What do Physicists Do?
Would you enjoy working in a versatile field that blends mathematics and science? If the answer is yes, you may want to consider a career as a physicist. Physicists conduct research and experiments regarding physical phenomena, and then develop theories based on observed patterns. Mathematical equations are often employed to help model observations and predict outcomes. Physicists are employed by educational institutions, research companies, engineering firms, and virtually any organization that relies heavily on data and calculations. Workers employed in the academic field may teach classes and publish data and findings.
Physicists Skills and Abilities
Mathematics is heavily employed by workers in this field, and physicists should have an in-depth knowledge of algebra, geometry, statistics, trigonometry, and calculus. Physicists should also know how to apply these subjects to the engineering and technology field. This is field that relies heavily on theories and predictions, so the ability to think critically and creatively is needed. Communication and interpersonal skills are also required, since many physicists will be expected to collaborate with coworkers and present their findings to others. Comprehension of spoken and written language is also necessary to perform this job.
Physicists perform a wide range of tasks, but their primary function is to express scientific observations using mathematical terms. They will then be expected to interpret this data and draw conclusions. Physicists often reference other fields of science such as biology, chemistry, geology, and astronomy. Workers in this field will also be expected to observe the structure and properties of matter and how it behaves under certain conditions. Physicists may also:
- Develop lasers and other light-emitting devices
- Observe the effects of radioactivity on plants and natural environments
- Design computer programs that assist in the simulation of physical phenomena
- Write papers and publish literature in scientific journals
- Work with engineers, mathematicians, and other scientists
Physicists Tools and Technology
Physicists take advantage of a wide range of tools and technologies. Frequency analyzers, spectrometers, signal generators, and other devices are employed when observing matter. Computers are commonly used to input, organize, and store data and information. Software programs that assist in the modeling and analysis of scientific data are commonly employed.
Education and Training for Physicists
Entering into this field requires a relatively high level of education in comparison to other careers. 51% of physicists held a doctorate, and roughly 28% held a master’s degree. Four years of undergraduate education, followed by two years of graduate school, and 1-2 years of postgraduate education is usually required. During their formal education, workers in this field typically take courses in the physical sciences, mathematics, and periodically, life sciences. This is not a field for someone who does not enjoy an academic or intellectual environment.
For the right person, this career provides a chance to enjoy a fairly healthy income. The yearly mean salary for a physicist is $109,600, with 10% of workers earning in excess of $184,000. Over the previous year, there was a 1.5% wage increase for physicists. Physicists employed by physicians offices earned the highest salaries, while those employed by colleges and universities earned the lowest.
Physicists Jobs by Geography
There are close to 17,000 Americans currently employed as physicists, and there was a 4.2% increase in employment levels over the previous year. California, Texas, and Maryland employed the highest percentage of physicists in the nation. Hawaii, Minnesota, and Florida paid the highest salaries. This is a growing field, and 720 new jobs are expected to be created in this industry in the coming years. In short, if you can handle the heavy schooling, working as a physicist can be a fulfilling and lucrative career path for anyone.