By Nsim Team
If you want to become a physicist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a physicist:
Those who become physicists have a keen interest in the fundamental nature of the universe, including the nature and properties of matter and energy. They typically take great pleasure out of conducting research, or out of applying knowledge in physics in the creation of new and innovative products and solutions to problems facing our society.
To become a physicist, you need to have aptitude in science and mathematics, and an advanced education in physics. You also need to be effective working in a team environment, have excellent communications skills, and be skilled working with specialized instrumentation and computer programs.
A physicist is a scientific professional who studies the fundamental nature of the universe, including the nature and properties of matter and energy. The subject matter of their work includes mechanics, heat, light and other radiation, sound, electricity, magnetism, and the structure of atoms. Physicists also apply their knowledge to develop new and innovative technologies, systems, methods and products in a variety of areas, such as:
• Lasers and optics (telecommunications, optometry, holography, etc.)
• Environmental science (weather, oceanography, pollution control, etc.)
• Health and medicine (medical imaging, radiation treatment, lasers)
• Space science (mission specialists, satellite design, etc.)
• Acoustics (speaker research, hall design, etc.)
• Electricity and magnetism (power management, antenna design, instrumentation, etc.)
• Energy and nuclear science (reactor design, waste management, etc.)
• Materials science (semiconductor devices, magnetic films, superconductivity, computer technologies, biomaterials etc.)
The job description of physicists varies greatly from one position to the next. For a example, the job description of a physicist studying the safety of nuclear energy disposal methods will vary greatly from that of a physicist that is responsible for making soap have a more pleasant texture.
To become a physicist, you need to develop a strong background in physics, quantum mechanics and mathematics. It is also important to have laboratory experience, skills in research and skills working with various computer programs, such as mapping programs and data collection and analysis programs.
Undergraduate Degree: To acquire this knowledge base and skill set you typically need to pursue an undergraduate degree in science, with a major in physics, or a degree in engineering. Having an undergraduate degree in physics will qualify you to work an entry-level physics job, such as Research Assistant, or Laboratory Technician.
Courses that you will pursue in undergraduate physics program typically include classical and quantum mechanics and thermodynamics. They will also involve a lot of mathematics coursework and a lot of laboratory experience. To gain communications skills, which are necessary for a career as a physicist, it is recommended that you pursues coursework in communications or related fields, as they will help you develop the necessary skills set.
Master’s Degree: Obtaining an M.Sc. degree in physics often qualifies graduates to work in responsible positions in industrial or government laboratories, as laboratory instructors at universities, as consultants, or as Medical Physicists or Meteorologists (if their MS.c. was in a related field).
Doctoral Degree: A Ph.D. degree qualifies physicists for permanent positions in industry. Some Ph.D. graduates choose to work as Post-Doctoral Fellows, typically for a period of 1-3 years, during which time their skills and reputations as independent researchers are enhanced. After the fellowship, long-term employment is usually found in university teaching, or in academic, industrial or government research laboratories.
In order to be effective in a career as a physicist, regardless of your area of specialty, you need to posses certain skills and personality traits. These skills and traits will not only help you perform your job with competence; they will also help you endure the challenging aspects of this career.
• A natural interest in the composition of matter and its behaviour
• An interest in building things and understanding how they function
• An aptitude and education in physics and mathematics
• Enjoy using sophisticated equipment to perform tasks requiring precision
• Excellent verbal and written communications skills
• Ability to use specialized equipment and computer programs
• Able to pay close attention to detail, and perform calculations with accuracy
• Able to apply scientific and mathematical concepts to solving complex problems
• Must be able to work well in collaboration with others, be they physicists or other professionals
Physicist jobs are available on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis with organizations that are involved in researching physics principles, or applying those principles in a variety of industries, ranging from product development to healthcare.
Organizations that hire Physicists include:
• Colleges and universities
• Federal, provincial/state and municipal government departments
• Hospitals, clinics and health care organizations
• Private and public research laboratories
• Organizations involved in public education
• Scientific or engineering consulting organizations
• Patent offices, agencies and law firms
• Companies that develop residential, industrial or commercial products