How to Become a Plasma Physicist

How to Become a Plasma Physicist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a plasma physicist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a plasma physicist:


Those who become plasma physicists have a keen interest in specific areas of plasma physics, and they desire to become leading experts in those areas. They typically take great pleasure out of conducting research and furthering our knowledge in the emerging field of plasma physics.


To become a plasma physicist, you need to have aptitude in science and mathematics, and an advanced education in plasma physics. You also need to be effective working in a team environment, have excellent communications skills, and be skilled working with specialized instrumentation and computer programs.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a plasma physicist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Plasma Physicist

To become a plasma physicist, you need to develop a strong background in physics, quantum mechanics and mathematics. It is also important to have laboratory experience, skills in research and skills working with various computer programs, such as mapping programs and data collection and analysis programs.


Undergraduate Degree:


To acquire the knowledge base and skill set necessary to become a plasma physicist, you typically need to begin by pursuing an undergraduate degree in science, with a major in physics, or a degree in engineering. Having an undergraduate degree in physics will qualify you to work an entry-level plasma physics job, such as Research Assistant, or Laboratory Technician.


Master’s Degree:


Graduate students of plasma physics generally spend the first two years acquiring a foundation in the many areas that plasma physics is composed of: classical and quantum mechanics, electricity and magnetism, fluid dynamics, hydrodynamics, atomic physics, applied mathematics, statistical mechanics, and kinetic theory. Students also spend time in their first two years conducting research with the teaching faculty, and other faculty scientists.


Obtaining an M.Sc. degree in plasma physics often qualifies graduates to work in responsible positions in industrial or government laboratories, as laboratory instructors at universities, as consultants.


Doctoral Degree:


A Ph.D. degree qualifies plasma physicists for permanent positions in industry. Some Ph.D. graduates choose to work as Post-Doctoral Fellows, typically for a period of 1-3 years, during which time their skills and reputations as independent plasma physics researchers are enhanced. After the fellowship, long-term employment as a plasma physicist is usually found in university teaching, or in academic, industrial or government research laboratories.





What is a Plasma Physicist?

A plasma physicist is a scientist that designs and conducts experiments for the purpose of researching plasmas: the fourth state of matter, which are collections of freely moving charged particles (mainly electrons and ions) in which collective phenomena, such as waves, dominate the behavior of the system.


The knowledge gained by the work of plasma physicist is essential to many high-technology applications. One example is fusion energy, for which the fuel is a high-temperature plasma. 



Plasma Physicist Job Description

The job description of plasma physicists varies greatly from one position to the next. For example, the job description of a plasma physicist that works for a university and is involved in researching the formation of complex microscopic and nanoscopic patterns for microelectronic and micro-optical components, will vary greatly from that of a plasma physicist that works for an energy company and is trying to develop a more efficient fuel source.


The scope of interest of plasma physicists includes fundamental studies of plasmas, their interaction with surfaces and surroundings, and the technologies associated with their applications, such as illumination, display technology, microwave generation, destruction of toxic wastes, lasers, spacecraft propulsion, astrophysics, and advanced-design accelerators for fundamental particle research. 


Research: Plasma physicists working in research aim to increase our understanding of fundamental processes in plasma by designing and conducting research studies to test theories and draw conclusions.


Applied Plasma Physics: Plasma physicists working in applied plasma physics are responsible for developing practical applications of knowledge in the field of plasma physics for the benefit of society. This ranges from developing products and systems (for example power generation and distribution, aerodynamics, optics and lasers, medicine and health), to confronting and solving technological problems (for example, trying to figure out how to turn plasma into energy).



Plasma Physicist Job Duties

• Liaise with in-house physicists and engineers, as well as outside consultants

• Interact with experimental and theoretical physicists and engineers

• Perform data analysis and plasma modeling

• Work under tight schedule restrictions

• Design, construct, operate and maintain specialized such as experimental optical devices





Who Hires Plasma Physicists?

Plasma physicist jobs are available on a part-time, full-time or contractual basis with organizations that are involved in researching plasma physics principles, or with organizations involved in applying the principles of plasma physics to the development or improvement of residential, commercial or industrial products. Organizations that hire plasma physicists include:


• Colleges and universities

• Federal, provincial/state and municipal government departments

• Private and public research laboratories

• Scientific or engineering consulting organizations

• Patent offices, agencies and law firms

• Energy companies

• Companies that develop residential, industrial or commercial products, such as microwaves and televisions


Plasma Physicist Salary

The salary level of plasma physicists can vary depending on factors such as their level of education, their level of experience, where they work, and many others.


Plasma Physicist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group earn an average of between $46.17 and $55.94 per hour.


Plasma Physicist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of workers in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group is $66,968 per year.


Plasma Physicist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Physicists and Astronomers occupational group is $105,430 per year.



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Careers Similar to Plasma Physicist

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to Plasma Physicist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Energy Researcher

Health Physicist

Nuclear Engineer

Nuclear Physicist




References: How to Become a Plasma Physicist

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a plasma physicist.


Occupations in Alberta:Physicist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Physicists and Astronomers.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 8, 2020.

Forum on International Physics:Plasma Physics in Canada.” (n.d.). American Physical Society website. Retrieved January 8, 2020.


Please Note: Some of the information for this career guide was gathered from actual job postings, which due to the brief nature of their online presence, are not listed here as sources.




Scholarships for Becoming a Plasma Physicist

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a Plasma Physicist can be found on our Physics Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Becoming a Plasma Physicist: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a plasma physicist. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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