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
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
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.
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:
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.