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Job Description of a Theoretical Physicist

  1. Feb 5, 2005 #1
    Can someone give me a general job description of a Theoretical Physicist?

    First of all let me make sure that I am going for the right profession. I very interested in wormholes, black holes, galaxies, speed of light, and many other aspects of the overall universe but most of all I am very interested in researching Time Travel, who knows maybe even go a step closer to a time machine (which might not be achieved in my life time, but you never know). I am also interested in comparing time and the universe to each other (space-time I think it is called). Probably also called Cosmology. I am not necessarily interested in the math concepts, but what the math is trying to explain (which is apart of it). This basically what a Theoretical Physicist does, right (and other things too, but you can concentrate on the topics listed).

    Now then, how many hours a day do you generally work? What is your yearly pay (discussed in another thread, but in specific how much a Theoretical Physicist makes)? Where do you work generally (lab, university, ect.)? Is there enough time for family (when I have one) and it is more self employment once you reach the level, right?

    Last edited by a moderator: Feb 5, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2005 #2
    Well, I'm not a theoretical physicist per se, but i am student going for my PhD in theoretical astrophysics.

    1) Wormholes, black holes, galaxies, universe--- Yes that would be theoretical physics, specifically astrophysics and cosmology.

    2)To be a theoretical physicist, you really have to love the math involved at least a little, because you will spend a huge amount of time dealing with abstract equations of the most general case in the subjects you mentioned. Numbers exist only as subscripts and superscripts in those fields (thats a bit of an exxageration, but the point is the same),

    3)As for hours per day, well thats really up to you. Theoretical physicists either work as professors, or in government labs, generally. So you could work as little as that day job requires. Of course, you won't accomplish much professionally if you do that.

    I'm only a student, and i spend the vast majority of my time working. I don't know how much really, i don't track hours very well (even if i should). Basically, if you're a physicist who's serious about any field of research, you will live your job. Thats not to say its a 140 hour a week job, its not. But there will be times where you work for days on end (or it will seem like it anyway) without any break.

    4) Yearly pay for theoretical physicists is generally lower than for experimentalists, as they get less grant money. I think $85,000 or thereabouts is average for a tenure post or senior research post. Post docs start around $35,000 depending on where you're working.
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