Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics

How to Become a Physicist: Qualification, Fees, Salary & More

Are you curious about the laws that govern the universe? A career in physics is highly competitive, yet really exciting. Here’s a full guide on how to become a Physicist by Dr. Sagnik Chakraborty.

1. Role of a Physicist: What does a Physicist Do?

Ever wonder how we can take images of constituent tiny atoms in a crystal or talk about the composition of a star, several thousands of light years away? The primary job of a Physicist is to understand and explain natural phenomenon from fundamental laws and principles and make scientific predictions by applying our understanding of how the universe works.

how long does it take to become a physicist

I have been contributing my part as a Physicist, collaborating with several other scientists across disciplines and publishing the findings in high impact scientific journals to further our understanding of nature. I have enjoyed teaching Physics to undergraduates during my doctoral research, have contributed to the technology development of a big-tech semiconductor company. At present, I run an educational institute that I co-founded with my wife and fellow Physicist where we mentor Physics enthusiasts from secondary to master’s level.

Skillsets: Mastering Physics at the highest academic level, Coding in Matlab/Python, Analytical skills in Research and Development, Problem solving and Troubleshooting.

Contents: Jump to Section

1.1 Is Physics a Good Career Option?
2.1 Subjects Taken
2.2 Entrance Exams
2.3 Academic Qualifications/ Options
2.4 License Required
2.5 Internship/ Work Experience Required
2.6 Cost of Tuition and Training
2.7 Competition &  Scope in India for Physicists
2.8 General Age to Start Professional Career for Physicist
2.9 Governing Bodies
3.1 Specializations/ Sub-Professions
3.2 Companies & Institutions that Employ Physicists
3.3 Growth Prospects
3.4 Entrepreneurship Opportunities
3.5 What is the Salary of a Physicist in India?
4.1 Top Universities in India
4.2 Top Universities in World
4.3 Famous Personalities
4.4 Useful Links

1.1 Is Physicist a Good Career Option?

Yes

A career in physics is certainly a great career option, especially for those who would like to go for an intellectual path. There is a lot of creative fulfilment in this profession too. And if you like to be in an environment where you can meet bright minds, and learn from each other, this is a great profession. For example, I get the opportunity to collaborate with with young fellow physicists on a day to day basis. This makes sure that I get to learn everyday with others and that is definitely fulfilling.

2. How to Become a Physicist in India

To understand how to become a physicist in India, one needs to take a look at the different courses or academic programs that are offered nationwide, entrance exams that needs to be qualified, and colleges that can be applied to. Read below about the courses, exams, and tuition fees. Let’s start with physicist education requirements.

What qualifications do you need to be a physicist

2.1.1 Subjects Taken at School

10+2 & PCM: Physics, chemistry, maths, English (+ biology optional).

To pursue a career in physics one should come from a science background. So take science stream or PCM in 12th grade.

An aspirant needs to necessarily have physics as one of their major subjects in 12th grade. As the name physicist suggests, a good knowledge of physics is required to take up this career.

Between maths and biology, maths is a preferred subject. However, if you’re planning to take up a field like Biophysics, biology would be a good addition to take along with maths.

what does a physicist do

2.1.2 Subjects Taken at College: Physicist Course Requirements

Quantum Mechanics, Electromagnetism, Atomic and Molecular Physics and many more.

There is a range of physics related courses. A few types of physics courses or subjects you’ll have to take in college are:

  • Classical Mechanics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Statistical Physics
  • Numerical Methods
  • Electromagnetism
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics
  • High Energy Physics

Along with these, there are also other elective subjects that you can choose from according to your interest and planned specialization.

types of physics courses

2.2 Entrance Exams

Depends on college, IIT JAM for IIT’s
SAT & Physics SAT for colleges in the US.

Physics degree entry requirements depend on the level. The best colleges have their own entrance examinations. There are integrated bachelors and master’s program in IISERs from JEE as well. For postgraduates, the IIT’s conduct Joint Admission to Master’s program: IIT JAM and there are university specific entrance examinations.

One can take SAT to study in the US along with the subject SATs for Physics. GRE general and GRE Physics are standard requirements for pursuing graduate studies in Physics from most US universities.

2.3 Academic Qualifications/ Options

M.Sc. or Masters in Science (Physics), Ph.D. in Physics, Integrated Masters in Science-Ph.D. (Physics).

After 10+2, a student can enroll in courses like Bachelors in Science or B.Sc.in Physics and later go for Masters in Science (Physics) and finally Ph.D. One can also go for an integrated 5 year M.Sc. program in Physics.

Alternatively, one can also enter this profession after pursuing B.E./B.Tech degree, and then enrolling into an integrated Ph.D. program (MPH). The candidate can also enroll in a Ph.D. program after completing a Masters in Physics.

physicist education requirements

2.4 License Required

None.

