APS News

June 2000 (Volume 9, Number 6)

Satisfaction High for Undergrad Physics Bachelors

Figure: Physics Bachelors Production in the US 1955-1998

Figure: Physics Bachelors Production in the US 1955-1998

After many years of steady decline, the number of undergraduates earning bachelor's degrees in physics appears to have finally stabilized, according to a recent report on the graduating senior class of 1998, compiled by the American Institute of Physics (AIP). U.S. colleges and universities awarded a total of 3,821 B.S. degrees in physics, according to Patrick Mulvey of AIP's Education and Employment Statistics Division. However, the decline persists in larger physics departments that also maintain graduate programs in physics. Among these schools, the cumulative drop in degrees has now reached 27% since 1992.

Mulvey says satisfaction levels among physics bachelor recipients are quite high, with 86% indicating they would still major in physics if they had to do it over. An overwhelming majority of the respondents said they chose to study physics because they enjoyed the subject, not because of the potential career opportunities it offered, although physic seniors believe they will have strong employment prospects with their degrees.

As in years past, roughly half of the new physics bachelors said they intend to enter graduate school immediately, with 31% planning to study physics or a related field and an additional 19% choosing to pursue other disciplines, most commonly engineering. The AIP survey found that of those going on to graduate school, most were optimistic about their job prospects, with 86% intending to earn a PhD and 61% hoping to secure a career as a college or university professor.

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Editor: Alan Chodos
Associate Editor: Jennifer Ouellette

June 2000 (Volume 9, Number 6)

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Articles in this Issue
Council Statement Focus on Missile Defense, Science Funding
That's It Folks! For the Last Time: Even More Top Ten Physicists
This Month in Physics History
Re-"Creating Copenhagen" at CUNY Symposium
Inside the Beltway: A Washington Analysis
March and April 2000 Prizes and Awards Recipients
The Back Page
Scientific Community Speaks Out on Behalf of FY2001 NSF R&D Budget
Editorial Cartoon
Topsy Turvy: Researchers Announce First True "Left-Handed" Material
Zero Gravity: The Lighter Side of Science
Satisfaction High for Undergrad Physics Bachelors
Writing Workshops Teach Basics of Communicating with Public
Career Liaisons Gather for Workshop on Professional Development