The distinguished physicist Gerard ‘t Hooft (pronounced with a long o as in “over”) made a more comprehensive list than I ever could (and with the reputation to boot), so here is his page:
If you have never heard of Dr. Hooft, he is a Nobel winning theoretical physicist from the Netherlands. His interests include gauge theories in elementary particle physics, quantum gravity and black holes, and foundational aspects of quantum mechanics.
If you want to be a scientist, chances are pretty good that you enjoy your sciences courses. Not everyone can (or should) do a PhD, so how much formal education do really need?
- No degree
- It’s going to be pretty difficult to get a job in science without a formal degree. This isn’t to say that you can’t enjoy science as a hobby (you totally can!), but making a living from it is unlikely.
- Bachelor’s Degree
- This is generally considered the minimum requirement for a career in science. ~4 years and (hopefully) a decent GPA, and the doors are wide open.
- Master’s Degree
- You made it through 4+ years of college but are eager for more. A career lab technician isn’t your cup of tea…but neither is spending the next half-decade (or more) in academia.
- Doctor of Philosophy
- If you want to become a professor or manage your own lab, spending 5+ years of your life, writing a significant thesis, and climbing the Mountain of Red Tape is what you’ll need to do in order to succeed.
- A PhD isn’t for the faint of heart, but the title of Doctor and recognition as an expert in your field is yours…IF you can overcome the obstacles.
“It surprises me how disinterested we are today about things like physics, space, the universe and philosophy of our existence, our purpose, our final destination. It’s a crazy world out there. Be curious.” – Dr. Stephen Hawking The Universe in a Nutshell ( 2001)