How to Become a Physicist
A physicist uses their expertise in this branch of science to research how it can improve the world. Their role is primarily academic, although many branch into teaching.
A physicist undertakes a broad role, researching ways that physics can help our lives. They generally have a specialism within the physics field and will develop this specialism as they study and attempt to create new inventions and technologies.
As well as niching into a specialism, a physicist will generally partake in one of these three categories:
- They may be a theoretical physicist; in this position, they would invent scientific theories and use these to explain certain things in the world.
- They could be experimental physicists; in this position, they would test these theories to see if they can be proven correct.
- They could be applied physicist; they would use these proven facts to use technology to solve problems in our everyday lives.
The duties of a physicist are varied, depending on their niche. However, they could include:
- Studying the physical world, including aspects such as atoms, particles, climates, and the universe.
- Creating theories based on their physical knowledge and the behaviour of particular phenomena.
- Creating instruments to help with observations in the physical realm.
- Proving or disproving theories using their experience, the world around them, and advanced technological software.
- Working with AI devices and robots.
- Researching and teaching in university, school, or college.
- Writing expert pieces for newspapers or creating books.
Candidates should have, at the very least, an undergraduate degree in physics. Students who do not have secondary physics qualifications could do a foundation course before starting an undergraduate degree. Many employers also expect their employees to have a master’s or PhD in physics. Some physicists opt to do a combined undergraduate or master’s degree, paving the way to a PhD qualification.
Graduate schemes are available for prospective physicists who do not have a postgraduate qualification. These training schemes will include vocational and theoretical learning, with the opportunity to acquire a PhD further along in their career.
Work experience is always beneficial for applications to university (either for undergraduate or postgraduate qualifications) and jobs. Working in a laboratory is hugely beneficial; some universities offer physicist work placement programmes. Graduates sometimes obtain work experience by working as a laboratory technician.
A deep understanding of physics is the most critical skill that any aspiring physicist should have. However, they should also be excellent at mathematics (some employers may desire secondary qualifications in mathematics), and have a good knowledge of engineering and technology.
As a lot of their work will revolve around experiments, often trial and error, they should have an analytical mind. They should be able to reason and be decisive in their actions. Furthermore, physicists must be able to communicate their ideas and reasons for doing something clearly.
Generally, physicists will work in laboratories, however, their workplace could also be a workshop or factory. Sometimes, they will be working outdoors. There are a vast array of private and public employers for physicists, including government organisations, schools, universities, and the media.
Physicists can progress to take on increasing levels of responsibility and niche in into a particular area. They could also go into teaching, potentially at universities. If they have a teaching role, they may be based in a university or school, and they could also spend time working at a computer, typing up their findings and researching. Another avenue for physicists is going into journalism, detailing their findings to the general public.
What degree is most commonly held by a Physicist?
- Bachelor of Science, B.S
- Doctor of Molecular Physics
- Bachelor of Physics
- Bachelor Physical Chemistry
Career Transportability across Countries
What is the Salary of a Physicist?
|Experience||Average salary | year|
|Medical Physicist/ Physicist||3-5 yrs||$126,000||£42,000||$72,000|
|Senior Physicist||5-10 yrs||$165,000||£80,000||$116,571|
What skills are needed to become a Physicist?
- Medical Imaging
- Medical Physics
- Data Analysis
- Radiation Therapy
- Radiation Safety
- Clinical Research
- Microsoft Office
- Medical Devices
- Microsoft Excel
- Mathematical Modeling
Selection of online courses
- The Discovery of the Higgs Boson
Should we be excited about the Higgs boson Find out more about particle physics and understanding the universe
- Teaching Primary Science: Physics
Enhance your physics subject knowledge for teaching primary science and discover practical activities for your physics lessons
- Teaching Practical Science: Physics
Participate in CPD to enhance your physics lessons with effective practical work for 14-16 year olds
Need even more evidence about why you should learn on FutureLearn?
The Discovery of the Higgs BosonShould we be excited about the Higgs boson? Find out more about particle physics and understanding the universe.Show course overview
Teaching Primary Science: PhysicsEnhance your physics subject knowledge for teaching primary science and discover practical activities for your physics lessons.Show course overview
Teaching Practical Science: PhysicsParticipate in CPD to enhance your physics lessons with effective practical work for 14-16 year olds.Show course overview