Physics is the study of laws that govern the behavior and interaction of energy and matter. It encompasses the entire physical universe and everything in it.
Why Study Physics?
Physics is essential to understanding the world around us, the world inside us, and the world beyond us. It is the most basic and fundamental science. Physics challenges our imaginations with concepts like relativity and string theory, and it leads to great discoveries, like computers and lasers, that lead to technologies which change our lives—from healing joints, to curing cancer, to developing sustainable energy solutions.
Like Science? It All Began with Physics!
Physics encompasses the study of the universe from the largest galaxies to the smallest subatomic particles. Moreover, it's the basis of many other sciences, including chemistry, oceanography, seismology, and astronomy (and can be applied to biology or medical science). All are easily accessible with a bachelor's degree in physics.
A physics training and education provides students with a helpful and flexible skill set that opens doors to a wide variety of career paths both within the traditional academic or research fields and within industry. In fact, most physics graduates will move into careers that they may never have imagined as they pursued their physics degree. Unfortunately, unlike other professions, these non-traditional jobs rarely carry the word "physicist" in their title, making our profession one with a large group of "hidden physicists" out in the world making a difference. Check out our poster below … can you "Spot the Physicist"?
Physics Major Key Skills & Knowledge
- Analytical: Organize, analyze and interpret scientific data; compare ideas and information; articulate and analytical; careful attention to detail.
- Technical: Computer simulation/modeling; laboratory techniques; operation of scientific equipment and safety procedures; programming and systems analysis skills.
- Communication: Preparing technical or research reports; synthesizing complex information to present ideas and data clearly.
- Organizational: Conceptualize and implement projects a and meet deadlines; observation and decision-making skills.
- Critical thinking: Critical thinking and problem solving.
- Research: Utilize survey research methods research skills; defining problems and developing research designs and models; curiosity, imagination, and creativity; provide relevant perspectives ability to make projections.
- Mathematical and observational skills: Utilize the appropriate mathematical formulas to perform calculations.
Employment Prospects (www.cap.ca/)
A comprehensive study of employment prospects for Canadian Physics Graduates (the Highly Qualified Personnel Study) was conducted by members of the CAP as part of a review of Canadian Academic Physics. This study was based on 945 responses from individuals who obtained their B.Sc. in Physics between 1985 and 1996. Of these, roughly 25% had gone on to complete a M.Sc. as their highest degree and 25% had gone on to complete a Ph.D. Among the findings of this study are:
- The level of unemployment within this group was 2-3% with unemployment of those with graduate degrees being less than 1%
- Physics graduates can find employment in a wide range of areas. For the group covered by the survey, who were relatively recent graduates, the distribution was:
- Research and Development - 25.8%, Teaching - 24.1%, Computing - 12.2%, Health Sciences - 6.2%, Management and administration - 4.6%, Product Development - 4.0%, Consulting - 4.0%, Sales and Marketing - 3.4%, Other - 15.8%.
- Across the entire group, 52% said that they used their physics background directly and a further 41% said that they used the skills and modes of thought obtained from their education in Physics. Of those with graduate degrees, only 3% felt that their education in Physics was not relevant to their employment.
This study concluded that physics graduates experience very low levels of unemployment at least partially due to the many career paths open to them both in traditional physics areas and beyond.
Sample Job Titles
Aerospace Research Scientist, Astronaut, Astronomer, Astrophysicist, Biophysicist, Computer Programmer, Environmental Analyst, Environmental Health Specialist, Geneticist, Inorganic Analyst, Laboratory Technician, Occupational Health & Safety Specialist, Physicist, Quality Assurance Assistant, Research & Development Scientist, Science Laboratory Technician, Systems Analyst, Teacher / Professor, Technical Writer, Potential Industries
*Please note some of these positions may require further training, certification or education.
Acoustics, Administration & Management, Aerospace, Applied Research & Development, Astronomy, Astrophysics, Biophysics, Climatology, Computers & Technology, Consulting, Defense ‐ National, Education, Environment / Conservation, Government, Healthcare, Hi-Tech Industry, Numerical Modeling, Observatories, Planetarium / Science centres, Post-Secondary Institutes, Space, Science Research, Technical Writer, Technologist, Technology, Writing
Job Sites & TrendsPhysics Trends: Field of Employment and Earnings for Physics Majors (www.AIP.org)
Associations & Professional Development