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At what point can one be considered a physicist?

  1. Feb 13, 2015 #1
    If you have an undergraduate degree in metallurgy you can find employment as a metallurgist, similarly with chemistry. However trying to find employment as a physicist without a PhD is next to impossible. So my question is if you only have a Bachelor of Science in physics could you be considered a physicist or do you need a PhD first?
     
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  3. Feb 14, 2015 #2

    russ_watters

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    To me, that is the answer to a question, so it depends on the wording of the question. If the question is "What do you do?" then the answer is what you get paid to do (it may not be explicit, but that is what people typically mean when they ask). If you have a phd in physics and you serve drinks, you are a bartender, not a physicist.

    So, what is the question that can be answered with "I am a physicist" if you don't have a job doing physics?
     
  4. Feb 14, 2015 #3
    If you have a job as a physicist do you stop being a physicist when you loose your job? Interesting philosophical question. Would you call yourself a physicist on a Resume if you had a BSc but not a PhD?
     
  5. Feb 14, 2015 #4

    russ_watters

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    I've had that conversation with people. They answer: "I'm a currently unemployed XXXX".
    I don't call myself anything on my resume. It's just a factual list of my accomplishments/previous jobs/skills. I'm not even sure where one would put "I'm a physicist" on a resume.
     
  6. Feb 14, 2015 #5

    Pythagorean

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    I have a friend that is the CEO of his own company that has nothing to do with physics, but he uses his money to develop his lab and he has published a paper or two. He doesn't even have a B.S. (he was in the same program as me, but got kicked out in his last semester due to being a crazy delinquent, but he had top grades in his class and would often help me with concepts I had trouble understanding).

    I believe contributions to physics literature make one a physicist, regardless of current employ. But one can also be a physicist that doesn't publish if it's relevant to their employment. Sometimes, the guy with the bachelor degree in a biology research group is referred to as the "resident physicist".
     
  7. Feb 14, 2015 #6

    ZapperZ

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    You seem to have ignored all the replies that were posted in this thread.

    First of all, where exactly in your resume that you have to declare who you are? You list your educational background, and all the relevant expertise/training. That should tell anyone of your educational qualification. You don't have to call yourself anything.

    Secondly, as has been stated already, it depends on the situation and the employment that you currently hold. A lot of physicists, even with PhDs, call themselves "engineers", because that is the job title that they currently hold. I know of chemists who call themselves physicists, because they are now physics professors.

    You can call yourself a "physicist" even with B.Sc degree, but you need to ask yourself if you are conveying an accurate picture, to the other person, of who you are! Would you want to mislead a potential employer by calling yourself that? You should have enough sensibility to decide this for yourself. If not, calling yourself a physicist or not will be the LEAST of your problems.

    Zz.
     
  8. Feb 14, 2015 #7

    russ_watters

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    Perhaps. However, consider the first few sentences of the wiki for Terry Lovejoy:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Terry_Lovejoy
    Moderately famous for astronomy, nevertheless, he isn't an "astronomer", he's an information technologist and an "amateur astronomer".
     
  9. Feb 14, 2015 #8
    It may seem that way but I have just been exploring the issue. I have noticed that all the advertised jobs that have physicist in the description require a PhD..

    My Resume just has the academic suffix after my name (I may or may not keep it there) and lists my degrees in the descriptions.

    That's the kind of answer I was looking for, thanks.

    I don't call myself anything to a potential employer, when asked i just tell them what I have done. I have NEVER been dishonest or misleading to an employer.
     
  10. Feb 14, 2015 #9

    Astronuc

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    I would think that one is a physicist if one practices physics professionally, i.e., one is compensated for practicing physics, and ostensibly one has at least a BS in physics. Ostensibly, if one has an MD and is board certified, one is a doctor, whether or not one practices medicine. If one is a practicing doctor, it usually comes with certification and a degree in medicine.
     
  11. Feb 14, 2015 #10
    Being certified in a field doesn't mean one is super-knowledgeable. A degree to me is not any big at all. If you don't work with physics then don't call yourself a physicist in serious situations. If forums in the world are serious places, then you can share everything professionally private up here, we'll comment and have serious funs.
     
  12. Feb 14, 2015 #11

    Pythagorean

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    Is "amatuer astronomer" not in the subset "astronomer?"

