including astronomy, astrophysics and space science

Physics Careers


Physics is widely regarded as a demanding degree to get and employers know that to get a good physics degree, you have to be bright! A physicist looks to understand how things work: the reasons that things happen the way they do, which requires the ability to analyse problems. This is a highly marketable skill which is applicable to a wide range of careers. A degree in Physics gives you an excellent grounding in many areas, what you make of it after you graduate is up to you! One survey in The Times suggested that Physics was in fact the most employable of degrees.

Each year, SEPnet (South East Physics Network) provides funding for undergraduates in their penultimate year at SEPnet partner universities to conduct eight week internships. The scheme not only provides a transfer of knowledge across the South East of England, it increases the employability of physics students too.  If you are an employer in the South East interested in offering a placement to a physics student, or a student at one of the SEPnet partner universities, please visit the following link for more details about the scheme:

DESTINATIONS OF RECENT KENT PHYSICS GRADUATES (includes M.Phys, Space Science & Astrophysics, and Physics with Forensic Science)

These statistics only cover the first six months after graduation. The latest destinations for all subjects (1999-last year) including postgraduates can be found at

Destinations of Kent Physics, Astronomy, Astrophysics and Space Science graduates

physics careers

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  • MSc MSc Physics - University of Kent (many!), MSc Physics (Europe) - Kent, MSc Biomedical Imaging - Kent, France MSc Biomedical Imaging - Kent,MSc Science Communication - Kent, MSc Fusion Energy - York, MSc Quantum Fields - Imperial, MSc Computational Geodynamics - Imperial, MSc Radiation & Environ'l Protection - Surrey, MSc Mathematics & Computational Science - Manchester, Birmingham, MSc Fusion Energy - York, MSc Nanotechnology - Leeds, MSc Space Science - Kent, Spacecraft Engineering Course, MSc Computer Science - Kent, MSc Astronautics & Space Engineering - Cranfield, MSc Aeronautical Engineering - Cranfield, MSc Engineering - Cranfield, MRes Earth Science - Reading, MSc Meteorology - Reading, MSc Biomaterials - Imperial, MSc Management Science - Kent (3), MSc Financial Maths - City Univ. MBM Business Studies - Portsmouth , MA Mysticism and Religious Experience - Kent
  • PhD Physics - University of Kent (many!), Royal Holloway, Applied Mathematics - Kent, Kings College (London Univ.), Cambridge, Imperial College, Sheffield, Lancaster, Leicester, Loughborough, Surrey (2), Open University, Indiana USA, Planetary Physics - Oxford, Solar Physics - Mullard Space Lab. UCL, DEng Cranfield, Astrophysics - Kent, Warwick, Medical Physics - UCL, Gravitational Lensing - Birmingham, MREs Photonics - Cambridge, MSc Nuclear Engineering - Imperial
  • Teacher Training PGCE Science - Christ Church (lots!), East Anglia Univ., Aberystwyth, Kingston, London Institute of Education, E. London Univ., Essex Initial Teacher Training, PGCE (Post compulsory) Physics - Univ. of East London
  • Other Study e.g. BA Classical & Arch. Studies - Kent, Dip French Language - University of Poitiers, France, postgraduate diploma - Physics, Electronics at Kent, MBBS Graduate Entry Medicine - Berkshire West PCT

Science-related employment

  • Defence: Graduate Trainee: DESG, Scientist - DSTL, Systems Scientist/Engineer - DSTL, Research Scientist - Qinetiq, Project Manager - GCHQ,
  • Aeronautics: Research Scientist - BAe Systems; Systems Engineer - BAe Systems Rochester (3), Graduate Engineer - Lockheed Martin, Rolls Royce,
  • Space: Thermal Engineer - EADS Astrium
  • Energy: Nuclear Safety Case Engineer - Magnox South Ltd, Health Physicist - Power Station; Reactor Physicist - Nuclear Energy; Geophysicist - CGGVeritas, Western Geophysical, Graduate Trainee - SafeRad, Geophyiscal Engineer - Gardline Geosurvey Ltd
  • Hospital Scientist: Health Physicist - DSTL, Medical Physicist - Maidstone NHS Trust, Assistant Physicist (radiotherapy) - Maidstone NHS Trust, Medical Physics Technician - Sandwell NHS Trust; Clinical Engineering Technician - Portsmouth Hospitals, NHS Clinical Scientist/MSc Clinical Sci. - Addenbrookes Hosp.
  • Analyst - Red Scientific; Scientist - Aligent Technologies;
  • Engineer: WS Atkins (Consultants), HVR, Simulations Engineer - Terma, Germany,
  • Observations Scientist - Met Office;
  • Ass't Scientist - Quotient Bioresearch
  • Quality Control Manager - Water Services Ltd.
  • Lab. Technician - Amphenol (Kent),
  • Teacher - School (GTP), Tr. Science Teacher (GTP),
  • School Science Technician (2), Research Analyst - Civil Service
  • Technical Sales - Knight Optical Ltd, Bartington

