Do you call someone a physicist who merely finished undergraduate course in physics?

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Do you call someone a physicist who merely finished undergraduate course in physics? Someone who did told me he considered himself a physicist. But I think I remember that someone is only considered a physicist when he at least finished Ph.D. Is it true? What is the true definition of a Physicist? In Wikipedia. It starts with: "A physicist is a scientist who does research in physics". So an undergraduate in physics who does research in physics is considered a Physicist? Or not?
 

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  • #2
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You could argue that Einstein was a physicist by birth. Words only have demonstrable meaning according to their function in specific contexts. For the academic community that usually means a physicist is someone who has a degree.
 
  • #3
lisab
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We've had this debate before on PF, and it really comes down to personal opinion. Some think it's entirely appropriate to use the term for people who have a BS in physics.

Me, I think a person should do research to be called a physicist. Usually that means a PhD.

I really don't know why I have such a high bar for the title of 'physicist' - I recognize my definition is not consistent with other professions. For example, I have a BS in physics and I work as a chemist, yet I have no problem saying I'm a chemist. But I could never call myself a physicist.
 
  • #4
Evo
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We've had this debate before on PF, and it really comes down to personal opinion. Some think it's entirely appropriate to use the term for people who have a BS in physics.

Me, I think a person should do research to be called a physicist. Usually that means a PhD.

I really don't know why I have such a high bar for the title of 'physicist' - I recognize my definition is not consistent with other professions. For example, I have a BS in physics and I work as a chemist, yet I have no problem saying I'm a chemist. But I could never call myself a physicist.
I agree, a BS isn't enough.
 
  • #5
Astronuc
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Usually practice (beyond the degree) makes the professional.

In engineering, we have engineers by practice, but Professional Engineers (PEs) have a license. One can be an engineer without a PE, and that comes from years of practice after obtaining a degree.
 
  • #6
Moonbear
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Usually practice (beyond the degree) makes the professional.

In engineering, we have engineers by practice, but Professional Engineers (PEs) have a license. One can be an engineer without a PE, and that comes from years of practice after obtaining a degree.
I agree, it's not the degree, but what you do with it. To me, a physicist is someone working in the field of physics. If they end up doing chemistry benchwork, they're a chemist. And so on.
 
  • #7
MarcoD


In my country physicist is used for someone who has a master's or a phd.

A BS physicist is a bit of a strange thing anyway. Then again, I wouldn't know what else to call him or her? 'someone with a BS degree in physics' is a bit verbose.
 
  • #8
lisab
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in my country physicist is used for someone who has a master's or a phd.

A bs physicist is a bit of a strange thing anyway. Then again, i wouldn't know what else to call him or her? 'someone with a bs degree in physics' is a bit verbose.
How about, SWABSDIP.
 
  • #9
Mech_Engineer
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I think Wikipedia's definition suffices:

Wikipedia.org said:
A physicist is a scientist who does research in physics. Physicists study a wide range of physical phenomena in many branches of physics spanning all length scales: from sub-atomic particles of which all ordinary matter is made (particle physics) to the behavior of the material Universe as a whole (cosmology).
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Physicist
 
  • #10
Nabeshin
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I don't know, I sort of consider myself a physicist, even though I am only an undergraduate, simply because a) I fit well into the community of actual professional physicists and b) I do perform research.
 
  • #11
MarcoD


It's actually quite funny. I have a CS education from people none of which hold a degree in CS since the science didn't exist when they studied. So what to do with them?

(Rhetorical question on a physics forum, I guess.)
 
  • #12
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I think if you earn a degree in physics and research physics you are a physicist. Just like if you get a degree in nursing and you work in nursing you are a nurse.

The title doesn't mean you are any good at it, it just means you are qualified and its what you do.

You could make a distinction between Physicist and theoretical physicist if you want to give Einstein and Hawking a better sounding title. Don't beat up on the lowly BS holders and undergrads, we're squishy.
 
  • #13
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In the Art world an artist is anyone who does art. Meaning, you don't have to be making a living at it to call yourself an artist, you just have to be producing art. By Art standards Feynman was an artist, despite the fact he only had one commission. Hearing someone call themselves an "artist" wouldn't tell me anything at all about their income from it. It would have to be qualified with the addition of the adjective "professional", i.e. "professional artist" for me to suppose it's how they made their living.

