Resources

Careers

(This page was last updated August 2022)


There are a wide variety of career paths open to those with experience in physics education research (PER). This page lists some relevant resources for those at all levels of career experience.


Page contents:

What are some common career paths in PER?

Where can I learn more about PER career paths?

Resource and website links

Articles about PER graduate and career paths

Who is working in PER?

Job postings in PER from APS Careers

What are some common career paths in PER? 

People with backgrounds in physics education research (PER) are employable in a wide variety of jobs related to education, assessment, and/or learning. The APS Career Paths page outlines many areas of employment for physicists in general. Here are how those career tracks can relate to PER. Note that it is somewhat common for physics education researchers to be career switchers, having turned to education work after a graduate degree in traditional physics. 


  • Postdoctoral research in an academic institution. Postdoctoral positions in PER are open to those with graduate training in PER or related fields. The list of PER Job Postings will be valuable in identifying such opportunities, as well the list of PER programs later on this page. Note that not all such positions will be in physics departments; some may be in physics, some in education, and some in interdisciplinary units. While not a career in its own right, postdoctoral positions are a conduit to a variety of other career paths, see below.
  • Faculty at doctoral / research institutions. Many people with training in PER will become a faculty member with a research program in physics education. The list of PER programs later on this page shows institutions with PER programs, though new PER programs are often established. Note that not all such positions will be in physics departments; some may be in physics, some in education, and some in interdisciplinary units.
  • Faculty at bachelor’s / liberal arts institutions. Physicists in PER often choose to work in physics education because it offers opportunities to improve as teachers. Faculty at bachelor’s liberal arts institutions typically have higher teaching loads and less emphasis on research. The same is true of faculty working in community colleges and in instructional professor positions at research intensive institutions.
  • Non-profit organizations. Those with education research experience sometimes find employment within nonprofits doing work in education, outreach, or assessment. Nonprofits might include professional societies (such as APS), or other national or local nonprofits working on education projects and programs.
  • Teaching and learning centers. Those with education research experience will often find employment within university teaching and learning centers doing professional development for faculty and/or assessing teaching and learning in the classroom. For information on work in this area see the Professional and Organizational Development (POD) network.
  • Work in a government funded laboratory. While national laboratories do not provide PER programs, they do have education and public outreach (EPO) offices for which PER training would be excellent training. 
  • Education research consultant. A background in physics education research provides excellent skills for serving as a consultant in areas related to education research or evaluation, often serving non-profits or universities.
  • High school teacher. Some physics education researchers have brought their knowledge of physics and teaching and learning directly to classroom teaching. This career path is open to those with either undergraduate or graduate training in PER.
  • Private sector. PER can also be a useful set of background skills for working in the private sector, including product development and user testing, in areas related to education, learning, or human subjects research. 

Where can I learn more about PER career paths?

Resource and website links

  • PER Consortium of Graduate Students (PERCoGS) PERCoGS provides information and support to graduate students in physics education research and related fields. Membership is free. 
  • PER Job Postings The PER Jobs site is independently managed and includes job listings of interest to the Physics Education Research Community. Posts are updated regularly.
  • APS Job Board The APS job board includes listings related to education and education research. The list at the end of this page is filtered for physics education research jobs.
  • APS Careers The APS Careers page has a wealth of resources on job exploration, and we will be adding more PER-specific resources in the months to come. We especially recommend the Professional Guidebook as relevant across all physics careers, including PER. 
  • APS Career Mentoring Fellows The APS Career Mentoring Fellows program includes Fellows with experience in a variety of career pathways, including PER,  who can provide career guidance to undergraduate students.
  • PER programs There is no central list of all institutions or individuals conducting physics education research. However, there are a few places you can look: 

Articles about PER graduate and career paths


Who is working in PER?

Profiles of Physics Education Researchers

The APS Physicist Profiles page includes many physicists in educational fields. A degree in PER prepares you well for a variety of careers in education.

  • Ramón Barthelemy. After a graduate degree in PER, Ramón conducted research on equity issues, served as a policy fellow, consulted in the private sector, and then became an assistant professor.
  • Desiré Whitemore. After a graduate degree in laser physics, Desiré’s work in outreach led her to teacher professional development in a museum setting. 
  • Jacqueline Benitez. After an undergraduate degree in astronomy and work in a planetarium, Jacqueline tried an internship in an Education Department. This led to a job as a distance learning education specialist, teaching K-12 science classes remotely.

    The AAPT Member Spotlight includes many people with a focus in PER. Below are some relevant profiles since 2020, and their positions as of 2022.

    • Alice Olmstead. After a graduate degree in PER specializing in instructional change, Dr. Olmstead is now a professor at Texas State University, San Marcos with a research program in STEM instructional improvement.
    • Angela Little. After graduate work in physics, Dr. Little shifted to PER and currently works as a consultant in equity-related projects and a PER researcher at Michigan State University.
    • Rachel Scherr. After a graduate degree in PER, Dr. Scherr is a professor of physics at University of Washington Bothell and studies student learning of energy.
    • Stephanie Williams. Stephanie conducted graduate work in PER at the University of Maryland College Park. She is currently conducting research on online learning communities, and developing curriculum on exoplanets for the Carnegie Institution.
    • Alexandru Maries. Engaging in PER as a graduate student led Dr. Maries to use PER to guide his instruction as a professor at University of Cincinnati.
    • Xandria Quichocho. After working towards a degree in music education, they pursued PER as an undergraduate, and reflect on their experience as a non-binary, bisexual person of color. 
    • Alexis Knaub. After graduate work in PER, Dr. Knaub shifted to educational change research and external evaluation as a consultant and project manager on AIP Federation efforts led by AAPT . 
    • Benjamin Pollard. After a PhD in nano-optics and postdoctoral research in PER at University of Colorado, Dr. Pollard is a teaching professor at Worcester Polytechnic Institute. His research focuses on teaching and learning in physics laboratories.
    • Trà Huỳnh As a postdoctoral researcher in PER at University of Washington Bothell, Dr. Huynh reflects on her path from growing up in Vietnam to doing work in equity research.
    • Andrew Mason. After graduate work in PER, Dr. Mason puts that research into practice as a professor at University of Central Arkansas, with research interests in physics problem solving.
    • Lin Ding. After graduate work in PER, Dr. Ding conducts PER at The Ohio State University in several areas including student assessment.
    • Geoff Potvin. After graduate work in string theory, Dr. Potvin moved into PER and conducts PER in many areas, including graduate education, as a professor at Florida International University.
    • Danny Doucette. As a graduate student in PER, Dr. Doucette appreciated the PER community and his membership in PERCoGS. He is currently a teaching professor at North Carolina State University.
    • Idaykis Rodriguez. Dr. Rodriguez discusses her experience as a Latina woman in physics, leading to graduate and postdoctoral work in PER. She is currently a teaching professor at Florida International University, with research interests in student cultural identity.

            Job Postings in PER