Inquisitive minds that enjoy theory and conjecture may want to pursue a career as a particle physicist. Particle physics is the branch of physics that studies subatomic particles to learn more about the basic laws of the universe. Most professionals in the field of particle physics have earned at least a master's degree in physics, and the majority have doctorates, awarded after about seven years of college education.
The average salary for particle physicists is $63,146, according to the Internet salary survey website Salary Expert. Salary varies according to geographic area. The range in average salary among 10 randomly selected cities is $32,027. Particle physicists in Miami, Pierre, S.D., Augusta, Maine and Houston made between $50,000 and $60,000, while those in Berkeley, Calif., and Baltimore made an average salary between $60,000 and $70,000. Those in Philadelphia and New York made the highest average salary, between $70,000 and $80,000.
You have to pay your dues for at least two or three years in any field, including particle physics, to earn even an average salary. Entry-level salaries for particle physicists tend to be in the 10th percentile, with annual averages differing in various cities, such as Miami, where entry-level particle physicists earn an average salary of $37,722. Earnings in other sample cities include Pierre, S.D., $42,208; Augusta, Maine, $44,275; Houston, $44,860; Berkeley, Calif., $48,200; Baltimore, $50,480; Washington, D.C., $53,839; Philadelphia, $58,466 and New York, $61,872.
Comparing top salaries for particle physicists lets you better evaluate if this career is right for you in the long run. Among 10 randomly selected cities, salaries varied widely at the 90th percentile, with a range of $45,400. Averages include Miami, $70,915; Pierre, S.D., $79,347; Augusta, Maine, $82,232; Houston, $84,333; Berkeley, Calif., $90,612; Baltimore, $94,899; Washington, D.C., $101,212; Philadelphia, $109,911 and New York, $116,315.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 14-percent growth in jobs through 2020 for all physicists, compared to 11 percent for astronomers and 14 percent for all other surveyed occupations. The BLS cites increased spending by the federal government for university research programs as a major cause. Competition is strong, however, with candidates frequently having to complete several postdoctoral appointments before securing a more permanent position.
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