Careers and Employability Service

What can I do with my degree in Physics, Astrophysics and Space Science?

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
  • 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

 

Teacher

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:

 

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Last Updated: 10/09/2019