, people with a master’s degree or doctoral degree may do research in a government-funded laboratory such as Argonne National Laboratory or Fermi National Laboratory.
The private sector employs about half of people with a physics Ph.D., according to APS. They conduct research, do literature and patent searches, work with teammates, write patent disclosures and papers, etc.
Get research experience. At IIT, physics undergraduates may do research as early as their first or second year, apply for a $5,000 College of Science Undergraduate Summer Research Stipend, do a National Science Foundation (NSF) Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) at another university, etc.
For those who are interested in doing research in the private sector, APS encourages undergraduates to do internships while in school and to ask advisers about their contacts with industry. APS also suggests developing programming skills and a basic understanding of cost benefit analysis, intellectual property laws, and ethics.
$35,000-$57,000 (B.S.); $70,000-$95,000 for government-funded laboratory (Ph.D. starting); $80,000-$100,000 for private industry research and development (Ph.D. starting; this grows to $160,000-180,000 for mid-career professionals)
To learn more about this career path, see http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/bsphysgov.cfm, http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/physicistgov.cfm, and http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/research.cfm.