Physicist Education Requirements and College Degree Information

Physicists study the universe by examining matter, particles, energy and movement. Physicist positions are often research intensive and applicants are required to hold a Ph.D. in Physics. Related careers are available for those with undergraduate or master's degrees in physics.

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Career Overview for Physicists

A physicist is a scientist who studies motion and energy. It is a research-intensive position that uses math to develop theories and principles. Many physicists work in a lab with special equipment, such as particle accelerators. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the majority of physicist work in scientific research companies, followed by the federal government and higher education institutes (www.bls.gov). Most physicists have a Ph.D. in physics; however master's and bachelor's degrees in physics may qualify individuals for related careers in physics.

Education Requirements

A graduate who holds a bachelor's degree in physics may be able to secure a position as a physicist's research assistant or enter into a related field such as computer science. A master's degree in physics provides more employment options in manufacturing and applied research areas that do not require a Ph.D.

Terminal master's degree programs in physics offer students various concentration areas. Some common concentration areas include accelerator physics, solid state physics and elementary fields and particles. Some master's degree programs may also allow a student to choose a secondary education option, which qualifies graduates to teach at a public high school.This secondary education option includes a teaching experience practicum that is supervised by a state licensed, physics teacher.

A Ph.D. in Physics is the highest degree in the field and can take up to four years or longer to complete. The duration of a student's enrollment depends largely on how quickly he or she is progressing with the research and the writing of a dissertation. Like a master's degree in physics, doctoral students are expected to focus on a particular aspect of physics and develop a research proposal, which culminates in the submission of a dissertation and its defense. Core courses in graduate-level physics programs cover areas such as electromagnetic theory, quantum mechanics, statistical physics and classical mechanics. Elective courses vary and depend largely on the interests of a student.

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