Different Types Of Physicists (With Duties And Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 18 April 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A physicist is a scientist who researches and explores the laws controlling the natural world and uses the information to develop new technologies. They typically study how matter and energy behave, from gadgets to stars. If you are interested in becoming a physicist, learning their types and responsibilities is essential. In this article, we discuss the different types of physicists, list their duties and skills and examine a few career opportunities for physicists.

Types of physicists

Here are the different types of physicists:

Astrophysicists

Astrophysicists are scientists that work in areas like satellite communication and space fight navigation. Astrophysicists look at the physics of stars and other interstellar materials. They work on and research areas like how humans can reach other planets and their relationship with space. Astrophysicists study astrophysics, which is the study of interstellar objects.

Mathematical physicists

Mathematical physicists combine their knowledge of physics and mathematics to solve different problems in physics and physical formulations. These scientists specialise in the mathematical applications of physics. Mathematical physicists usually study to achieve a doctorate which focuses on two main areas, math and physics.

Medical physicists

Medical physicists specialise in medical applications of physics. These scientists work on improving medical infrastructure and tools to serve humanity. Some examples of tools that these scientists work on are imaging, radiation, ultrasounds and lasers. These physicists study general physics and may then specialise in medical applications of physics during their doctorate.

Nuclear physicists

Nuclear physicists conduct research about nuclear energy. Nuclear physicists work on understanding the various applications of nuclear energy and how to use this energy across various industries. These physicists study nuclear physics, which is the study of physics related to nuclear energy.

Theoretical physicists

Theoretical physicists work on inventing and studying theories. They may write these theories using mathematics, chemistry, calculations and biology. They use theories like string theory, quantum mechanics, dark matter, thermodynamics, electrodynamics and relativity to study and understand the complex functioning of the universe. These physicists study theoretical physics, which is the study to explain and predict natural phenomena using mathematical tools.

Experimental physicists

Experimental physicists mostly work on testing hypotheses, discovering new phenomena or developing new ideas. These physicists use various advanced tools to make discoveries. Experimental physicists usually study to get a doctorate in physics.

Computational physicists

Computational physicists work on the various principles of physics using computers. They work on creating computer models for complex mathematical problems or physical processes to identify solutions to large physics-based problems. Computational physicists' study focuses on three main areas, which are math, computer science and physics.

Atomic physicists

Atomic physicists study electrons, protons, atoms and molecules. They may also conduct research on atomic energy. Atomic physicists study atomic physics, which is the study of atoms. Atomic physics primarily deals with the arrangement of electrons around the atomic nucleus.

Read more: What Is A Geologist? (With Duties, Skills, And Salary)

Skills required to become a physicist

Below are the skills required to become a physicist:

Problem-solving skills

As a physicist, solving problems of varying nature is going to be an integral part of your responsibilities. Hence, it becomes imperative that you have great problem-solving skills. These problems range from research-related to people management or stakeholder management.

Mathematical skills

Mathematics is the language of physics. Mathematics helps you understand complex concepts of physics fairly easily. It may also help you complete complex calculations during your research in an easy manner.

Computer skills

Most of the complex calculations and equations in physics use computers. To work on most of the physicists' tools and systems, having basic computer skills is helpful. This may enable you to handle most of the calculations and technical systems confidently.

Read more: Guide: Career Options After Completing B.Sc. In Physics

Writing skills

To document your observations and findings, writing skills are very important. Well-written research or thesis may help you find acceptance globally. Having a well-written research paper helps you come across as both professional and trustworthy.

Communications skills

As a physicist, you may work with scientists from around the world, and thus having communications skills becomes important. Being able to express your points clearly and concisely to these scientists and also understanding their viewpoints well helps you to be effective in your work. These skills may also help you do well in interacting with your team members and colleagues.

Read more: What Do Environmental Scientists Do? (With Career Advice)

How to choose the right physics degree

Below are the steps you may follow while choosing the right physics degree for you:

1. Find out your area of interest

To be able to choose the right physics degree, it is important for you to understand your area of interest. A physics degree requires you to invest a significant amount of time and money. So being passionate about what you choose to study may help you give your best efforts during the course.

2. Take help from an experienced physicist

If you know someone who has studied physics, then it might be helpful to take their help in understanding the suitable options for you. Someone who has been through the entire process themselves may be able to understand your queries and guide you appropriately. Such a person may help in identifying your strengths and even help you prepare for the admissions process.

3. Take help from a career counsellor

You can also take help from a career counsellor. An experienced career counsellor can help you understand the details about different physics degrees, and that may help you make the proper decision. Career counsellors also have certain tests that find out your suitability for a particular area of study and that can further help you in making the right decision.

Read more: How To Become A Scientist In 4 Steps

Career opportunities for physicists

Below are a few career opportunities for physicists you can consider:

Astronomer

Astronomers are scientists who study the universe. These scientists observe astronomical objects and celestial bodies like stars, moons, planets, galaxies and comets. If studying and exploring celestial bodies and what lies outside earth interests you, then you may choose to pursue a career as an astronomer.

Clinical scientist

A clinical scientist works in medical physics. These scientists conduct research on different areas of medical science and work on improving and advancing the medical infrastructure and resources. If this area of work interests you, you may opt for a career as a clinical scientist.

Geophysicist

A geophysicist is a scientist who studies the various physical aspects of the earth. Geophysicists work on and research the different physical phenomena like the earth's structure, the different layers of earth and earthquakes. If studying and researching these phenomena interest you, you may choose to build a career as a geophysicist.

Lecturer or teacher

Lecturers or teachers make use of their academic knowledge to teach students the basics of the subject of their choice. As a physics teacher, your responsibility is going to be to teach technical concepts of physics to your students. If you like to share your knowledge and see yourself mentoring young students to become better physicists and human beings, then you may consider a career as a physics lecturer or teacher.

Read more: How To Become A Professor: A Complete Step-By-Step Guide

Meteorologist

Meteorologists are scientists who study the earth's atmosphere and make predictions about the weather. These scientists are responsible for the weather forecasts seen on the different TV channels or various online platforms. If studying weather and making predictions about whether interests you, then you can surely consider a career as a meteorologist.

Research scientist

Research scientists work on analysing information in controlled experiments at places like government laboratories, research organisations, environmental organisations or universities. These scientists conduct research on different aspects of an industry depending on the problem at hand and then provide a solution based on their research. If tackling diverse problems from a highly scientific point of view is something that interests you, then you can consider a career as a research scientist.

Sound engineer

Sound engineers work on the science behind the music industry. These engineers mix their technical knowledge with creativity to create the soundtracks you hear in movies and songs. If you are passionate about physics and your heart lies in music, then you may consider sound engineering as a career choice.

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