In response to insufficient participation and female underrepresentation in physics education, this article uses questionnaire data from Norwegian physics students in upper secondary (N = 585) and first-year tertiary (N = 278) education to characterize the “physics choosers.” An expectancy-value perspective is adopted to describe the motivations and expectations behind the respondents’ physics choice. Three choice profiles were identified among secondary students. The intrinsic and extrinsic profile, broadly motivated by interest-enjoyment, expectation of success, and utility for university admission; the extrinsic profile emphasizing mainly utility; and the intrinsic profile emphasizing mainly interest-enjoyment. Females were underrepresented in the intrinsic profile. Many secondary students did not know what kind of job they wanted, but those who did, aspired to go into medicine (particularly females) or engineering (particularly males). Tertiary students were motivated by a passion for physics and high expectation of enjoyment, and many of them planned to go into research. Tertiary students were more likely than secondary students to value idealistic purposes in a future career. The results imply that participation in physics may be improved by targeting students with a broader motivation than interest alone, through inclusive classroom practices, support of students’ self-concepts, and examples of physics applications and physics-related careers available. © 2013 Wiley Periodicals, Inc. Sci Ed 97:550–573, 2013