University of Colombo Team

Best universities for Theoretical Physics

Universities / September 5, 2019

Theoretical physics is a field devoted to modeling physical phenomena, and leaves the rocket science to experimental physicists. Theoretical physicists build on the works of scientists like Maxwell, Hawking and Einstein. Read on for education and career options for theoretical physicists.

Theoretical physicists are thinkers in the academic world, and their work operates alongside experimental physics to provide a picture of the cosmos. They use mathematics and insights drawn from models such as string theory or the standard model to describe and predict physical occurrences. Research in theoretical physics may explore nuclear physics, cosmology, mathematical physics, particle physics and gravitational physics; however, theoretical or mathematical physics does not generally include experimental research. A career in theoretical physics requires extensive knowledge of physics and mathematics, as well as computer skills. Theoretical physicists typically work as researchers for academia, but may hold analyst positions in the finance sector.

Education Information

Students interested in theoretical physics can start their academic careers with an undergraduate Bachelor of Science in Physics that includes theoretical courses in modern and classical physics, along with math courses and applied labs. A stronger theoretical physics focus begins in master's and Ph.D. (Doctor of Philosophy) degree programs.

Academic research is a large part of the Ph.D. program, and students may choose to concentrate on a sub-area of theoretical physics, such as condensed matter, nuclear structure or reactions, astrophysics or atomic physics. Courses may include particle physics, math physics, quantum mechanics, statistical mechanics and classical mechanics. Check out the articles below for more information about relevant degree programs.

Career Options

Aspiring theoretical physicists may work as research assistants after earning their bachelor's or master's degrees, but a Ph.D. is required to work as a theoretical physics professor or researcher at a 4-year college or university. In fact, many leading universities and colleges have theoretical physics research centers or institutes that employ postdoctoral researchers, and theoretical physicists in academia may spend several years as postdocs before attaining a tenure-track position. Although theoretical physicists most commonly work in research centers, universities and private corporations, they may also apply theoretical physics knowledge to quantitative financial analysis. Below are some links with details about career options in the field.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported in May of 2013 that postsecondary physics professors earned a yearly average income of $90, 570. In the same year, physicists, including theoretical physicists, earned an average annual wage of $117, 040.

In addition, the BLS predicted the number of employed physicists would increase 10% between 2012 and 2022, which is about average. Employment opportunities for physics teachers at the college level were expected to grow 14% during the same time.