Difference Between Physicist & Chemist

Physicists and chemists have different scientific fields of specialization. Some aspects of their work are similar, and they may perform some of the same general duties. Continue reading to learn more about how these careers compare.

Comparing Physicists to Chemists

Physicists and chemists both work in the physical sciences field. As scientists, some aspects of their work are similar, such as the need to thoroughly document their work. They concentrate on working with different substances, so their work can differ in its purpose.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2016)* Job Outlook (2014-2024)*
Physicists Doctoral Degree $115,870 8%
Chemists Bachelor's Degree $73,740 3%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Physicists vs. Chemists

Physicists and chemists are researchers who use scientific tests for a variety of purposes. Their work involves determining the focus of their research and conducting experiments. They may also both be involved in analyzing test results and other relevant information. Physicists may need to secure financing for their work. It's common for both physicists and chemists to work in laboratories, and those that advance to management roles may train or supervise other staff.


Although it may be possible to start a career as a physicist with a bachelor's degree, a doctoral degree is required for most positions in this field. A Ph.D. is also required to advance to roles in management or to qualify to work in research in this field. Physicists specialize in understanding the laws that govern the physical world. They can specialize in fields such as medicine, and help identify new ways to treat medical problems. Others primarily work with energy production. They are employed by places such as scientific companies, academic institutions and medical facilities.

Job responsibilities of a physicist include:

  • Establishing a theory
  • Determining how to prove or disprove the theory
  • Applying for funding for research
  • Performing tests
  • Calculating data
  • Documenting their research and conclusions


Chemists can start in their field with a bachelor's degree. Those who are interested in advancing to management or research may need to have a master's or doctoral degree in the field. Higher levels of education can help increase job prospects. Chemists are commonly employed in research, manufacturing or government work. They specialize in working with matter and may work in fields in which they focus on research or on applying the results of their studies in product development.

Job responsibilities of a chemist include:

  • Determining the focus of research
  • Evaluating chemicals and other compounds
  • Overseeing other staff involved in project
  • Performing scientific tests
  • Documenting their research
  • Recommending ways to improve product manufacturing

Related Careers

If you're interested in pursuing work as a physicist you may also want to consider being a biophysicist, since biophysicists specialize in using their knowledge of biology and physics to help with things such as medical research. Another career option for aspiring chemists is to become a chemical engineer, since chemical engineers are also involved with performing tests and research.

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