Computing-related employment

  • e.g. Data Cleanser - RS Components, Customer Service Technician - Fujitsu, Games Tester - Electronic Arts, IT Consultant - IBM, Logica, Lucent Technologies, IT Assistant - British Heart Foundation, IT Executive - Paribas Bank, Programmer - British Airways, Analyst - Easams Defence, Web Page Designer, 2nd Line IT Application Support - Credit Suisse, Systems Engineer - Cisco

Finance- related employment:

  • Banking Trainee Manager - Barclays, Graduate Trainee Financial Services - Abbey National, Securities Administrator - J.P.Morgan Chase, Business Associate - Coutts & Co., Business Analyst (Inst. of Actuaries) - RBS
  • Accountancy Trainee - Royal Mail, Chartered Accountant - Deloitte, Richard Watson & Co, Certified Accountant - Lakin Clark Revenue Ass't - Inland Revenue
  • Account Manager - Euromoney Institutional Investor
  • Insurance Sales - ABC,

Other employment e.g.

SELF EMPLOYED Arclight Entertainment/Arcadian Enterprises - Managing Director, Website Promoter


About 34% of physics graduates from Kent have opted to postgraduate study for a PhD or Masters degree in recent years. This is partly because grants are more easily available in the Sciences for postgraduate study than in the Arts or Social Sciences. It should be remembered though that postgraduate study is not an easy option and research for a PhD will require dedication and determination to see things through over a period of 3 or more years - especially when experiments are not going right! See our section on Postgraduate Study


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. See the section on Research and Development.

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
  • and finally 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.   See


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 degree. 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

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 Submarines

The 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

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


DEFENCE. This overlaps with communications.

MATERIALS. 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.


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

Other employers of physics graduates include:


Physicist Niels Bohr often told a story to illustrate notions of complexity and understanding. “Once upon a time a rabbinical student went to hear three lectures by a famous rabbi. Afterwards he told his friends,

‘The first talk was brilliant, clear and simple. I understood every word.
The second was even better, deep and subtle. I didn’t understand much, but the rabbi understood all of it.
The third was by far the finest, a great and unforgettable experience. I understood nothing and the rabbi didn’t understand much either.’


The surest sign that intelligent life exists elsewhere in the universe is that it has never tried to contact us. 

Bill Watterson 

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the Universe is for and why it is here, it will instantly disappear and be replaced by something even more bizarre and inexplicable -There is another theory which states that this has already happened.

Douglas Adams

A neutron walked into a bar and said, "I'd like a beer, please."

After the bartender gave him one, he said, "How much will that be?"

"For you?" said the bartender, "No charge


A long time ago a student went to three lectures by a famous rabbi. Afterwards he told his friends, ‘The first talk was brilliant, clear and simple. I understood every word. The second was even better, deep and subtle. I didn’t understand much, but the rabbi understood all of it. The third was by far the finest: I understood nothing and the rabbi didn’t understand much either.

Story told by physicist Niels Bohr

A report from Oxford Economics consultancy commissioned by the UK Space Agency says that UK space companies have grown by 10% a year since 2007 and predicts the growth will continue in 2010. The space business now has a turnover of £7.5bn, with employment rising at 15% a year. 80,000 UK jobs are dependent on space in some way.


Over 70% of employees in the sector are degree-qualified. The UK space sector could create up to 100,000 new UK jobs and increase revenues to £40bn a year. Growth areas are likely to include Earth observation, space tourism and broadband internet via satellite.

Space Science Sites





Physics graduates can enter a very wide range of careers both inside and outside science. Once you have read this page, visit the Careers Centre (in Keynes Driveway). You can browse in the Careers Centre as you would a library. You can ask at our helpdesk if you need help.

Bruce Woodcock - Careers Adviser for Physics


 Last fully updated 2017