Physics: Academic Requirements, Professional Outlook


Physics can be defined as the science of matter, energy and their interactions. Some Physicists work in basic science; that is, theoretical and scholarly pursuits. They may reflect upon the nature and origin of the universe, for example. Physicists in applied science build upon the findings of basic science to come up with practical solutions to problems and ways to apply these solutions. They may be developing new and better materials using physics, working with electronics, optics, or sound, or improving medical equipment.

Physicists usually specialize in one of many subfields, such as particle physics, nuclear physics or plasma physics. There are also interdisciplinary fields, including biophysics, geophysics, and chemical physics. Physics is one of the fundamental sciences, and professionals in the field play an important role in forwarding our technology and knowledge. From the laser in your DVD player, to the World Wide Web, to Einstein's theories of relativity, the work of Physicists has been and will continue to be an important force in the modern world.

The Academic Requirements

Physics students develop the skills and knowledge needed to understand the various branches of physics. Extensive laboratory work is usually required, even at the undergraduate level. Students will take courses in computer science, mathematics, and other sciences. They will learn how to be good researchers and cooperative team members. Good oral and written communication abilities are important.

Students who want to do basic research in the field will need a Ph.D. Students with a Master's degree can usually work in applied physics, or they can teach. Graduate and Ph.D. students do a lot more research and laboratory work than undergraduate students.

Here are some courses that we've seen:

  • Modern Physics Lab
  • Statistical Mechanics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Calculus
  • Thermodynamics
  • Computational Physics
  • Instrumentation
  • Chemistry
  • Computer Programming
  • History of Physics
  • Astronomy
  • Nuclear & Particle Physics
  • Electromagnetic Theory

Professional Outlook

Over half of all recently-hired Physicists work in Industry. Other Physicists work in schools, civil government, academics, and the military. Most jobs are in basic research and development, and require a doctorate. Master's degree recipients can work in applied research and development, while bachelor's degree holders may work as technicians or research assistants.

Physicists usually work regular hours in an office or lab. When deeply entrenched in research, however, a physicist may work long and irregular hours. Sometimes Physicists are invited to work and research in national or international facilities that have unique equipment. During this time, the Physicist might spend weeks or months away, but the opportunity to do advanced research and further one's career usually makes it worth it.

Here are some job titles that we've seen, including some of the organizations that offer them, all of which included a requirement for experience in Physics:


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