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How much education do experienced senior physicists need?
Question Date: 2007-04-01
Answer 1:

There are two main things you need to become an experienced senior physicist.First, you need to take classes. Then, you need to do physics research to gain experience.

How many years of classes?
1st grade to 12th grade = 12 years
College = 4 years (approximately)
Graduate school classes = 2 years (approximately)

so the total is 18 years of classes. But classes alone do not create an experienced senior physicist.

I am an experimental physicist, and I am in my second year of graduate school, so as you can see, I am 23 years old and almost done with classes! I have already started my research in the lab. I worked ina lab for two summers in college and I have been working in a lab ingrad school for a year and a half.

How many years of research?
College = 1 to 4 years
Graduate school = 5 to 7 years
Post-doctoral research = 2 to 5 years

When the post-doctoral work is finished, 7 to 12 years after finishing college, the physicist will look for a permanent position. Maybe they will choose to work in industry for a company like IBM or Intuit.Maybe they will get a job as a professor at a university. Maybe they will work in a government laboratory, like Los Alamos (www.lanl.gov).

But even after the post-doctoral research, a physicist is not a senior physicist at all--they are just starting out! If they are hired as a tenure-track assistant professor at a university, it takes about 5 to7 years of being an assistant professor to get tenure and become an associate professor.

And finally, after about 7 years, an associate professor becomes a full professor.

Here's a summary of all that, from Wikipedia

Life of a typical natural sciences professor in the United States:

* Bachelor's degree: age 1822
* Ph.D.: 2230 (rarely takes fewer than 5 or more than 8 years)
* Post-doc: 3033 (highly variable, and multiple post-docs are increasingly common)
* Assistant professor: 3338
* Associate professor: 3845 (varies)
* Full professor: 4570 (professors were forced to retire at 70during 19861993, this is no longer the case; retirement age is now at professors' own discretion; most retire between 65 and 75)
* Professor emeritus (retired): 70+

I hoped that helped!

Answer 2:

That depends on the type of physics you want to do.Different types of physicists require different types of training. For example, the primary division in physics is theory vs. experiment. If you want to do theory, frequently you may need more training in quick intuitive thinking about your specific field (whatever that might be) as well as a broad range of topics within that field. Frequently you would also need a very broad range of mathematics. This is a generalization, but not necessarily so. As for experimentalists, they require more training with lab equipment, safety, and intuition about how to perform specific experiments as well as familiarity with lab equipment. There is a certain type of intuition associated with performing experiments that comes from experience. However, these are generalities. Overall, an experienced senior physicist has completed graduate school with an original research/thesis topic, has done post-doctoral work (after he earns his/her doctorate) for a few years to get to the head of the field and learn what topics are out there, and then has spent a few years as a scientist or a professor to pursue their own research.

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