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What Can You do With a Degree in Physics?

A thousand years ago, people believed that the earth was at the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, no one would believe us if we told them that we could illuminate a room without fire. A hundred years ago, the big bang theory had just started making waves.

As time progresses, our science has come to be more precise. At the centre of it all? Physics.

Here’s why physics is important and how you can make a career out of it

Physics - The Basics

Physics is a natural science that deals with the study of how things work. It is a science that helps us understand how the building blocks of everything in the known universe interact with each other. Physics not only explains how things work, but it also tries to elucidate the origin of different properties of the universe. Laws that govern most objects in the universe are understood through the study of physics where these laws are expressed in the form of mathematical notations.

From studying atoms, the tiniest units of everything, to galaxies that encompass billions of planets and stars, physicists do it all. Physics helps to understand the energy sources of our planet, weather conditions, and build machines based on certain properties of different elements.

But does physics have the answers to everything? Absolutely not. Although science helps to prove certain things, there still is a chance that they can be challenged or even rewritten, once more evidence suggests that things work differently than previously imagined. So, how does studying physics help then?

Why study physics?`

Most people might think that the general theory of relativity is amazing but haven’t the slightest idea about what it is or how it works. They have no reason to study physics nor will their livelihoods or lifestyles change by learning the theory of relativity. However, what we fail to understand is that physics has in fact affected all of our lives positively – be it communication or electricity, the very fundamental pillars of our society are built on scientific advancements that stem from studying natural sciences.

Light bulbs, cameras, television, motor vehicles, blow-dryers, electricity, the Internet – the list of inventions that would not exist without physics is endless. In order to understand concepts from different fields such as astronomy, biology, earth and environmental sciences, physics is necessary. Medical equipment used for magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, computed tomography (CT) scans, positron emission tomography (PET) scans etc are all built by applying concepts borrowed heavily from physics. With the addition of newer technologies, it is possible to improve existing ones. Take for example, rockets. We began to first use them as weapons (the Chinese used them for warfare since the 13th century) which later doubled up as a vehicle for interplanetary and other space missions. However, we have recently changed rocketry forever with the invention of multi-use rockets – rockets that can be reused for missions.

Cellular communication works on radio waves, one of the low frequency waves of the electromagnetic spectrum. Without the introduction of the electromagnetic spectrum to help us understand the properties of different waves and their working, we would never have succeeded in building infrastructure that supports long-range, high-quality communication. Want popcorn? Just put some kernels in a microwave oven that makes use of microwaves. The ability to differentiate between the waves and manipulate them in order to use in a variety of applications has been one of the turning points in scientific advancement. Also, we can’t forget the fact that we now split atoms for energy!

Nuclear energy, considered to be one of the cleanest sources of energy, is obtained by splitting atoms. The process is deceivingly simple – split atoms in a reactor, heat water, turn it into steam, power turbines using said steam and generate electricity. All from an atom! Physics much? However, from designing reactors to actually knowing how to split the atoms, physicists play major roles. You really cannot walk into a room with an axe, looking for the right atoms to split.

One needs to have a good grasp of mathematics and have a strong foundation of scientific principles in order to understand the concepts in physics easily. In order to enhance quantitative reasoning and to improve problem solving capabilities, studying physics might just be the thing. By studying physics, one can go quite far in academics, technological organizations, scientific development and government sectors. Let’s take a look at some of the career opportunities for those interested in taking up physics.

Career opportunities

Scientist – With a master’s degree in physics, it is possible to begin working in a research facility. However, with a doctoral degree, it is possible to be at the forefront of groundbreaking research. Areas like quantum physics, astrophysics, nuclear physics, oceanic physics, aerospace physics and biotechnology, among others, require a lot of scientists so that newer technologies can be developed for the future.

Science writer – With an undergraduate or a graduate degree in physics, it is possible to become a science writer. Science writers require in-depth knowledge about the various concepts in science in order to communicate them to their readers in an effective and easily understandable manner. Through scientific writing, one can explain the latest developments in the world to the common man which might pique their interest in matters related to science.

Academia – In order to become a high-school science teacher, one might require an undergraduate degree with other relevant certifications or a master’s degree. To teach at a university, one will be required to have a doctoral degree. By imparting knowledge, we can ensure that the next generation possesses the necessary scientific temperament by which our future can be remodelled through the ways of science.

Policy-making – One can climb up the bureaucratic ladder with a degree in physics. By being able to understand how science can impact society, one can apply their knowledge in matters concerning the government and a particular region. Areas like geology, environmental sectors, technological sectors, healthcare, and research can benefit from officials who are capable of making decisions that can positively affect their growth. Policies can also be created in such a way that the interest of the people as well as scientific requirements go hand-in-hand.

Biomedical engineering –  The healthcare industry can benefit from physicists owing to their in-depth knowledge of how technology works. Medical physics and biomedical engineering are overlapping fields where the expertise of physicists may be crucial. Many medical equipment work on different principles of physics and in order to improve their accuracy or to test their effectiveness, physicists are required.

Where is it headed?

It is safe to say that physics is absolutely necessary for future technological advancements that will uphold our world. One of the most discussed concepts of the decade is “Quantum Computing”. This technology has been made possible because of physics and its role in helping us understand quantum properties. Click here to read more about quantum computing. Multidisciplinary research is touted to be the future. Fields like robotics, automation, heavy machinery, renewable energy, healthcare and climate science are set to gain maximum momentum in the coming years and understanding how physics plays a relevant role in these sectors would be the right thing for a budding physicist to do right now.

Becoming a physicist is not an easy task and requires years of training. However, the results are very rewarding. No matter what the invention or discovery, physics is sure to be at the centre of it all.

Watch this space to find out more about the best courses for physics!

Date added
03.08.2021

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Global Ed

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