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Occupational Profile

Physicist

Physicists investigate why our physical environment behaves as it does and solve technological problems.

  • Avg. Salary $106,952.00
  • Avg. Wage $55.19
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
Also Known As

Physical Scientist, Plasma Physicist, Research Scientist, Theoretical Physicist, Thermal Physicist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

N/A
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Physicist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Physicists
NOC code: 2111.1
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to carry out analyses of research data in order to formulate and substantiate new theories, concepts and laws related to the properties and interactions of matter and energy; and in developing new processes and devices in fields such as electronics, communications, power generations and distribution, aerodynamics, optics and lasers, remote sensing, and medicine and health

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with scientific instruments to conduct experiments; and in designing and developing instruments and procedures

DIRECTIVE

Interest in supervising technologists and technicians; and in participating as members of research and development teams

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation. 

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 30, 2016

In general, physicists:

  • endeavour to understand fundamental processes in nature
  • develop practical applications (for example, in electronics, communications, power generation and distribution, aerodynamics, optics and lasers, remote sensing, medicine and health)
  • confront and solve technological problems (for example, in diagnostic medical imaging or imaging the interior of the earth).

Many physicists specialize in particular areas such as:

  • acoustics (sound and its transmission)
  • archaeometry (the use of physical techniques, developed by physicists, for dating and analysis of archaeological materials)
  • astronomy and astrophysics (planets, stars and galaxies)
  • atmospheric physics (processes in the atmospheres of the earth and other planets)
  • atomic and molecular physics (the structure and behaviour of atoms and molecules)
  • biophysics and physical biology (how living organisms work at the level of cells and molecules; for example, how the brain stores and processes information and how plants process light)
  • condensed matter physics (solids and liquids, including materials for electronic computer chips, laser diodes, super conductivity, magnetic materials, alloys and plastics)
  • cosmology (the universe from creation to the present time)
  • econophysics (the application of physical methods to economics)
  • environmental physics (the development and application of physical methods to environmental research)
  • general relativity (black holes, gravitational radiation)
  • geophysics (the earth, including seismology, meteorology, climatology, aeronomy and oceanography)
  • health physics (radiation hazards and how to protect against them)
  • material science (the development of new materials with desired properties, such as plastic water bottles and steel-reinforced concrete)
  • mechanics (the influence of forces on matter and the motions of particles in fields of force)
  • medical physics (the application of physical principles to the diagnosis and treatment of human disease, including the development and clinical use of radiation tools and other ways of imaging the organs of the body)
  • metrology (measurement)
  • nanoscience and nanotechnology (the control of matter at the level of atoms and molecules to create new products such as stain-resistant fabrics or next-generation integrated circuits)
  • neurophysics (how the nervous system works; for example, memory)
  • optics (light, its sources, behaviour and effects)
  • photonics (optical networking)
  • space and plasma physics (how ionized gas exists in space and its impact on various objects, including the earth)
  • stable and radioactive isotope physics (the use of isotopic measurements in a wide variety of scientific analyses)
  • subatomic physics or particle physics (the fundamental particles and forces in nature)
  • thermodynamics (the nature of heat and its effects on matter).

Physicists may study any of these areas by:

  • carrying out experiments
  • designing sophisticated computer simulations (computational physics)
  • searching for and developing theories that organize the results of experiment and computation.

Physicists work with scientists in other fields such as engineering, biology, chemistry, geology, mathematics and computer science, and often combine physics with these sciences.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Physicists generally work in laboratories, classrooms or offices. They also may work outdoors. Travel often is required.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Physicists need the following characteristics:

  • perseverance
  • an interest in building things or understanding how or why things work
  • an aptitude for mathematics and an analytical approach to problem solving
  • the ability to think independently and creatively
  • self-motivation and organizational skills
  • the ability to work well with others.

They should enjoy synthesizing information and finding innovative solutions to problems, using sophisticated instruments and equipment to perform tasks requiring precision, and supervising the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Most physicists begin their post-secondary education with a 4-year bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree in physics, then go on to earn a master of science (M.Sc.) or a doctoral (PhD) degree in physics or a sub-discipline of physics. Physicists who wish to do original research generally require a PhD and 1 to 5 years of post-doctoral research in a university or government laboratory. In medical physics, 1 to 2 years of after-degree clinical (residency) training is required.

The Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) offers Professional Physicist (P.Phys.) certification to members who meet the mandatory requirements. For more information on the application and certification processes, visit the CAP website.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

University of Calgary

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Physicists may be employed by or work on a contract basis for:

  • electronic, electrical and aerospace manufacturing companies
  • telecommunications companies
  • power utilities
  • private research and consulting firms
  • universities
  • government research establishments
  • hospitals.

Employment opportunities for physicists vary depending on whether they have a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. Individuals who have a B.Sc. or M.Sc. in physics may find employment in design and development, administration or sales positions. Teaching positions may require further education (for more information, see the Secondary School Teacher profile and the College, Technical or Vocational Instructor profile).

Those who have a PhD are more likely to be involved in basic or applied research, teaching at the university level or administration (for more information, see the University Professor profile).

Advancement opportunities vary depending on the place of employment and type of work. Physicists involved in research, or research and development, may become project supervisors, directors of research laboratories or managers of research departments. Some physicists eventually move into purely administrative or management positions.

Physicists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2111: Physicists and astronomers. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Salaries vary widely depending on the requirements of the position and the qualifications of the individual.

If a university setting, salaries for assistant professors range between $60,000 and $120,000. Senior full professors can earn more than $140,000 a year (2016 estimate).

Physicists and astronomers
NOC code: 2111

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $33.62 $51.07 $39.04 $40.50
Overall $34.95 $70.76 $55.19 $55.14
Top $40.27 $89.83 $65.71 $55.14

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

B: Good Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Good Reliability, represents a CV of between 6.01% and 15.00% and/or fewer than 30 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 50% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Public Administration

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

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Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

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Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

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2015 Vacancy Rate

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Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 30, 2016

Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) website careers section: www.cap.ca/careers

American Institute of Physics (AIP) website: www.aip.org/career-resources

Society of Physics Students (U.S.) website careers section: www.spsnational.org/cup/

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 23, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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