How do I get a Physics PhD? (with picture)

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
Students in a college physics class.
Students in a college physics class.

Physics is a valuable scientific field which offers both theoretical explanations for the universe as well as practical applications in medicine and technology. To become a physicist, a person is typically required to obtain a physics PhD from an accredited university. Getting a physics PhD can be a long, difficult, and expensive process, though students willing to endure are rewarded with many desirable job possibilities.

A high school student who plans on pursuing a physics PhD can prepare by enrolling in advanced mathematics and science courses. Such classes introduce students to the principles of physics, scientific research, and data analysis. Many high schools have science laboratories where students can become acquainted with tools and techniques they will use throughout their college careers.

Many universities offer four year bachelor's degree programs in physics. In addition to taking the standard courses required for graduation, physics majors often enroll in specialized classes in thermodynamics, fluidity, electromagnetism, and other physics-related subjects. Many students apply for internship positions at their universities and private institutions to work as research assistants. Internship programs provide valuable hands-on experience and improve a student's chances of being admitted into a physics PhD program.

After completing a bachelor's program, a student can apply for admissions into an accredited doctoral program. This often entails writing admissions essays and taking a standardized test to demonstrate the student's understanding of physics. Postgraduate physics programs typically select students who have excelled in undergraduate studies, shown dedication by holding internships and research positions, and provided strong essays and references.

Once admitted to a doctoral program, students typically meet with counselors and department heads to design individualized study programs. A new student specifies a physics subject on which he or she wants to concentrate, such as quantum theory, astronomy, or optics. Doctoral programs entail extensive classroom studies and laboratory training, and usually take two to four years to complete. Students are often required to compose dissertations based on independent research and defend them to a panel of experts before receiving their degrees.

A scientist who receives a physics PhD might accept a fellowship position at a university or private institution, where he or she works alongside experienced physicists to learn more about research techniques, practical applications of physics, and publishing papers. Postdoctoral research programs may last as long as two years before a physicist can begin conducting independent research. Upon completion of fellowships, physics PhD holders are qualified to work in private laboratories, research and development institutions, and universities as physics professors.

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    • Students in a college physics class.
      Students in a college physics class.