Previously in this column, we have examined what physics bachelor’s degree recipients do upon graduation. Some take a job, with most jobs in the private sector. Others go to graduate school in physics or astronomy. Still others enroll in graduate programs in other disciplines. Do the graduates do what they planned to do?

We have data from physics and astronomy seniors, and we have data from the same group of people one year after they graduated. These data were collected from the class of 2021, so the students graduated during the pandemic. As seniors, 60% planned to go to graduate school, 46% in physics or astronomy and 14% in other disciplines. About 3 in 10 (31%) planned to take a job. The remaining 9% were undecided.

The figure compares the plans to the actual outcomes. Just over half (51%) enrolled in a graduate program, 37% in physics or astronomy and...

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