What is physics?
To understand what careers are available within the physics industry, it’s important to clarify exactly what physics is. Physics is the branch of science which studies matter and energy, and how different molecules interact with each other in space and over time. This definition is very broad, meaning there are a wide range of different physics careers.
What should I specialise in?
Given the broad nature of physics, you’ll need to choose a specific area of physics you’re most interested in. This will allow you to develop specific skills, making you more attractive to employers.
A career as an engineer is an excellent choice for those interested in physics, with numerous specialisms available within the field. For example, robotics engineers design, build and test new robots, while renewable energy engineers help to produce renewable energy sources.
Or, if you’ve always been fascinated by space, observational astronomers use telescopes and other instruments to observe the universe, while space systems engineers design and build spacecraft and other space vehicles.
Alternatively, gaming enthusiasts can qualify as VFX artists, using software to implement high quality VFX, or helping a video game come to life as a game designer or developer.
Note that there are far more physics careers out there than mentioned above. You can find out more here.
Can I pursue a physics career without studying physics?
Yes! Although you might believe you need a physics degree to study physics, this is not true at all. Many employers appreciate the transferable skills and unique perspective that non-physics students bring to the table.
If you’re a non-physics students, here are some things you can do to secure a physics career:
Studying (a different type of course):
Completing a physics course is a great way to demonstrate your interest in physics, and gain specialised skills. A master’s degree is a popular option, but there are so many other courses you can take. A diploma or certificate, for instance, is shorter and less expensive than a master’s, but provides you with many of the same skills. Alternatively, completing an online skills course (i.e a coding course for a budding engineer), allows you to gain practical skills, which will be a great boost to your CV.
Networking is a great way to learn more about the industry, and can help you decide which career path you are most interested in. Why not message someone on LinkedIn who has a job you’re interested in, asking if you can meet them for a coffee or a Zoom call? You’ll get to learn about how they got into the field and what challenges they’ve faced, and any advice they have. If you’re still at university, attending a careers talk or your university’s physics society is an excellent way to make connections.
Work experience allows you to network with professionals in the field, and decide if a career in physics is right for you. Applications for work experience are competitive, so you’ll need to make your application stand out. Make sure you can articulate why you’re interested in physics and the specific company, and provide examples of transferable skills. For example, a part-time retail job may seem unrelated to physics, but it provides you with valuable skills in communications, problem solving and time management.
Do an apprenticeship:
It is possible to pursue a career in physics without going to university! There are now many apprenticeships in physics, which could be your ideal route into a physics-related profession. Check out our Physics Apprenticeships section for more information!