Physicists and astronomers held about 16,000 jobs in 2004. Jobs for astronomers accounted for only 5 percent of the total. About 33 percent of physicists and astronomers worked for scientific research and development services firms. The Federal Government employed 25 percent, mostly in the U.S. Department of Defense, but also in the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and in the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Health and Human Services, and Energy. Other physicists and astronomers worked in colleges and universities in nonfaculty, usually research, positions, or for State governments, information technology companies, pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing companies, or electronic equipment manufacturers.
In 2004, many physicists and astronomers held faculty positions in colleges and universities. (See the statement on teacherspostsecondary elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Although physicists and astronomers are employed in all parts of the country, most work in areas in which universities, large research and development laboratories, or observatories are located.