Physicist Career Information
What a Physicist does
A branch of the physical sciences, physics is the study of energy and the behaviour of single atoms and their component pieces. Physicists consider themselves the most fundamental of scientists, for they are the ones who examine the basic laws of nature. They study what happens when atoms and subatomic particles break down and assemble how they react to collisions with each other.
Physicists use mathematics to understand, explain and predict their theories and equations. They often apply their theories to other fields like chemistry, biology, geophysics, engineering, communication, transportation, electronics and health.
Physicists work by determining the basic laws governing phenomena such as gravity, electromagnetism and nuclear interactions that lead to discoveries and innovations that advance nuclear energy, electronics, communications aerospace technology and medical instrumentation.
Physicists also study the properties and interactions of matter and energy in all their forms. Their interest may range from understanding fundamental physics to developing new technologies in applied physics. They test their observations against the present theories of physics and new hypotheses.
Classical physics refers to the science prevalent prior to the twentieth century. It begins right from the inventions and discoveries of scientists like Galileo and Newton. The studies are broadly classified under five headings, namely Mechanics, Heat and Thermodynamics, Sound, Electricity and Magnetism and Light.
Generally, although a physicist should have a broad background of all the five areas of physics, he/she specialises only in one of them. Geophysicists combine the knowledge of geology and physics.
Geophysics is used in the study of meteorology, hydrology, oceanography, seismology, radioactivity and magnetism.
Biophysicists study living organisms and life processes
Medical physicists play a vital role in the designing and use of electronic equipments for use in the medical sector
Astrophysicists design equipment for astronomical study and also interpret the research findings of astronomers, particularly in thermonuclear research related to space sciences.
A physicist can be either an experimentalist or a theoretician. Almost all have doctorates, which are essential for college and university teaching and research, upper level research positions in government and industry, and higher administrative positions.
Those with bachelor's degrees may work in applied research and development as research assistants or in design, administration or engineering.
Specialised areas for physicists are mechanics, atomic and molecular physics, heat, optics, acoustics, electricity and magnetism, electronics, nuclear physics, physics of fluids, solid state physics, or classical theoretical physics. Emerging areas of study for physicists are cryogenics, crystallography, and plasma physics.
Research in physical sciences is broad ranging and includes, for example, observations on how weather systems develop, laser physics and the production of anti-tumour drugs from marine organisms.
Physicists are employed in a wide range of fields from computing, patent law and in the financial field. They work for colleges, universities and schools, research centres and hospitals. Physicists even travel to conferences overseas to present research papers.
Useful experience for physicists includes work as a laboratory technician or engineering work.
To sum it up, Physicists work:
In industries, they conduct research for improved methods and technologies
In the communications industry, physicists work in sectors such as television, telephone and radio
In the petroleum industry, they are engaged in laboratory work for finding improved methods of processing crude oil
In the aerospace industry, physicists work on technological innovations
Physicists work with mathematical and statistical scientists and with engineers
The outlook for physicists looks average, and employment numbers are likely to remain stable over the next two to three years. However, there are some good employment opportunities for physics graduates with Master's level qualifications, especially in research and development, product design and manufacturing.
Most physicists work in research and development in small or medium-sized laboratories. Many physicists are employed by government-funded research centres or private research companies. A small number also work in the area of information technology.
There is great scope in both industry and in the defense fields. For those academically inclined, there is plenty of scope for research and development. Elementary Particle Physics, Nuclear Physics, Atomic Physics, Molecular Physics, Physics of Condensed Matter, Optics, Acoustics, Plasma Physics and the Physics of fluids are some of the super specialisations with research possibilities.
Technology is important in research and development, and physicists are at the forefront of developing and using new technologies.
Many physicists have been able to use their skills to move into the information technology industry.
Abilities & Traits Required
Physicists must have a detailed understanding of basic physics, such as classical mechanics (the branch of mechanics based on Newton's laws of motion), quantum mechanics (theories concerned with the properties and behaviours of particles), and thermodynamics (the branch of physics concerned with the conversion of different forms of energy).
Physicists must have good research, problem-solving and mathematical skills. They need to have good written and oral communication skills in order to describe complex ideas to a wide range of people, including non-scientists. They should also have a good knowledge of computers.
Physicists should have some technical ability, because often they must build and adapt their own equipment. Good planning and organisational skills are important, and an eye for detail is essential.
Good mechanical knowledge and ability is needed. You shouldn't be afraid to build things and find out how they work. Physicists must be self-motivated, accurate and inquiring.
Physicists need to be creative and imaginative when solving problems. They should also be patient and dedicated, because it may take a long time to observe the results of experiments.
To become a Physicist, you should have at least a MSc in Physics/Applied Physics/Astrophysics & Astronomy/ Biophysics/ Materials Science/ Medical
Physics/Geophysics/ Atmospheric Science/Oceanography/Geophysics/other related subject. You can also have an Engineering degree in Engineering Physics or Materials Science. You will do well if you have a doctorate degree.
After your MSc, if you join teaching, you will be paid about Rs 25000 - 35000 a month to begin with. If you join a university department as a research fellow, then you will get about Rs 20000-30000 a month.
In other jobs, you are paid in the range of Rs 15000 - 25000 per month in the beginning.