How Do I Become a Physicist?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen
Scientist with beakers
Scientist with beakers

To become a physicist, it often helps to have a naturally curious mind and a willingness to persevere against stiff competition. You should begin with a solid foundation in both math and science while you are still in high school, if possible, and fulfill any requirements necessary to attend a college or university with a good physics program. Once in college, you should complete a four-year degree in physics, which may be sufficient to teach at a high school level, though further education is usually necessary for other positions. After you have the education necessary for you, then you can become a physicist in a number of different professional settings.

If you want to become a physicist, then you should begin your training as soon as possible. You should take classes in mathematics and physics while still in high school, or begin attending classes at a college or university if you are already out of high school. Once in college, keep in mind that many first-year physics classes are used to eliminate those who are not really interested in physics, so do not be discouraged if the class seems especially difficult. You typically need to complete at least a four-year degree to become a physicist.

A bachelor’s degree in physics, with a teaching certificate, may be all you need if you are interested in teaching physics at a high school level. To teach at a junior college, or to become a physicist in any other field, you typically need further education. A master’s degree may be sufficient to teach at a junior college, but a doctorate is typically required to teach at a university level or to perform research professionally.

As you work on a graduate degree to become a physicist, you should also choose an area of physics in which to specialize. There are many branches within physics, including everything from particle physics to astrophysics and specific aspects of the physical world like hydrodynamics and lasers. If you want to work in theoretical physics, usually performing research, you should expect a large amount of competition for these positions at universities. Do not let this deter you, but simply be ready for the reality of this profession.

You may find it easier to become a physicist working in applied physics. This typically still requires a master’s degree or doctorate, and you should consider secondary training in fields such as software development or computer science. You can then look for work in a number of different fields, including various government standards agencies, software and computer development companies, and even some financial and investment firms.

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      Scientist with beakers