Become a Physicist

How does one become a physicist?

  • Personal qualities required include curiosity, imagination, inventiveness and, above all, honesty in dealing with data, theory and colleagues. An ability to communicate one's ideas in spoken and written form is essential and should be developed. Enjoyment of problem-solving and working with mathematics and computers is important.
  • University entrance requirements usually include a high-school grade average of at least 70%, 2 science courses chosen from physics, chemistry or biology, a pre-calculus mathematics course, and good preparation in English or French.
  • Undergraduate Education

    Bachelors Degree: four years leading to an Honours or three to four years leading to a Majors degree in Physics. These requirements vary from province to province. Courses will typically include classical and quantum mechanics, thermodynamics, a lot of mathematics and a lot of laboratory experience.

    After obtaining a BSc, physicists can, for instance, work in industrial, government or hospital laboratories as technicians, go on to teacher education programs to become high-school teachers, go on to careers in science writing or journalism, or go to graduate school in physics or some related field.

  • Graduate Education

    Masters Degree: an average of two years with some courses and a thesis leading to a MSc degree in Physics.

    After obtaining a MSc, physicists often work in responsible positions in industrial or government laboratories, as laboratory instructors at universities, or as Medical Physicists or Meteorologists if their MSc was in that field. Some students go on to complete a PhD in physics.

    PhD Degree: typically three to four years in addition to the time spent getting the MSc with some courses and a thesis which (temporarily) makes you the world's leading expert in one small area of knowledge!

    After obtaining a PhD, some physicists move directly to permanent positions in industry. Others work for one to three years as Post-Doctoral Fellows, during which time their skills and reputations as independent researchers are enhanced. They then find employment in university teaching and doing research or in industrial or government research laboratories.