Physicists are scientists who study the fundamental properties of matter. This ranges from the microscopic world of subatomic and molecular particles, to the macroscopic world of cosmology and astrophysics. Systematic observation and experimentation provide the data from which theories describing the fundamental forces and laws of nature can be developed.
Physics is the science that deals with the structure of matter and the interactions between the fundamental constituents of the observable universe. Its object of study, therefore, ranges from quarks (tiny particles making up the nuclei of atoms) to quasars (apparently star-like objects, but brighter than billions of stars put together), found at the edge of the universe. Nothing is too small or too big for the physicist to investigate - the entire universe is their field of study. Physicists usually specialise in theoretical or experimental physics:
Experimental physicists: supply the fundamental data on which physics is founded. They spend a lot of time in the laboratory where new phenomena are examined through systematic and exact measurements, and experiments are performed to test existing theories.
Theoretical physicists: formulate the laws of nature that determine the properties and transformation of matter and energy. This is done in mathematical terms and electronic computers are often used for the calculations.
Areas of specialisation include:
With some employers, physicists can do original research while with others they apply their knowledge to the solution of specific problems.
Physicists usually work regular hours in offices and/or laboratories, but they may be required to work longer hours if they are intensely involved in their research. In general, the work is not hazardous. Some physicists may spend time working away from home to use national or international facilities that have unique equipment.
Schooling & School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course
Each institution has its own entry requirements.
Degree: BSc Physics and Mathematics as majors and complementary courses in such subjects as: Chemistry, Geology, Astronomy, Applied Mathematics, Statistics - e.g. UNISA, UJ, Wits, US, UCT, UWC, NWU, NMMU, UFS, UV.
Post-graduate study: BSc Honours is the minimum requirement to become a physicist. Many employers prefer physicists to be qualified to a doctorate level.
Diploma: N.Dip: Analytical Physics - VUT for those who want to become physical technologists
Postgraduate qualifications in this field are usually required
Any of the above-mentioned tertiary educational institutions or potential employers
The SA Institute of Physics
CSIR Main Campus
Meiring Naude Rd
Tel: (012) 843-6561