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Becoming a physics professor(lecturer,teacher)

  1. Jul 12, 2012 #1
    Hello everyone,

    I've known since high school, that I want to teach physics, probably at an university. Not only study physics, but especially teach it. I love teaching basically more than anything else, last year I taught 2 courses to high school students(at the same time I was in high school, funny story).
    I think I would like teaching introductory courses like mechanics, electromagnetism and so best, but why not even some upper-level undergraduate courses like quantum mechanics or some mathematical physics course.

    Now the question is which subjects should I master? Which areas are absolutely crucial, which are highly beneficial, which are simply nice-to-have? Should I focus on theoretical physics like GR, Field Theory and such to get a deeper understanding or experimental phyics/practical things like electronics to see how those concepts are used in everyday life, should I know more advanced mathematics like Topology and study math rigorously or study more about the "softer side" like history of physics, philosophy of science, didactics, etc.
    Also, how much research should I do? I know I have to do some anyways, but it actually is quite flexible in my university.
    Reason I'm asking is that it seems, like physics professor should know everything and be proficient in everything, while when doing research you pick an area and go stick with it and I'm afraid I don't have time to study everything ;) And also I would really appreciate any general tips, suggestions, etc. N.B! actually getting a teaching position in my local university wouldn't be an issue, I know the people and they are lacking good lecturers ;)

    Now imagine, that you could "design" the ideal professor(lecturer, because the term "professor" means something else in my country than in the US for example as I understand) Think of good professors you have had or simply dream away.

    what knowledge would he/she posess? about the subject? in general?
    what skills would he/she have, what personality traits?

    Thanks in advance for your replies!
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2012
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 12, 2012 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    Homework Helper

    There are no rules - you just have to be good in your field and apply for the positions.
    Your best bet is to do what you love.

    Don't worry about being specialized - your biggest strengths will be your meta-skills: your ability to sound out a good approach to the answer in any situation.
    It's actually one of the spin-offs of a science education - you get really good at analysing problems in general.

    Since part of what you love is the teaching you should build up a model of how people learn as well as study physics... and keep practicing. Try helping people with their homework here for instance.
  4. Jul 12, 2012 #3


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    It sounds like you want to teach undergraduate physics, maybe at a community college or 4-year college (not a graduate institution). Since you're not really interested in the research part, you definitely don't want a job that's going to require you spend half your time doing research, publishing papers, and bringing in grant money. So I'd recommend doing a PhD in physics education. This is part of the physics program at most schools, so you'll have a PhD in physics and take all the classes for that degree, but you'll be much more employable at a 4-year college or community college where they prefer good teachers over multiple publications.
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