    My point, I guess, is that it's a word, and in different contexts it does the job for communicating someone's role. A title really isn't enough to judge someone by unless you have complete context.
     
  13. Feb 14, 2015 #12

    symbolipoint

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    Include TITLE of jobs held.
     
  14. Feb 14, 2015 #13

    russ_watters

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    No. "Astronomer", by itself, comes witht the unwritten amplifier "professional". That's why this issue is somewhat important: If you don't qualify it, you may give people a false impression.
    Yes, context is important.
     
  15. Feb 14, 2015 #14

    russ_watters

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    Good point.
     
  16. Feb 15, 2015 #15
    True, the title of my last full time job was a 'Graduate Chemist' but I spent more of my time performing metallurgical test work than I did chemistry.
     
  17. Feb 15, 2015 #16

    Pythagorean

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    I think what you mean is it sometimes comes with the unwritten amplifier. It's fair to expect people not to imply they are a professional astronomer with equivocation. But it's also fair to not expect the listener not to jump to conclusions when qualifiers aren't provided and context is ambiguous. In many conversations, "scientist" and "physicist" don't have the unwritten amplifier "professional" but instead the unwritten amplifier "ideological".
     
  18. Feb 15, 2015 #17

    Choppy

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    The first thing to keep in mind is that there is no legal, professional "physicist" delegation. What that means is that technically anyone off the street can call him or herself a "physicist" regardless of educational background or employment and no one will have any authority to stop it.

    The Canadian Association of Physicists has been issuing a P.Phys. or "professional physicist" designation for some time now (see: http://www.cap.ca/en/certification-pphys/requirements), and according to their site they may pursue legal action against anyone using the P.Phys. designation, but (a) I'm not sure that they would seriously do anything more than a cease and desist order, and (b) I doubt they would have much success in a law suit.

    The best we can hope for out of such a discussion is a consensus among those with experience in the field about what's generally accepted with the use of the title "physicist" and in my experience even that might be too much to hope for. In practical terms I suspect if you did some kind of a survey among people academically or professionally involved in physics you'd get a situation-specific response along the following lines (percentage of agreement that said person qualifies as a "physicist").

    1. Tenured professor in a physics department. 100%
    2. Post-doctoral researcher in a physics department: 95%
    3. Person with a PhD in physics performing industrial research & development: 90%
    4. PhD student in a physics department: 60%
    5. BSc in physics working as a video-game developer: 30%
    6. Undergraduate student majoring in physics: 20%
    7. Guy who personally developed a theory of everything, needs someone to do the math, but won't show his work to anyone because they might steal his ideas: 1%

    Personally, I have tended to follow the CAP's guidelines for the P.Phys. designation in my own opinion of who can be called a physicist. This is because CAP is the only organized body of physicists that's made a call on the matter (that I'm aware of, and not that I've looked around much.) Also, I was introduced to the whole P.Phys. concept early on in my undergraduate career. According to them, you need (i) an undergraduate degree in physics and (ii) three years of work experience that "uses physics directly or significantly utilizes the modes of thought (such as the approach to problem-solving) developed in your education and/or experience as a physicist." The second part is extremely vague and even the first part is exempt-able if the candidate can convince a committee it should be. And although these are valid critiques I worry that once you start drawing lines in the sand all you end up accomplishing is making yourself look like an elitist.
     
  19. Feb 15, 2015 #18

    russ_watters

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    I think it is a lot more than just "sometimes" and in particular is in the case of the subject of the thread.
    I don't even know what that means. What is an "ideological physicist"?
     
  20. Feb 15, 2015 #19

    Bystander

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    If you've stayed with this thread, you will have noticed that there are many different definitions of the word "Physicist." Pick whichever lodge, fraternity, benevolent and protective order you wish, learn the "secret handshake," and cross their palms with silver, and be licensed to regard the rest of the world as "outsiders."
     
  21. Feb 16, 2015 #20
    I think the world of science could use less formalities, not more.

    Physicist is also dangerously close to physician. It's even close to pysch when physics is shortened to phys. (for the dyslexics among us)

    I'm just going to start calling myself Lieutenant Einstein in the Professor Poopypants Brigade.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2015
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