There are many eligibility tests for colleges & universities in order to become a research fellow, depending on the institute. National Eligibility Test (NET) organized by Council of Scientific and Industrial Research or Graduate Aptitude Test in Engineering (GATE) in Physics are standard requirements for a Junior Research Fellow. In addition, there are separate entrance examinations for institute fellowships.

However, there is no license required as such to practise this profession.

How many years does it take to be a physicist

2.5 Internship/ Work Experience Required

Highly recommended but not required.

Internships aren’t a compulsion during the initial stages of study. However, it is desirable to acquire work experience and gain practical knowledge in the field.

2.6 Cost of Tuition and Training

10 thousand – 2 lacs; depending on course & college

The top institutes are not that expensive. The fees would be less than ₹ 5 lacs up to master’s level. As a Junior Research Fellow, stipends and scholarships are available to aid research and higher studies.

The tuition and training fees depend on the institution and the nature of the course. It also varies depending on the duration of the course and the mode of the study. The fee for BS-MS programs in India is ₹45-55,000 for government colleges per semester including hostel (for 5 year degree program). For example, for IISER Pune, the fees for integrated BS-MS program is approximately ₹ 58,000 per semester for general seats including hostel.

2.7 Competition & Scope in India for Physicists

Extremely competitive both for college entrances and in the field.

It is extremely competitive to get into a top undergraduate college and remains incredibly competitive all along the way.

2.8 General Age to Start Professional Career for a Physicist

24-30 years

How long does it take to become a physicist? Well, it depends at what level one wants to start. Junior Research fellows start right after completing the masters program (say around 24 years). Post doctorates are in their early thirties and so on.

how to become a physicist salary educational requirements

2.9 Governing Bodies

None

A career in physics does not have any such governing bodies in India.

3. Professional Opportunities/ Career Growth for Physicists

3.1 Specializations/ Sub-Professions

What kind of jobs do physics majors get? Well, there are many specializations to get into after choosing a career in physics. Here are the top 5 physics careers:

  • Astrophysicist
  • Biophysicist
  • Condensed Matter Physicist
  • High Energy Physicist
  • Computational Physicist

Other than these, there are also many more types of jobs that you can get with a physics degree.

3.2 Companies & Institutions That Employ a Physicist

Research and higher education institutes and universities are the top employers of physicists. Other than that, R&D companies in STEM, and also consulting firms employ physicists. Are physicists in demand? Yes, definitely, although permanent jobs are few, so there is a lot of competition.

3.3 Growth Prospects

One can be a researcher for life, gain experience and expertise in several cross-disciplinary domains and make significant contribution in education and research for life.

physics related courses

3.4 Entrepreneurship Opportunities

Yes.

A career in physics offers good enough entrepreneurship opportunities. People can branch out and create a startup or their own consultancy firms. Experience plays a vital role to establish oneself as an entrepreneur.

I have started my own educational institute. There are plenty of opportunities, but nothing is set in stone. Physicists can take their lab skills to launch a product-based start-up and the same holds for analytical skills they acquire in due course of their career trajectories.

physics degree entry requirements

3.5 What is the Salary of a Physicist in India?

3-5 lacs per annum

The starting package for physicist salary would depend on the place of graduation and the degree. A junior research fellow makes around 3-5 lacs p.a. in India.

4. Further Resources

4.1 Top Universities in India

A few top universities in India, which offer programs in physics are as follows:

  • Indian Institutes of Technology (IITs)
  • Indian Institutes of Science Education and Research (IISERs)
  • Tata Institute of Fundamental Research (TIFR)
  • Indian Institute of Science (IISc)
  • Saha Institute of Nuclear Physics (SINP)
  • Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU)
  • Jadavpur University (JU)

These are the standard institutes for research program in India.

4.2 Top Universities in World

Any Research-I university in US is a great place to pursue research.

4.3 Famous Personalities

Now that you know everything about how to become a physicist, following the famous personalities in the field to draw inspiration from them will be a good idea. There are many to get inspired by: Albert Einstein, Paul Dirac, Richard Feynman, Stephen Hawking, J.C Bose, S.N.Bose, Meghnad Saha, C.V. Raman to name a few.

4.4 Useful Links

If you’re looking for more information on how to become a physicist, there are a lot of sources available online which can be extremely helpful for aspiring candidates. However, here’s the standard link from American Physical Society.

So, those were the major pointers on how to become a physicist.

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Read next:

Physicist Career Path: Is Physics a Good Career for You?

For those who love science and answering the universe’s big questions, a physicist career path can be a great idea. Here’s a guide by Industry professional Dr. Sagnik Chakraborty to help you know whether this is the right profession for you.

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