Physics is the science of understanding how all the elements of the natural world interact and function. It concerns the properties of matter, energy and all their myriad byproducts like heat, light, electricity, radiation or magnetism. With a postgraduate qualification, it’s possible to deepen your knowledge and enter or re-enter a career in the field more qualified and confident than ever. However, it’s not necessarily for everyone.
This article will cover four questions regarding whether or not postgraduate study into physics is for you. In answering each, you should have a better idea of whether or not it’d be something for you:
The day to day professional life of a physicist varies substantially between projects and specialisations. The life of a computational physicist will be different from a chemical physicist, which are both different from someone in nuclear physics or polymer physics. That said, they typically work at either private research centres or universities to further their field, but can also be found undergoing multi-disciplinary pursuits working to develop new technology, medical treatments or otherwise.
Postgraduate physics courses typically supplement an existing foundation of mathematical and scientific knowledge (preferably physics), providing units in topics like:
To enter one of these courses, it is often mandatory to have studied physics with substantial mathematics components throughout an undergraduate degree. However, many universities allow applicants from cognate disciplines, provided they can prove they’ve completed some relevant physics/ mathematics units.
Overall, this is a line of study for the insatiably curious. Postgraduate physics will bitterly test even the most accomplished students, requiring them to grapple with problems the greatest geniuses across hundreds of years made their life’s work. You will require nothing less than unending persistence and prodigious mathematical ability. If you’re the sort of person with these qualities however, postgraduate physics study could be one of the best decisions you make.
If you’re thinking of entering a research-based field via PhD or master’s by research, you may have difficulties finding work. It’s by no means impossible however; we’ve even written an article about getting around this issue here. The specificity and demand for your field will likely work heavily in your favour too, particularly if you’re on the forefront of nanotechnology or computational physics given the rise of quantum computers boasting historic quantities of cubits. If you’re thinking of entering the private sector, you should have little issue finding work at tech startups or large companies like Google.
According to Payscale Australia, physicists in Australia make AU $85,000 on average per year. This can range between $30,913 starting out to $135,451 when more senior. However, this of course doesn’t take into consideration the multitudes of other potential occupations available to physics degree holders aside from “physicist”.
Physics can be studied at all postgraduate levels. Bear in mind most of these if not all are designed for applicants with extensive prior knowledge of both physics and relevant mathematics, but there are sometimes exceptions.
Hopefully this article has given you a better grasp of what postgraduate physics programs entail, who’s eligible for them and what employment opportunities are available. No matter where you take your qualification, we wish you luck!