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Particle Physicist

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At a Glance... header image

Studies the elementary constituents of matter and radiation, and the interactions between them.

Videos & Interviews header image

The Work header image

Particle physicists study the elementary constituents of matter and radiation. This work is heavily involved in ascertaining what exactly lies beyond the ‘Standard Model’ which is the fundamental structure used by physicists which describes only 4% of the universe.

Particle physicists tend to choose one of two main career paths: experimental particle physics, and theoretical particle physics.

The work involves striving to discover things such as higher energies, extra dimensions, reasons for the levels of matter in space and the answer as to why is gravity so weak?

As a particle physicist, you will work with pioneering technologies such as high-energy colliders to investigate the inner workings of quantum mechanics and more high-energy physics. Also, you may incorporate other fields such as astronomy into your research, working with cosmic rays from outer space and solar radiation.

Research in this field can lay down the foundations for many other disciplines of science, including chemistry, quantum mechanics, and general relativity.

Particle physicists who have drawn the interest of other scientists and the media may be invited to give presentations or proposals at annual conferences and seminars around the globe in order to communicate their research.

Career opportunities for Particle Physicists are generally in academia and research.  Employment can also be found in laboratories with facilities for creating high energy collisions.

Tasks & Activitiesheader image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported tasks and activities for this occupation


Perform complex calculations as part of the analysis and evaluation of data, using computers.


Describe and express observations and conclusions in mathematical terms.


Analyze data from research conducted to detect and measure physical phenomena.


Report experimental results by writing papers for scientific journals or by presenting information at scientific conferences.


Design computer simulations to model physical data so that it can be better understood.


Collaborate with other scientists in the design, development, and testing of experimental, industrial, or medical equipment, instrumentation, and procedures.


Direct testing and monitoring of contamination of radioactive equipment, and recording of personnel and plant area radiation exposure data.


Observe the structure and properties of matter, and the transformation and propagation of energy, using equipment such as masers, lasers, and telescopes to explore and identify the basic principles governing these phenomena.


Develop theories and laws on the basis of observation and experiments, and apply these theories and laws to problems in areas such as nuclear energy, optics, and aerospace technology.


Teach physics to students.

Work Activities header image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported work activities in this occupation.


Thinking Creatively: Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.


Processing Information: Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.


Making Decisions and Solving Problems: Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.


Getting Information: Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.


Analyzing Data or Information: Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.


Interpreting the Meaning of Information for Others: Translating or explaining what information means and how it can be used.


Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge: Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.


Provide Consultation and Advice to Others: Providing guidance and expert advice to management or other groups on technical, systems-, or process-related topics.


Communicating with Persons Outside Organization: Communicating with people outside the organization, representing the organization to customers, the public, government, and other external sources. This information can be exchanged in person, in writing, or by telephone or e-mail.


Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events: Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.

Knowledge header image

The following is a list of the five most commonly reported knowledge areas for this occupation.


Physics: Knowledge and prediction of physical principles, laws, their interrelationships, and applications to understanding fluid, material, and atmospheric dynamics, and mechanical, electrical, atomic and sub- atomic structures and processes.


Mathematics: Knowledge of arithmetic, algebra, geometry, calculus, statistics, and their applications.


English Language: Knowledge of the structure and content of the English language including the meaning and spelling of words, rules of composition, and grammar.


Engineering and Technology: Knowledge of the practical application of engineering science and technology. This includes applying principles, techniques, procedures, and equipment to the design and production of various goods and services.


Computers and Electronics: Knowledge of circuit boards, processors, chips, electronic equipment, and computer hardware and software, including applications and programming.

Skillsheader image

The following is a list of the most commonly reported skills used in this occupation.


Reading Comprehension: Understanding written sentences and paragraphs in work related documents.


Science: Using scientific rules and methods to solve problems.


Mathematics: Using mathematics to solve problems.


Active Learning: Understanding the implications of new information for both current and future problem-solving and decision-making.


Writing: Communicating effectively in writing as appropriate for the needs of the audience.


Learning Strategies: Selecting and using training/instructional methods and procedures appropriate for the situation when learning or teaching new things.


Critical Thinking: Using logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.


Instructing: Teaching others how to do something.


Speaking: Talking to others to convey information effectively.


Complex Problem Solving: Identifying complex problems and reviewing related information to develop and evaluate options and implement solutions.

Personal Qualitiesheader image

To become a particle physicist it is necessary to be strong willed, inquisitive and determined in your work into developing and broadening the current research in this area.

Excellence in critical thinking and experimental methods along with dedication are vital.

Excellent communication skills both written and oral are essential in order to convey your findings to team members or possibly in a lecturing capacity.

An aptitude for maths and specifically statistics is required for this area of work.

Particle physicists must possess the ability to work within a team environment but also work independently on research projects. 

Entry Routesheader image

A background in physics is necessary for a career in particle physics.  A minimum of a masters degree is required in order to enter the workforce as a particle physicist.

Relevant level 8 degree courses are available from a range of universities and IoTs.

You can then further your studies to masters level in an area more specifically focused on particle physics, with a range of similar universities and IoTs offering postgraduate courses.

In order to progress and become a particle physicist, you need extensive knowledge of the quantum field theory, gauge theory, and the Higgs mechanism.

A Ph.D. is required in order to reach a high level position in this field such as lecturing. UCD School of Physics provides supervised doctoral studies in particle physics.

Last Updated: November, 2014

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Contactsheader image


Organisation: Institute of Physics in Ireland
Address: Department of Physics, University of Limerick, Limerick
Tel: (061) 202 290/ (01) 708 3953
Email: Click here
Url Click here

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This occupation is popular with people who have the following Career Interests...

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Physics, Mathematics & Space Science
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Physics, Mathematics & Space Science

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