A physicist is a scientist who studies the physical makeup of the universe. This can range from astrophysicists, who study the behavior of stars and celestial bodies, to particle physicists, who seek the tiny structures that make up all matter. Physicist jobs include positions in education, research, and space exploration. Most physicist jobs require advanced degrees, such as a doctorate or master’s degree, although less qualified persons can work in support positions.
The study of physics goes back to the beginnings of science and includes such legendary figures as Aristotle, Albert Einstein, and Stephen Hawking. In modern times, the field is broken into many specialized sub-fields, including astrophysics, nuclear physics, and particle physics. All these fields are constantly growing, as ongoing research makes new discoveries on a regular basis. A large number of physicist jobs are in higher education, as professors and instructors teach the next generation of physicists. These teachers must remain abreast of all current theories and advances in the various fields of physics.
Universities also employ numerous research physicists, as do government agencies and private enterprise. Physicists with bachelor’s degrees often work as researchers or technicians while completing their doctorates. In the research field, physicist jobs involve exploring the boundaries of known science and seeking the underlying principles of existence itself. Many research physicists work with advanced equipment such as particle accelerators, radio telescopes, or nuclear reactors. Theoretical physicists, who explore possibilities that current science may not be able to demonstrate, also fall into this category, which includes renowned figures like Einstein and Hawking.
Other physicist jobs are in the applied sciences rather than theory and research. For example, a nuclear physicist may work in a nuclear power facility or for a regulatory agency, ensuring that such facilities are operated according to international standards. Optical physicists can develop new uses for lasers or fiber optic networks. Some astrophysicists interpret the data from radio telescopes and space telescopes. Others work for national space exploration agencies or in the growing field of private space travel.
The fields of medicine, geology, and computer science also include physicist jobs. Nuclear medicine, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and even nanotechnology require technicians who are expert in both medicine and physics. The frontiers of computer information storage often involve miniaturization, requiring physicists who understand how matter operates on a microscopic level. Geophysicists explore the physical principles behind earthquakes, tsunamis, and other natural phenomena that can affect life in fundamental ways.