In addition to the core and subject-specific skills you’ll gain with a physics qualification, you’ll also develop transferable skills like problem solving, numeracy and data analysis. These skills are greatly valued by employers! Let’s explore some of the options available to physics graduates…
There are a wide range of jobs directly related to physics. You could become a research scientist, designing and carrying out experiments to prove the existence of natural phenomena. The research you collect will be used to develop new products, or to improve existing ones. To enter into the field, you’ll need a degree or apprenticeship in a related subject. For higher level roles, you’ll probably need to have a research-based MSc or PhD.
You could also choose to become an academic researcher, using your expertise to publish papers in peer-reviewed journals. Academic researchers tend to write books and reports on their research, and are often involved in teaching university students. You might even find yourself speaking at conferences! Becoming a researcher usually involves completing a master’s course, followed by a PhD.
Don’t let the cost of completing a degree put you off. If you’re studying in England, you can receive an undergraduate, postgraduate and/or doctoral loan. Students can use the loan for their course fees, living costs or both, and there’s no need to pay it back until you’re employed and earning over the threshold. Furthermore, many universities and independent organisations also offer grants for low-income or gifted students. Receiving a grant means you don’t need to pay back the money you receive, and you’ll typically receive money to cover both your living costs and the degree!
If you’d like to combine your interest in physics and medicine, you could become a medical physics clinical scientist. These scientists research, develop, test and maintain specialist equipment used to diagnose health conditions.
Working alongside healthcare professionals, you’ll be implementing patient treatment programmes, catching diseases and treating them before they worsen. You can become a clinical scientist by taking the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP), a full-time, work-based learning and training programme that lasts three years.
Have you ever watched a weather report? If so, you’ve seen a meteorologist in action. Meteorologists use the land, oceans and atmosphere to make short and long-term weather forecasts. The field is divided into two specialisms: weather forecasting and research.
Weather forecasters provide weather predictions for organisations like insurance companies, the media and the shipping industry. They do this by measuring factors such as air pressure and temperature and applying physical and mathematical relationships.
The other specialism is research. Meteorologist researchers develop models to improve the accuracy of forecasts, monitor changes in the atmosphere and monitor climate changes. They then apply this research to give weather warnings, or to predict the long-term effects of climate change.
To become a meteorologist, you’ll need a STEM apprenticeship or degree, with researchers needing a meteorology-related postgraduate qualification.
Geoscience is a large field, with a number of job opportunities available within the field. Geoscientists are typically involved in the discovery and use of natural resources, like oil, gas, water and minerals.
Responsibilities vary depending on your chosen specialisation, but you’ll typically collect geological information in the field, collaborate with drilling engineers to determine drilling locations, and develop geological modules of the earth, to understand the distribution of oil, gas and minerals.
Careers you might pursue include: geochemist, geologist, geophysicist and hydrogeologist. Many geoscientists go onto further study in a relevant area of geoscience, as this improves your employment prospects and could lead to a higher salary.
Is it impossible for you to imagine leaving education? If so, you might wish to become a physics teacher. You’ll teach your students about the laws that govern the universe, via a range of hands-on experiments.
In addition to the physical act of teaching, you’ll also: design lessons, monitor your pupils progress via homework, exams and class participation, assist students who need additional support and supervise field trips.
The route to become a teacher differs depending on where in the UK you are. You can learn more here.
Even though a career as an engineer is not directly related to physics, the broad-ranging nature of physics, combined with the transferable skills a physics degree gives you, means that many physics graduates end up as engineers.
There are a wide range of engineering careers for which physics would be useful. Electronics engineers develop and design electronic devices or processes, working with the product from the initial brief up to manufacture. Materials engineers work on the manufacture, development and production of a wide range of materials, testing the resistance of materials to harm and whether the final product complies with quality standards.
Software engineers apply mathematical analysis and computer science to design and develop computer software. Although the requirements for jobs differ depending on what sort of engineering role you’re after, you’ll typically need a good degree in a STEM subject, and proven interest in your chosen specialism.
Although law and physics may seem like two completely different subjects, physics students are well suited to pursue a career in law. Physics teaches you a number of transferable skills, such as verbal reasoning, organisation and research, all of which are vital for a successful legal career. Patent law is a subset of law for which physics students are highly valued, given the specialist scientific knowledge needed. As a patent attorney, you’ll advise your clients on how to secure a patent for their latest invention. This means that inventors can stop other people from copying their product or designing a similar one.
Are you a keen video gamer? If so, a career in gaming might be for you. There are numerous career opportunities within the gaming industry for those interested in physics. VFX artists use complex technical software to implement high quality visual effects (VFX) within games, films and television. In addition to this, game designers come up with exciting storylines for new video games and computer games. For a more technical role, game developers take these storylines, and craft the code necessary for these storylines to become reality.