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What physicists do

By Margaret Harris

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Last week’s Facebook poll asked a pretty straightforward question:

If you have a physics degree, what do you do for a living?

The options we offered were engineering, finance, IT, research and teaching, and voters could also add their own choices. Among the 161 people who voted, “research” was by far the most popular category, accounting for 45% of the total (N.B. we went ahead and classed the three people who said they were graduate students under “research”). The runner-up was engineering, with 16% of the vote, closely followed by teaching (15%) and IT (13%).

The only user-generated option to attract more than two votes was “science communication”, which picked up six – just shy of 4%. That’s more than finance got, but maybe most physicists in finance are too busy dealing with the financial crisis to vote in Facebook polls.

One final note: could the person who said they were an “inflatable entertainment company owner” please e-mail us at We publish a column in Physics World called Once a physicist that profiles physicists with unusual jobs and, frankly, you’re a shoo-in for a future edition.

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