Kirby, Czujko, and Mulvey reply: We agree with many of the points that Kurt Bachmann made: the overarching reason to pursue a physics degree, the observation that students today are perhaps “wiser” than in the past, the importance of educating the public about physics, and ways to improve morale in graduate physics programs. We do not agree with some of his conclusions, however.

Although the physics “pipeline” notion did originate in the first decade or so after World War II, we did not intend to associate physics with cold-war and national-security issues. “Pipeline” is now in common usage as a metaphor for the progression through the educational system. We had no intent to dehumanize the process or the participants.

Today’s students are looking more broadly for information regarding career options. The education and training of physicists takes place in settings where the physics focus is on research and teaching. A decade ago, students complained bitterly that physics professors were too “ivory tower” and were not connected with the “real world” when it came to advising students regarding job opportunities. The American Institute of Physics and the American Physical Society have made more information on career options available, and the Web makes it easily accessible for students.

We disagree with the rigid perspective that each career path has its own degree program. In addition, physics teaching and research are not the only legitimate career paths for physicists. Most PhD physicists engaged in neither teaching nor basic research report that physics was an appropriate background for them, and that their current positions are intellectually challenging. More significant, they would still pursue a PhD in physics if they were to make the choice today.

The purpose of our article was to describe the strength, vitality, and diversity of the job market for physicists, with emphasis on those who have PhDs. We believed it was important to dispel the notion that the situation for PhD physicists was bleak. It appears that the economic downturn that began after we wrote our article has not affected the academic or government job markets for physicists in the least.