UCSB Science Line
Sponge Spicules Nerve Cells Galaxy Abalone Shell Nickel Succinate X-ray Lens Lupine
UCSB Science Line
How it Works
Ask a Question
Search Topics
Our Scientists
Science Links
Contact Information
Sir, I want to become a scientist in the field of Physics. So, in order to do that, what should I do? Which kind of college should I join? What kind of exams should I take? Please help me.
Question Date: 2014-01-23
Answer 1:

I think it is fantastic that you want to be a physicist. My name is Nancy I am a Ph.D. student in Materials Science, which means I am a scientist at the intersection between Chemistry, Physics, and Engineering. Here is my advice for you: First of all, take as many science and math classes as you can in high school. If your school offers them, be sure to take advanced placement or honors classes. However, you should also do your best in your English and writing classes because being a scientist requires a surprising amount of writing ability.

As for college, there is no one college that will guarantee success. I assume you live in California, so one of the University of California campuses would always be a good option. The UC schools are very well respected. There are also good public universities in other states, but tuition is usually cheaper for the school in your home state (in-state vs. out-of-state tuition). There are also plenty of private colleges (Ivy League, liberal arts colleges, etc.) that would be good options, but they are also much more expensive. If you pick a small liberal arts college, make sure they offer a wide selection of physics courses. Sometimes smaller schools will have limited options. There are also some colleges that focus solely on majors in science, math, and engineering (California Institute of Technology, Harvey Mudd College, MIT, and others

click here to learn more

If you are 100% sure you want to do physics, you could pick one of those colleges. You can get a good job or get into grad school whether you pick a public or private institution. Far more important than exactly where you go is that you do well in college.

Once you get to college, I would suggest taking a broad selection of classes, especially your first year, and not just limiting yourself to the required physics curriculum. To be a good physicist, you will need to know a lot of math. Computer science and programming classes will definitely come in handy. I would also recommend taking intro chemistry, biology, and engineering courses just so you have a good understanding of interdisciplinary topics. Be sure not to limit yourself to only science courses either, because college is the best time to explore and learn about other things that interest you too. If you have time, try to join a research lab at your college or university. To do this, you may have to talk to a lot of professors before you find one who has room for an undergraduate researcher, but don't give up. Be sure to apply for research internships for the Summer (applications are due starting in Jan or Feb for internships in the same year). These internships are excellent opportunities because they let you do hands-on research, you get to explore different areas of physics at different universities, and you get paid! These research internships are also crucial if you want to go to graduate school.

Lastly, I suggest talking to many scientists who have followed a range of career paths so you can get a feel for what life as a physicist would be like.

I am happy to answer more questions for you. Send them along.

Answer 2:

It is great you want to be a Physicist. I am currently in graduate school for Physics. For college you want to go to a school with an accredited physics program with the American Physical Society. I recommend the school has a bachelor of science in Physics. Also, try to go to a school that encourages undergraduate research. There are lots of great physics undergrad programs. I know top notch grad students who have come from big state schools like Minnesota and Maryland as well as private schools like Wake Forest and MIT and smaller schools such as Truman State.

To become a physicist you need to go to graduate school after undergrad. You can ask professors at the schools where you are interested what their undergrads have done after graduating before you apply. It will give you a good idea if the school is preparing you for a career you would enjoy.

Answer 3:

Physics is a wonderful field that is also luckily very common. Most colleges and universities have physics as a choice of major. The best thing you can do now is to study both math and physics in high school every year that you have remaining. If you exhaust your high school's offerings for courses, you can ask your guidance counselor or teachers if it's possible to take additional courses at a local college or community college. This will really help you prepare for the difficult physics coursework you will see in your first year of college.

Some high schools offer advanced placement or honors classes, and there are advanced placement exams in calculus and physics that you may be interested in taking. They cost money and are difficult, but they could earn you college credit, depending on how well you do and where you end up going to college. I recommend taking them if that is an option for you. Good luck!

Click Here to return to the search form.

University of California, Santa Barbara Materials Research Laboratory National Science Foundation
This program is co-sponsored by the National Science Foundation and UCSB School-University Partnerships
Copyright © 2020 The Regents of the University of California,
All Rights Reserved.
UCSB Terms of Use