The study of Physics has brought about invention of so many vital theories such as ‘Big Bang theory’, ‘Quantum theory’ and ‘Theories of relativity’ which have played a pivotal role in the development of key innovations – including TV, radio, laser, computer technology, Nuclear weapons and DNA. If it wasn’t for Physicists, the modern world would not have been variously known as the Space Age or the Atomic Age. The various skills that studying physics develops are useful far beyond the lab and are valued in a vast range of careers.
When deciding a career in Physics, the key aspects that you should consider are the combined areas of study you enjoyed and the practical applications that interests you. As Physics forms the basis for many disciplines such as electromagnetism, statistical mechanics and thermodynamics, and increasingly commercial ones, you can go into almost any industry and field of work. Whether you want to explore space, matter, time or other intriguing elements of the physical world, you don’t need to be the descendants of Einstein or certified genius in order to decipher physics.
You just need a good grasp of scientific principles, a very strong head for numbers and a keen interest in discoveries relating to the physical world to make a contribution in this field.
The study of Physics helps you gain more in-depth and specialized knowledge, in order to prepare you to work effectively in the field you choose.
Potential areas of specialization in Physics include particle physics, astrophysics, biotechnology, meteorology, nanotechnology, condensed matter theory, quantum dynamics, applied physics, plasma physics, aerospace dynamics, atomic and laser physics, atmospheric, oceanic and planetary physics, and climate science.
A career in Physics spreads across many different industries – including education, aerospace industries, automotive, defence, healthcare, Computing and IT, technology and the public sector.
Citizens of the future must, more than ever before, be scientifically literate. Here are some of the courses and specializations you can look at:
Space and Astronomy: Most students crave to be an astronaut when they are young; this is definitely possible with your interests in this field. Astronomy is considered as a sub-field of physics; which is further divided into several branches such as Astrophysics, Astrometeorology, Astrometry and Cosmology. Roles within this sector are limited and highly competitive and few courses are not directly involved in space travel.
Roles under this sector involve operating radio and optical telescopes, and collecting data from global satellites and spacecraft. Other tasks within this sector include research of new materials and technologies, investigation, measuring the performance of existing materials, and problem-solving at the design stage.
Engineering: There are numerous applications under engineering and other technical fields- including civil engineering, electrical engineering, chemical engineering and mechanical engineering. There are various opportunities under this sector which fall under various industries including transport, energy, medicine, defence and telecommunication; which includes handling tasks such as manufacturing processes, developing and improving products. Whereas, Manufacturing and technology-based roles include Accelerator Operator, Applications Engineer, Data Analyst, Design Engineer, IT Consultant, and Laser Engineer.
Healthcare: Although it may not be the first Industry you think of, but Physics careers in healthcare sector are numerous. Biomedical engineering which overlaps with Medical Physics work alongside with Physicists to create, review and maintain equipment and technologies. For example, some develop safer radiation therapies for people suffering from cancer. Others may develop accurate imaging technologies such as Ultrasound imaging and Magnetic resonance(MRI). Physicists are employed within the areas under healthcare in radiation oncology, nuclear medicine and radiology. Cardiology and neurology, reserved for those with additional medical degree.
New Age Technology: Technology being the broad arena of the continual growth and innovation, it opens up many opportunities and challenges in the career path. There is a high demand for research in various backgrounds for the young aspirer’s in the potential fields including Robotics, Nanotechnology, Artificial intelligence, and Nanoscience. Large companies such as Samsung, Huawei and Sony are in keen to attract talented and innovative researchers all around the world.
Meteorology and Geophysics: Environment is a prime factor to those who study physics; contributions under various environmental issues and scientific understanding of the earth functions have been tremendously valued. Many geophysicists who study earth using gravity, electrical, magnetic, and seismic features are concerned with the predictions of natural disasters and study the internal structure and evolution of the earth. Whereas, Meteorologists majorly focus on weather forecasting and research on long-term climate change; Climatologists is also closely related category of researchers in climatology, the study of climate.
New and Renewable Energy: As this area has become more prominent in the present, a skills-shortage has emerged; creating many career opportunities for graduates. With the rise of renewable energy, many large oil and gas companies are big players in this sector. Energy companies are also branching out into renewable alternatives such as wind and solar energy, and are investing heavily in research and development in this area, offering career potential for those who are interested to contribute. Role under this sector here could be to collaborate with other scientists and engineers to develop efficient and functional energy systems which harness the Earth’s energy sustainably and cost-effectively.
Research Scientists: Research scientists are employed in applied scientific fields that involve development and design work. It relays on observations, performing experiments and to create detailed papers for peer review. Students who are interested in the field of scientific research can get in as a trainee or technician with the good undergraduate degree. Students who are looking to pursue long-term research can consider further studies in MSc, MPhys and PhD qualifications, leading researchers can also obtain the title of ‘Chartered Physicist’ (CPhys).
However, this is not the end; there are numerous other career opportunities one could think of. Well, one can use their mathematical proficiency to enter the financial world or knowledge of technological advancements in legal sector including forensics. Physicists are in high demand in the media and entertainment sector for the roles in scientific journalism, film effects and in computer gaming programming. While there are umpteen options available to pursue a long term career in physics, it is important for students to start planning early.
A lot of students want to take up Physics as a major in their undergrads based on scores and grades. While universities often pay much attention to GRE scores, grades, letter of recommendation and undergraduate research, supporting skills such as math and computer programming are also important to inculcate. Communication skills are very critical in writing and preparing research documents.
The author is the Principal of GIIS Chinchwad