What they do

Physicists study the nature of all matter and energy, including structures, behaviour,formation/generation and the interactions between the two. Physics can broadly be divided into theoretical physics and experimental physics. Theoretical physics involves developing models, or theories, which attempt to explain and predict how and why certain aspects of the world work and behave. Experimental physics involves testing these theories, determining their limits and using the results to amend or strengthen the theory as appropriate. All physicists will generally work in both of these areas to some degree. Physicists working at universities will also be required to spend time teaching students.

Working conditions

Physicists usually work in laboratories, offices or workshops, though some may also carry out fieldwork in various environments, depending on the nature of their research. Many physicists work in universities, where they split their time between teaching and research work, however there are also opportunities to work in government organisations or private industry. They may work with radioactive substances and other restricted and/or potentially harmful materials, which require strict safety and control procedures to be followed to minimise danger. Physicists usually work standard business hours, however overtime or weekend work may be required when setting up and carrying out experiments or when conducting fieldwork.

Tools and technologies

Physicists use a variety of highly specialised instruments and laboratory equipment to conduct, record and analyse experiments. Depending on the nature of the experiment, this equipment may be used to heat or cool materials to extreme temperatures, generate and measure electrical currents, examine the atomic structure of matter, and carry out many other highly technical and specialised tasks. They must also be familiar with computers to control equipment, run simulations and to write reports based on their findings.

How do I become one?

Education and training

To become a physicist you usually need to study a degree in science majoring in physics. To improve your employment prospects, you may need to complete further postgraduate study.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant undergraduate courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.