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Physical science is the exploration of non-living systems. Subject areas are more familiar under their names of physics and chemistry. Physics looks at the laws of matter and energy, as well as atomic energy. Chemists deal with reaction chemistry and the study of organic and inorganic compounds, biochemistry and analytical chemistry, as well as other subdivisions of the science. Here are just some of the professions in the fields of physical science.

Careers in Science

Astronomer

Astronomy involves researching the nature of the universe, using mathematics to develop theories concerning the fundamental properties of the natural world. Nearly all astronomers conduct research, although not all operate large scale telescopes to observe phenomena directly. Many concern themselves with data gathered by observatories and satellites. A PhD in Physics is usually required.

Aviation Inspector

Aviation inspectors are responsible for ensuring that aircraft, aircraft maintenance, air traffic control, etc, are in line with safety regulations. Certificates are issued to aircraft that comply. Another aspect of the work is investigating equipment failures and accidents. People who are already experienced as aviation mechanics can upgrade their education with specialist physics qualifications in aircraft technology.

Chemical Technician

Chemical technicians are involved in the practical aspects of research and development of chemicals and related products and equipment. They work in experimental laboratories or in the manufacturing industry, exploring production of new compounds, establishing quality assurance, monitoring product quality or developing new production techniques. A 2-year or an associate's degree in chemistry is usually required for basic technician's roles, but the best positions require a bachelor's degree.

Chemist

Chemists are involved in research and development, or in developing new processes for chemical products. This involves investigating properties of chemicals, their composition, structure of substances, and laws. A bachelor's degree is the minimum requirement, although research positions require a Masters or PhD.

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Electrician

Electricians bring electricity into buildings, whether industrial, commercial or domestic, being responsible for installation and maintenance of wiring and all other components. Most focus either on construction - namely the installation of wiring - or maintenance - repairing and upgrading existing equipment. Some do both. Apprenticeships are the usual entry route, although higher level specialist work is available to those with a bachelor's degree in electrical engineering.

Food Science Technician

These technicians are involved in research and development, production technology, and quality control in the food science industry. They work on areas such as food additives to ensure adherence to regulations by analysing, testing, recording results, etc. An associate's or research-oriented bachelor's degree is usually required.

Food Scientist

Food scientists are involved in ensuring food safety by working within the food processing industry, by conducting research, analysing food content, researching for new or substitute additives, and discovering new food sources. Other areas include food processing approaches and food waste management standards. A bachelor's degree is enough for some jobs, but applied research requires a master's or PhD.

Forensic Science Technician

Forensic science technicians are involved in investigating crimes by collecting and analysing evidence. There are numerous specialist areas, including DNA analysis, firearms, testing trace substances, etc. They also give testimony at the trial of criminals tried as a result of the case. A bachelor's degree in forensic science or a natural science with a forensic aspect is increasingly expected.

Nuclear Monitoring Technician

These technicians work in places that use radiation and radioactive material. They help to create an environment safe from radiation exposure, by using equipment to monitor radiation levels of workers, work areas and equipment. Record keeping, enforcement of safety regulations and educating personnel are part of the job. They are heavily involved in responding if contamination occurs. An associate's degree in nuclear technology or 2 years' specialist training is usually required.

Nuclear Power Reactor Operator

These operators are responsible for the operation and control of boilers, turbines, generators, and other equipment in nuclear plants. They usually use computerised systems for managing power demands and currents between generators and monitoring instrumentation. They are responsible for reporting abnormal incidents, faults or required maintenance of equipment. An associates or bachelor's degree in a physical science subject is required, plus extensive further training.

Occupational Health & Safety Specialist

OHS specialists ensure the minimisation of risk to workers, property, the public and the environment, by assessing working environments for chemical, biological, physical or radiological hazards. They are also concerned with organisation of workspaces that are safe and ergonomic, and the availability of protective clothing. They ensure all regulations are adhered to. A bachelor's degree in occupational health and safety or physical science subject is usually required.

Physicist

Physicists usually work in research and development, either conducting research or applying research to further develop findings in new products and processes. They apply their knowledge of the principles and laws of motion, energy and structure to develop new materials, equipment and electronics. Research positions usually require a PhD in physics, while applied research positions in manufacturing require a master's degree.

Power Plant Operator

Power plant operators are responsible for the operation and control of boilers, turbines, generators, and other equipment. They usually use computerised systems for managing power demands and currents between generators and monitoring instrumentation. They are responsible for reporting abnormal incidents, faults or maintenance needs. A physical sciences degree is usually required for senior positions, although an associate's or vocational degree is sufficient for less senior roles.

Type of Person

A strong interest and capability in science is clearly essential. Analytical and critical thinking is vital, as problem solving is frequently the essence of the work. A logical approach and the drive to understand the physical world should be accompanied by an ability to address complex problems and situations.

Powerful mathematical abilities are essential. A questioning outlook and ability to think in original ways within existing frameworks will be of considerable use in research roles. Observation of established science as well as research protocols and legal regulations is also important.

In academic performance, there's a need for strengths in research methodology, data analysis and attention to the smallest detail. Extremely high levels of organisation and precision are essential. Coupled with this, an ability to write up results in reports or technical documents is important.

Training

Many of the professions referred to in this article are fulfilled by science graduates who have specialised in a like area of study, either at Bachelors, Masters of PhD level.

At school level, GCSE qualifications should include chemistry, physics, earth sciences, or a combination of the three, together with mathematics. Good grades will enable entry to a degree course.

At university or college level, a Bachelor of Science in one of the physical sciences will form a foundation for further study. Without further study, it serves as a basis for work as a science teacher, engineering or some research positions.

A specialist postgraduate degree in the form of a Masters of Science or PhD will lead to higher paying specialist positions as a research physicist or chemist, physician or university professor.

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