How to Become a Physicist

By Eric Hammer

The path to become a physicist is a long and arduous one. You'll ideally need to start in high school and continue on through college, all the way to graduate school and doctoral studies so that you can earn your PhD and become a physicist.

So what does a physicist do anyway? Basically, physicists study the world around us. It's largely a research and teaching position, though there are practical applications as well. For example, physicists helped create laser beams and are indirectly responsible for the DVD or BluRay movie you probably watched recently.

Physicists need to be extremely good at math and science simply because understanding the world requires complex mathematical equations. In fact, Calculus, which is a key discipline that you'll need to learn about if you want to become a physicist, was created by Sir Isaac Newton in order to explain orbits of the sun and moon.

How Much Can You Make?

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary for a physicist is $106,440 per year. Of course top physicists can make much more than that while those who work in high schools and two year colleges (often people who are working on their doctoral degree) will make much less.

Ways to Make More | Related Opportunities | Tips

As previously noted, if you want to become a physicist, you need to start early, preferably in high school. You'll want to read books on physics and if possible, take an AP calculus course in order to understand the math behind physics.

If you don't want to earn your doctoral degree, you can still work in the world of physics, though your job prospects will be more limited. For example, you may be able to get work as a lab assistant to a physicist who does have a doctor degree or you may be able to teach physics in high school.

Physicists also break down in a number of different categories, from practical physicists to research physicists. Sometimes, astronomers (people who study the stars) are also physicists since the study of the stars tends to require some specialized knowledge and mathematical skills as well.

Qualifications / Requirements

As previously noted, you'll ultimately need to earn your doctor degree in order to become a physicist. However, beyond that, you need to be good at puzzle solving and you need to be someone who has an inquisitive mind so that you can ask questions about things and try to tease out an answer to the questions.

First Steps

Start by reading as much as you can about physics and contacting people who work in the field. Most physicists are happy to share their knowledge with people who are truly interested in their work, however you need to be prepared to talk to them on their level - that means knowing something before you approach them. Otherwise, you'll be staring blankly while they try to explain something important to you. Ultimately, you'll also need to earn your doctoral degree in physics in order to become a physicist.


Check out these helpful resources to learn more about how to become a physicist:

Dr. Michio Kaku: So You Want to Become a Physicist - A good introduction to what it takes to get into this field from a well known expert.

Practical Physics - While this site is intended for teachers, it can also be useful to those who want to be a physicist because it provides useful information on various practical aspects of physics. Be aware however that they warn you not to expect answers from student questions so you'll have to ask questions about what you read here elsewhere.

If you liked this page please let others know with one of these...

Other Relevant Pages

Some Good Jobs

Artistic and Creative Work

Every Way to Make Money | How to Become a Physicist