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How Much Money Do Nuclear Physicists Make?

by Brenda Scottsdale

Nuclear physicists attempt to solve the world's energy problems by applying their knowledge in areas such as nuclear particles, nuclear matter, radioactivity, fission and fusion to create alternative fuel sources. Most work in research and development in academic environments, although some work for private laboratories. You'll need a doctoral degree to become a nuclear physicist, which takes about seven years of college to complete.

Starting Salary

If you're just out of college, you can expect to earn a living at the 10th percentile for nuclear physicists, which stood at $68,494 as of 2013 in 10 randomly selected cities. The individual cities sampled include Pierre, S.D., $47,863; Augusta, Maine, $53,777; Walla Walla, Wash., $58,470; Philadelphia, $69,774; Chicago, $69,774; Baltimore, $68,896; Miami, $69,899; Houston, $73,444, New York, $83,705 and Washington, D.C., $89,336. The numbers show a big difference in salary for nuclear physicists based on location.

Average Salary

The national average salary for nuclear physicists in 2013 was $85,581, according to the Internet salary survey website Salary Expert. Differences among 10 randomly selected cities include Pierre, S.D., $61,291; Augusta, Maine, $68,865; Walla Walla, Wash., $74,875; Philadelphia, $89,350; Chicago, $89,350; Baltimore, $89,505; Miami, $89,509; Houston, $94,049; New York, $107,189 and Washington, D.C., $114,399. The average salary for these 10 cities was $87,838, with the lowest average paying $53,108 less than the highest.

Top Salary

Nuclear physicists at the top of their field typically hold tenure-track positions at major universities or large private laboratories. In 10 randomly selected cities, the average annual salaries at the 90th percentile, according to Salary Expert, were Pierre, S.D., $88,518; Augusta, Maine, $99,458; Walla Walla, Wash., $108,138; Philadelphia, $129,043; Chicago, $129,043; Baltimore, $129,266; Miami, $129,272; Houston, $135,829; New York, $154,807 and Washington, D.C., $165,220. The average among these cities was $126,859, with variations up to $76,702.

Job Outlook

Projected job growth for nuclear physicists is on par with a 14-percent increase for other U.S. occupations, according to a May 2010 survey conducted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Positions depend mainly on government grants and subsidies, which the BLS projects will increase through 2020, especially for applied research fields including nuclear physics. Those with doctorate degrees and specialties will fare best.

About the Author

Brenda Scottsdale is a licensed psychologist, a six sigma master black belt and a certified aerobics instructor. She has been writing professionally for more than 15 years in scientific journals, including the "Journal of Criminal Justice and Behavior" and various websites.

Photo Credits

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