- What does a Physicist do?
Physicists study the behaviour of the physical world at the most basic level and find practical ways to apply new knowledge gained from their research in areas of science and technology.
Physicists are usually identified within three broad roles:
There is interaction between all three roles and Physicists generally have skills in each of these areas.
- Theoretical Physicists (develop theories or models of how particular aspects of the world work)
- Experimental Physicists (test these theories, determining their limits and suggesting new approaches to them)
- Applied Physicists (apply these findings in practical settings within industry and the introduction of new technology).
- Why does a Physicist do this?
Individuals who have studied physics have the background to make instruments that diagnose and cure disease, to develop safer and cleaner fuels for our cars and homes, to calculate the movement of arctic glaciers, and to create smaller, faster electronic components and integrated circuits.
Physicists pioneered the pivotal discoveries of the 20th century that revolutionised the world, eg the transistor, the laser, splitting the atom, TV and radio, MRI and PET scans, quantum theory and relativity. Even unravelling the DNA molecule was done by Physicists.
- How does a Physicist do their job?
Physicists use a number of highly specialised instruments and laboratory equipment to conduct, record and analyse experiments. These could include needing to heat or cool materials to extreme temperatures, generate and measure electrical currents, examine the atomic structure of matter, and carry out many other highly technical and specialised tasks. They must also be familiar with computers to control equipment, run simulations and to write reports based on their findings.
- Where do Physicists do their job?
Physicists usually work in laboratories, offices or workshops, though some may also carry out fieldwork in various environments, depending on their research. Many Physicists work in universities, where they split their time between teaching and research work, however there are also opportunities to work in government organisations or private industry. They may work with radioactive substances and other restricted and/or potentially harmful materials, which require strict safety and control procedures. Physicists usually work standard business hours, however overtime or weekend work may be required when setting up and carrying out experiments or when conducting fieldwork.
- Minimum degree required
A Bachelor of Science with a major in Physics. Employment prospects will be improved upon completion of graduate study, such as a masters or a PhD.
- Average salary per year
The average annual salary is $90 012 excluding super – new graduates are unlikely to get this amount in an entry level research assistant/lab technician role.
- Related occupations
- Materials Scientist
- Patent Examiner
- Companies that employ Physicists
With the current focus on climate change and the reduction of carbon emissions, there are also many job opportunities for Physicists in the renewable-energy sector, for example with energy companies such as E-ON.
- 10. Additional links