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Article: Physics Careers

Summary

This article covers the following jobs:

  • Acoustician
  • Astronomer
  • Geophysicist
  • Medical Physicist
  • Meteorologist
  • Physics Laboratory Technician.

The job descriptions are only a brief summary. You should do further research on the jobs that interest you.

Video: - Various: Physics

Introduction

Physicists study the workings of Earth and the universe. They help us to understand everything from the origins of the universe to the tiny particles we are made of.

Many physicists apply their knowledge to solve problems and create useful products in a very wide range of areas, including engineering, medical technology, aerospace, meteorology and the environment.

Some of the jobs in this area

Medical Physicist

Medical physicists design, develop and maintain the complex equipment used to diagnose and treat patients in hospital.

This equipment includes:

  • X-ray machines
  • machines for measuring hearing, breathing, and heart rhythm
  • lasers for surgery
  • artificial arms, legs and hip joints
  • implants, such as heart valves.

Medical physicists set up equipment, for example, calculating the precise, safe dose needed to treat cancer in radiotherapy.

They also help hospitals to choose new equipment to buy, and then train staff in how to use it properly and safely.

To become a medical physicist, you'll need a degree in healthcare science with medical physics pathways, or to follow a relevant degree with postgraduate training in the NHS.

Acoustician

Acousticians study the physics and management of sound, using their knowledge to solve problems in areas such as industry, medicine and the environment.

Some acousticians help to measure and control noise and vibration levels in the workplace, working to strict regulations and legislation.

In environmental noise control, acousticians predict and measure traffic, rail and aircraft noise, using their findings to advise local authorities, rail companies and airports.

Other acousticians research and develop the sophisticated equipment used to record and measure sound, including microphones, amplifiers and sound-level meters. They also work on medical technology such as ultrasound testing.

You'll need a relevant degree to become an acoustician.

Astronomer

Astronomers study the physics of the universe, including the workings of stars, planets and galaxies. They make observations using telescopes on the ground or in space, and analyse and predict the behaviour of all the objects in the universe.

In all areas of research, astronomers develop our understanding of the origin and evolution of the universe. Some astronomers design and build equipment to collect new data.

The usual route towards a career as a professional astronomer is through a first degree in a relevant subject, such as astrophysics, astronomy, physics or mathematics. Astronomers almost always need a postgraduate qualification as well (usually a PhD).

Geophysicist

Geophysicists study the physical structure and workings of the Earth. This includes the Earth's origin and evolution, gravity and radioactivity, and motion within the planet's core.

Many geophysicists work for companies that find and extract natural resources, such as oil, gas, metals and minerals. They travel to areas where they think these resources are, collect data to confirm their predictions, and advise if the area is suitable for exploration.

To locate resources, geophysicists can use techniques such as seismic surveys, aerial photography and satellite images.

To become a geophysicist, you usually need a degree in geophysics or a closely-related subject. Many entrants also have a postgraduate qualification.

Meteorologist

Meteorologists study the atmosphere and how it affects the Earth. They use their findings to understand and predict weather and climate.

They collect data on atmospheric conditions such as pressure, wind, temperature, humidity and cloud level. They use weather stations on land and ships, radar and satellites to collect data at fixed times of the day.

As well as providing advice to the public in the form of weather forecasts, meteorologists advise government, industry, agriculture and the armed forces.

Some meteorologists study and measure global climate change over longer periods, assessing the implications of this for the environment.

Meteorologists are graduates. There are some specialist degrees in meteorology. Many entrants have first degrees in maths or physics, followed by a specialist postgraduate qualification.

Physics Laboratory Technician

Physics laboratory technicians help and support the work of physicists and physics teachers. They work in labs in places like schools, universities, hospitals and industrial companies.

Their day-to-day tasks include:

  • setting up equipment ready for experiments
  • managing the stock of equipment and ordering replacements
  • doing experiments and writing up the results
  • looking after equipment and doing some repairs
  • cleaning the lab and removing waste safely.

Technicians usually train in the workplace, sometimes studying part-time at college, for example, by day-release, for relevant qualifications.

Further Information

Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine (IPEM)

Address: Fairmount House, 230 Tadcaster Road, York YO24 1ES

Tel: 01904 610821

Email: office@ipem.ac.uk

Website: www.ipem.ac.uk

Geological Society

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BG

Tel: 020 7434 9944

Website: www.geolsoc.org.uk

Institute of Acoustics (IOA)

Address: 3rd Floor St Peter's House, 45-49 Victoria Street, St Albans, Hertfordshire AL1 3WZ

Tel: 01727 848195

Email: ioa@ioa.org.uk

Website: www.ioa.org.uk

Institute of Physics (IOP)

Address: 76 Portland Place, London W1B 1NT

Tel: 020 7470 4800

Email: physics@iop.org

Website: www.iop.org

Royal Meteorological Society (RMetS)

Address: 104 Oxford Road, Reading, Berkshire RG1 7LL

Tel: 0118 9568500

Email: chiefexec@rmets.org

Website: www.rmets.org/our-activities/careers-and-courses

Royal Astronomical Society (RAS)

Address: Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J 0BQ

Tel: 020 7734 4582

Website: www.ras.org.uk

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