A career as an engineer is a popular choice for many physics graduates, given that many engineering principles rely on physics theories. If you’re interested in a career as an engineer, it’s worth doing some research into the different specialities. For example, if you’re fascinated by artificial intelligence and its potentials, you’ll enjoy a career as an AI engineer, designing and developing AI software. Interested in airspace? What about becoming an aeronautical engineer, working to ensure aeronautical vehicles like helicopters and passenger planes are safe and cost effective. Similarly, life as a space systems engineer allows you to use engineering to help us better understand outer space, by designing and building space equipment.
In a junior engineer role you won’t have as much creative freedom with projects. For example, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to make final decisions on things like the design of the product. Instead, your work will mostly focus on making the design come to life and troubleshooting any issues. However, instead of seeing this as a disadvantage, see it as an opportunity to network with and learn from senior engineers.
A career as a research assistant is a great option for someone who enjoys designing experiments, and learning about how new discoveries are made. As a research assistant, you’ll be working with a physicist on their research project. Given the breadth and depth of physics study, most people working in research choose to specialise in a specific aspect of physics, such as geophysics (studying the earth’s structure and how it evolves) medical physics (how physics can be used in healthcare) and nuclear physics (developing safer ways of producing nuclear energy). Day to day responsibilities of a research assistant include: conducting background research, requesting equipment necessary for the project, travelling to field sites to collect and record data and summarising results into reports and presentations.
A role as a research assistant is a great opportunity for you to learn more about what goes into experiment design, and work out if research is something you see yourself doing long-term. Many research assistants go on to pursue a research scientist apprenticeship or PhD.
Imagine being the person who sparks someone’s interest in physics. Working in education, you could do just that. A role as a teaching assistant is an excellent way for you to decide whether a teaching career is right for you, before pursuing further education. In this role, you’ll help teachers prepare lesson materials, work with students who are struggling, record student progress and even lead classes from time to time.
Not only will a career as a physics teacher be personally rewarding (talking about and experimenting with physics all day), but you’ll also help reduce the physics teacher shortage. In 2022/2023, physics was 83% below its target of new teachers. Thus, if you choose to become a qualified teacher by completing the postgraduate certificate in education (PGCE), you can receive a bursary or scholarship of up to £29,000.
Interested in physics theory but don’t want a career in the lab? A career as a science writer allows you to combine an interest in science with a passion for media and writing. You could work for a scientific journal or for the science section of a newspaper or magazine.
Typical responsibilities include: coming up with thought-provoking article ideas, conducting and transcribing interviews and editing work in response to feedback.
If you’re interested in a career as a science writer, it’s a good idea to get some experience while at university. Why not start writing for your university’s student newspaper or magazine, or start a blog?