By this way of thinking I would accept anyone calling themselves a physicist if it meant physics is what they did all the time, that it was the center of their world-view, that their life revolved around physics.

At the same time, I don't think, if that's what they meant, that they'd be using it in the usual sense. Usually if someone calls themselves a physicist, it means they're actually earning a living by it, or are capable of doing so.
 
  • #14
Ryan_m_b
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maybe call him a "physics graduater" or "semi-physicist" or "undergraduate physicist"?
Zoobyshoe kind of beat me to it but I would say that if you are going to describe someone as something then they should be engaging in the verb of that title. That's probably not the best way of describing it but if someone researches physics then they are a physicist, if they run then they are a runner, if they produce art then they are an artist.

Additional qualifiers are things like "professional" which implies you get paid for it and "amateur" which implies you are a beginner/enthusiast whose skills surpass the layman but are not up to scratch with an expert. So if someone got paid to paint but in their spare time conducted kitchen science I may refer to them as either a professional artist or amateur scientist depending on context.

We really don't need to introduce any kind of ranking system as you seem to be suggesting as it is unecessary and impractical. I've met people who know more about a scientific field (or any dicipline for that matter) than people who have qualifications/work in said field. To give people titles for everything they may have done rather than descriptives implies a more rigorous linear spectrum of capability that doesn't really exist.
 
  • #15
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If you ask your mother for two eggs and she cooks you three and you eat all three, then who's the better mathematician, you or your mother?
 
  • #16
Ivan Seeking
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This came up once for my business. The legal language agreed upon for insurance purposes was that I'm a graduate physicist working as an engineer.

As a practical matter, normally I refer to myself as a systems integrator, which is the legal definition of my business.
 
  • #17


maybe call him a "physics graduater" or "semi-physicist" or "undergraduate physicist"?
Those phrases all sound kind of weird to me. Personally, I'd just say he majored in physics.
 
  • #18
Ivan Seeking
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Personally, I'd just say he majored in physics.
You can take one class and make that claim.
 
  • #19
CaptFirePanda


If he/she is employed as a milk delivery person, I call them a milkman/milklady. If they are employed as a researcher, I call them a researcher.

What it boils down to, for me at least, is what they decide to take on as a line of work. Regardless of what degree he holds, if he's mopping the floor in the bathroom of an office building, I'll call him the janitor.
 
  • #20
Ivan Seeking
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If he/she is employed as a milk delivery person, I call them a milkman/milklady. If they are employed as a researcher, I call them a researcher.

What it boils down to, for me at least, is what they decide to take on as a line of work. Regardless of what degree he holds, if he's mopping the floor in the bathroom of an office building, I'll call him the janitor.
By that definition, Einstein wasn't a physicist when he published four of his most famous works, including SR and the work that won him the Nobel Prize.
 
  • #21
CaptFirePanda


At the time, he wasn't, he was an assistant patent examiner.
 
  • #22
Ryan_m_b
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At the time, he wasn't, he was an assistant patent examiner.
I disagree purely because I personally would describe someone by what they generally do rather than what they do for work. That's if I had to describe someone by such a limited measure.
 
  • #23
CaptFirePanda


I disagree purely because I personally would describe someone by what they generally do rather than what they do for work. That's if I had to describe someone by such a limited measure.
It's much different when looking at things in an historical sense, for the most part.

It's much easier now to say that Einstein was a physicist, but when he was working as a technical assistant I'm not so sure his colleagues would have referred to him as a physicist.

Anyway, as has been mentioned, there is a fair amount of subjectivity to the topic.
 
  • #24
Ivan Seeking
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At the time, he wasn't, he was an assistant patent examiner.
In that case the word physicist has no significant meaning beyond a job title as some of the greatest works in physics were not done by a physicist.

Hmmmm, since I own my own company, I can declare my own title. Therefore, I give myself the new title of Senior Physicist. Cool!

I do use a lot physics in my job so it seems perfectly justified.
 
  • #25
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If you call me a physicist you're no Einstein.
 

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