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Working as a Physicist [NOC 2111]

Job Description

Physicists use math and science to develop and test theories about the nature of matter, and apply the findings in practical ways.

As a physicist, you perform the following duties:

  • design and carry out research in experimental and theoretical physics
  • carry out analysis of research data and prepare research reports
  • participate as a member of a research or development team
  • create and design industrial or medical equipment, instrumentation and procedures

Sources: WorkBC Career Profiles NOC 2111,  Career Cruising database. (Profile for Physicist).

Industry Overview

Physicists make up a small part of BC’s workforce. In 2011 only 500 individuals were employed in this sector. Future job growth is predicted to be limited.

You will find the majority of jobs in the Lower Mainland/ Southwest region of the province. Employment opportunities may also be found in the Vancouver Island and Thompson-Okanagan regions.

As a physicist, you may work closely with and perform some of the duties of engineers. Also, movement between specializations within physics and other fields of science, such as meteorology and geophysics, is possible with experience.

Source: WorkBC Career Profiles

Job Outlook in BC

job outlook for physicists

Chart from Work BC (NOC 2111)

The Employment Outlook for BC provides job openings projections for physicists and astronomers within BC regions:

Region 2010 Estimated Employment 2015 Estimated Employment Avg Annual % Change, 5 Yrs, 2010 to 2015
Vancouver Island 20 20 0.5%
Lower Mainland / Southwest 250 290 2.8%
Thompson-Okanagan 10 10 0.4%

Source: Regional Employment Projections, BC Stats. Projections for development regions. [accessed November 2014]

You can learn more about working as a physicist in BC and Canada from:

 Types of Employers

Physicists are employed by:

  • electronic, electrical and aerospace manufacturing companies
  • telecommunications companies
  • power utilities
  • universities and government research laboratories
  • hospitals
  • a wide range of other manufacturing, research and consulting firms

Source: WorkBC Career Profiles


The average annual salary for physicists working full time in BC is between $66,000 and $95,000. Your salary depends on your level of education, experience, and the industry in which you work.
Source: WorkBC

Job Bank Canada’s wage report provides hourly wages for physicists in three BC regions:

physicists and astronomers regional wage
Chart from Job Bank Canada

Working Hours

Hours usually range from 8 to 10 hours a day, 40 to 60 hours a week. Overtime and weekend work is fairly common, especially when a project is nearing completion. Job-related travel usually takes up 1 to 3 weeks a year.
From Career Cruising database (Profile for Physicist).

Skills, Education and Experience


  • Patient and persistent
  • Imaginative , curious, inventive
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Analytical
  • strong verbal and written communication skills
  • Good mathematical abilities
  • Ability to work as part of a team

Sources: Canadian Association of Physicists, Career Cruising database (Profile for Physicist), National Occupational Classification

Education and Experience

  • Physicists usually require a master’s or doctoral degree in a field of physics, engineering physics, or in a related discipline.
  • A PhD is typically required for physicists in research and development positions. Those with master’s degrees may find work in physics related research and development positions in private industry.

Sources: Career Cruising database (Profile for Physicist); National Occupational Classification


Licensing Requirements for Physicists

The profession of physicist is not regulated in British Columbia and employment qualification requirements are set by individual employers.

However, professional members of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) can apply for Professional Physicist certification.

Designation as a Professional Physicist allows one to use the letters “P.Phys.” to show that they possess the qualities and experience required to make judgement calls with respect to scientific matters in their particular field.  Applicants must:

  • be of good character and at least 18 years of age
  • be a CAP member (and maintain membership while licensed)
  • meet education standards established by the CAP
  • meet physics experience requirements established by the CAP (minimum of three years of recent physics-related work experience after graduation_
  • agree to uphold CAP’s Code of Ethics for holders of the Professional Physicist designation
  • pass (unless exempted) the Professional Practice Examination (PPE)

For information about becoming a member of the Canadian Association of Physicists (CAP) or for qualifying for P. Phys certification, you can contact the Association.

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, and electronic sources, as well as through professional associations’ publications.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

  • Available online or in print at the Central Library
    (see categories 1630-2019, “Science/Engineering Professionals”)
    NOTE: Access at VPL locations only

Online Job Postings

    Job openings across Canada and the United States. Can limit by province/city

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements you’ll find a range of different job titles that are relevant.

For physicists, look for these related job titles (from NOC):

  • Aerodynamicist
  • Biophysicist
  • Cosmologist
  • Medical Physicist
  • Research Scientist, Aerospace
  • Research Scientist, Electronics
  • Research Scientist, Remote Sensing

Source : NOC 2011

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of companies who employ physicists in Vancouver or the Lower Mainland. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Canadian Company Capabilities
    Try searching by NAICS 541710 (Research & Development in the Physical, Engineering & Life Sciences) or 541380 (Testing Laboratories). Can narrow by province or city.

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter. These should identify the position you are applying for and summarize your relevant experience.

Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.

To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, see the following:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

Associations for physicists in BC and Canada provide assistance to individuals. Registration and fees are required for membership.

Industry Journals

Industry journals provide information about trends in the industry. Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. Examples at the Central Library: