Although a physics professor is responsible for instructing college students about topics related to physics, there are also many more aspects to her job. For example, she can instruct students on more in-depth physics topics or interrelated disciplines, such as astrophysics, biophysics, optical physics, or theoretical physics, just to name a few. Depending on the size of the university, she may only work in the physics department or she may teach students other subjects, such as chemistry, biology, or even music, as well.
Sometimes a physics professor may not teach students at all. In those cases, she may be solely working on research. Colleges and universities encourage the professors to complete research projects because it is a significant source of income for the university. Grants and fellowships are available through federal and private sources across the globe. In fact, a physics professor may accept a position at a different university in a different country, if there is a research project of interest to her there.
In many cases, a physics professor will work to publish her research findings in a related journal. Having her work published is one way that the professor receives recognition and credit for her work. In addition, the university where the physics professor is employed typically revels in the publicity. A break-through research finding may bring in the brightest students and top professors from around the world.
A physics professor may work as a lecturer. She may travel to local and foreign universities to teach various findings, concepts, and theories to students and other professors. Many universities have an events calendar related only to physics, professors serving as lecturers are often listed on these calendars.
Some physics professors are members of various science societies. Usually they are elected positions, making such memberships quite honorable. For example, the National Academy of Sciences, the American Academy of Arts & Sciences, and the Royal Irish Academy are all prestigious societies where a physics professor may become elected.
Many physics professors attempt to win prizes or awards for their research. One of the most famous prizes, the Nobel Prize for Physics, is also one of the most sought after. Other, lesser famous prizes or awards also give professors credit for their great achievements, since the Nobel Prize is extremely difficult to obtain.
To become a professor in physics, it is best to receive a doctorate in physics. During the graduate school stage, many professors work as teaching assistants. They may work with established professors in their laboratories or even teach college students in student-laboratories or small group settings.