The booming technology industry is paying rich dividends to physicists. At a science fair two weeks ago in Bonn, government officials announced that the unemployment rate among the 4000 recent German physics graduates plummeted last year by 20%. "The job market for physicists has become extremely positive in Germany during the last years" Helmut Krauth, board member of Germany's Physical Society, DPG tells Next Wave, mostly because of the high demand for young physicists in telecommunications. Laptops, mobile phones, and CD players are all direct products of physics research.
The future looks bright, as well. Many physics graduates go into the IT and data processing branch, and new surveys project a 30% shortfall in the number of qualified IT professionals ( Next Wave reported). Recently published data also show that medical engineering companies are employing an increasing number of physicists. In addition, physicists are in demand in software development, banking, and insurance. They may also be valuable in the emerging field of bioinformatics. "Life sciences is one of the really hot fields for young physicists," says Krauth.
The industrial appeal of physicists is not surprising, Krauth tells Next Wave. "Physicists are trained to break complex issues down into smaller problems and to develop strategies to solve them," explains Krauth. Recognizing the importance of physics research to the economy, Germany's government had earlier designated the year 2000 as the Year of Physics. "Top level research in physics is essential for Germany to keep pace in the global race for knowledge and its application," the science ministry's secretary of state Uwe Thomas reminded scientists and the public at the Bonn fair.
"It's definitely worthwhile to study physics; today's [job market] prospects for physics graduates are better than they have been for a long time," says Thomas. And even if you forget about the fantastic job market situation, physics has something fascinating. "Physics is a very lively science, exciting and ever and anon surprising," says Alexander Bradshaw, former DPG president, while reflecting on his personal encounters with this fundamental science. "While physics answers questions about origin and destination of the universe, the structure of matter, and the development of life on our planet, it plays at the same time a key role for new technologies."