What can I do with a degree in Physics?

Find out where the range of skills you develop studying physics can take you. Here we list potential careers and tell you how you can find a job in this sector.

Other careers

A Physics degree may be useful in the following career areas:

Physics Related Jobs

A large proportion of physics graduates entering permanent jobs after graduation go into research, design and development. Although you can get a job as a trainee research scientist with a good first degree, for those wanting a long term career in research it may be advisable to study for a doctorate as promotion within research may be hindered without one. However, many junior research staff use research as a stepping stone to other functions within the company, such as marketing, patent work and production management, and for graduates with these ambitions a postgraduate degree would not be necessary. Many of these jobs are with electronics, telecommunications and defence companies and may be nearer engineering than pure physics.

Areas of growth include nuclear and renewable energy, environmental jobs and defence but employers such as Rolls-Royce, AWE and RM Consulting also actively seek to employ physicists.

A survey by the Institute of Physics asked physicists "What do you do for your living?"

  • 46% were doing research
  • 16% Teaching
  • 15% Engineering
  • 12% IT
  • 6% Communications
  • 5% Business

By industry the largest proportion were in AEROSPACE, followed by:

  • Electronics/IT software,
  • Instrumentation,
  • Telecoms,
  • Electrical
  • Nuclear fuel processing
  • Manufacturing
  • Petrochemicals/oil
  • Transport
  • Publishing
  • Information systems engineering
  • Construction
  • Chemical
  • Food, drink and tobacco

The main function of their job in 2007 was, in order:

  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Development
  • Management
  • Technical support
  • Consultancy
  • Administration
  • Other
  • Production
  • Marketing/retail/distribution


A Postgraduate Certificate of Education Course (PGCE) lasts one year. It's still not that difficult to obtain a place on a science PGCE provided that you can show some evidence of interest in teaching such as voluntary work at a school. Remember though that you need to apply well in advance for courses. Remember that you can also teach physics in Colleges of Further Education, private schools and the Armed Forces. There is a shortage of science teachers, who are eligible for an enhanced bursary during training.  

Medical Physicist

These use a variety of physics and computing skills in diagnosis and treatment of illness including such techniques as radiography and ultrasound. Tasks include introducing, calibrating, using and maintaining medical equipment. Entry is sometimes direct into a job, but often now after a relevant Masters dege. Normal entry route is via the National Scheme for Training Clinical Scientists advertised in February each year with a closing date in March. There are also jobs with medical equipment suppliers in designing, developing and marketing equipment. Related jobs include Health (Radiation) Physicist in the nuclear industry (see below) and Biomedical Engineer - designing heart valves, artificial limbs etc.

See the websites below for more information on what the jobs involve

For more information see the Prospects overview of the science and pharmaceuticals sector

You may be interested in graduate roles outside of physics. There are many employers who are looking for graduates with good degrees but that don’t have a preference for the subject studied. To explore different career options see:

Skills gained

As well as subject-specific knowledge and skills, a graduate in physics will typically have gained:

  • Problem solving
  • Thinking logically and high level quantitative and numerical skills.
  • Analysing
  • Investigating
  • Numeracy
  • Communication
  • Cooperating and Advising

This is not an exhaustive list of skills – you will develop many skills from your course, extra-curricular activities and work experience. You can find out more about the skills employers look for and how you can develop them here.

Find a job

The Careers and Employability Service provides information and advice on job searching to University of Kent students and recent graduates. This includes a vacancy database advertising a range of graduate jobs, sandwich placements and vacation work/internships and online resources. These websites may be useful in job searching and for providing further information on jobs and careers specifically related to Accounting and Finance.

Nuclear Energy

The nuclear energy industry recruits large numbers of physicists. See our energy industry page for full details of jobs and employers.Trident Nuclear SubmarinesThe Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) supplies and maintains the warheads for the submarines. Other players are the Ministry of Defence, BAE Systems, Babcock and Rolls Royce

Nuclear and Alternative Energy Recruiters


Radio, optoelectronic and microwave communication are all important here, and there are jobs with both equipment manufacturers and suppliers of services.

Computing and IT

A popular area for electronics graduates. Although it has been badly hit by the downturn in the American economy, there are still substantial numbers of jobs here. Employers include:

Defence (overlaps with communications)


This includes designing advanced instrumentation/microprocessor controls, integrated circuits and semiconductor materials, also glass technology and metallurgy.



This involves the development and use of novel nanomaterials such as graphene and carbon nanotubes which have the potential to revolutionise fields such as high power batteries, drug delivery, solar cells and computers.


  • Ergonomics (also called human factors) involves making life easier for people. This includes the products you use at home and at work, transport and systems that keep day-to-day life functioning properly. As an ergonomist, you could:
    • design products to make them easier or more comfortable to use
    • train people to work safely in hazardous places like oil rigs and power plants
    • examine the physical strength and endurance of athletes
    • analyse pilots’ tasks to ensure maximum performance under stress
    • design protective equipment for people working in extreme environments
    • improve accessibility for disabled people.

Ergonomists may have qualifications in psychology, science, engineering, design or anatomy. 
See the Institute of Ergonomics and Human Factors

Detailed descriptions of many science and non-science jobs can be found at Prospects Web 

Other employers of physics graduates include:

  • Ultra Electronics group of specialist businesses designing, manufacturing and supporting electronic and electro-mechanical systems, sub-systems and products for defence, security, transport and energy applications worldwide.
  • Fraser Nash Consultancy systems and engineering technology organisation with 400 permanent employees Provide advice to customers in the defence, nuclear, power & energy, civil aerospace, rail, marine, petrochemical and industrial sectors.

Astronomy and Space Science Links

Space Science Sites


  • European Space Agency develops launchers and spacecraft. Takes about 100 graduates a year as for example software engineers, propulsion engineers, navigation system engineers and launcher systems engineers. Establishments in Germany, Netherlands, Italy, Spain and France
  • Airbus Space
  • BAe Systems global aerospace and defence
  • European Space Agency major research centre at Harwell, Oxfordshire
  • BT satellite communications
  • Logica software design
  • Thales (formerly Thompson CSF and Racal)
  • Rolls Royce
  • Other companies involved include BSkyB, Inmarsat, Pace, Qinetiq, Fugro and Avanti Communications who operate the new Hylas satellite.


General Physics Links

More websites offering graduate jobs, internships and placement years

You may also find useful reviews and application/interview tips for specific organisations on the following websites:

The Job Crowd

Further study

Graduates could continue to the following degrees at Kent

Physics - MSc, MPhil, PhD

More information on postgraduate study

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