Who can be called a physicist?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Jul 13 2023

Physicists are people who are interested in learning more about how everything in the universe works, and how basic phenomena (such as particles) interact with each other. But, can anyone just call themselves a physicist? Do you need a PhD to be considered a physicist?


What is a physicist?

A physicist is someone who studies the universe we live in, and the natural phenomena that takes place. They work to understand why things happen in the way they do, and how they happen. Discoveries about the way our universe works (led by physicists) have led to developments in a range of sectors. For instance, without physicists understanding how the electromagnetic spectrum works and how different waves function, we wouldn’t have televisions, microwaves or X-rays. 

Physicists typically specialise in an area of physics they’re interested in, allowing them to conduct in-depth research on a topic they’re familiar with. Specialities include particle physics, nuclear physics and astrophysics.

Who can be called a physicist?

Per the dictionary, a physicist is ‘a person who studies physics or whose job is connected with physics’. So, a physicist refers to anyone who is taking an active role in the field of physics, be this by studying physics as part of their GCSEs or National 5s, or completing a physics apprenticeship. Many people who are working in a field related to physics, such as engineering, can also consider themselves physicists.

What about the physicist profession?

Unlike lawyers or doctors, who need to be fully qualified before calling themselves these titles, anyone who is conducting physics research can refer to themselves as a physicist. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t even need a PhD to call yourself a physicist! It’s even possible to gain a practical and theoretical understanding of physics research from an apprenticeship, such as the research scientist master’s degree apprenticeship. 

On the topic, check out our article about the ten most famous physicists, all of whom made amazing contributions to the field.

How can I develop as a physicist?

There are many ways to increase your knowledge of physics that don’t involve enrolling onto a degree. There are a number of free courses and videos available online, which will provide you with an understanding of basic concepts in physics as well as delving deeper into different specialties. In addition, many organisations and universities offer lectures on a range of different physics topics. Your local science museum is also likely to have a section dedicated to physics. Finally, you can check out websites like the Institute of Physics and Planet Possibility to learn more about the world of physics and stay up to date on new developments.