Becoming a Physicist in Wales

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Apr 24 2024

Interested in becoming a physicist? This article will give you a comprehensive overview of the physics industry in Wales, from the best educational pathways to pursue to how to stand out in a competitive job market.


Educational pathways for aspiring physicists

There’s a variety of different ways to become a physicist in Wales. If you’re interested in attending university, it’s worth remembering that most universities will ask that you’ve taken Maths and Physics at A-level. 

Studying physics at university is a great way to learn more about physics, and specialise in an area of the subject you’re particularly interested in. Many universities offer a range of different types of physics degrees, such as Physics and Philosophy, Astrophysics or Physics with biophysics, so you’ll be sure to find something that suits your unique interests. Unsure about where to attend university? Here you can find a list of Welsh institutions offering physics degrees and courses

While attending university is a great way to kick-start your career as a physicist, it’s definitely not the only way. It’s expensive, and the structured style of learning doesn’t suit everyone. Completing an apprenticeship is a great way to secure a fully-funded qualification while gaining hands-on practical experience. There’s a variety of physics apprenticeships available to suit a range of skill sets and education levels, with apprenticeship opportunities within engineering, construction and technology. If you’ve already completed an undergraduate degree, a number of places offer master’s level apprenticeships, such as the Level 7 research scientist degree apprenticeship. 

On the topic of postgraduate qualifications, you don’t need a master’s or a PhD to be a successful physicist. However, it’s worth noting that some senior research positions and lecturing roles will require a postgraduate qualification. There are many ways to fund further education, including taking advantage of government loans, and applying for scholarships and bursaries.

Key Skills 

To become a successful physicist in Wales, you’ll need to have a number of practical and soft skills. Problem-solving, analytical thinking and adaptability are key to managing any setbacks or challenges while conducting research. Similarly, communication and teamwork are also important. Many research projects require you to work alongside other physicists, so being able to resolve problems and communicate effectively is crucial.

Practical skills and experience is also highly valued, and one of the best ways to secure this is through internships, shadowing opportunities and work experience.

Navigating the job market

Wales is a great place to kick start your career as a physicist, with a number of renowned scientists hailing from Wales. These include Edward George Bowen, an early radio astronomer who made a significant contribution to the development of radar, and Sir David Brunt, widely regarded as the father of meteorology. 

One of the exciting things about physics is that there’s a range of specialities to choose from. For example, if you struggled to choose between studying physics and studying medicine, a career as a medical physicist allows you to apply physics theories to improve the healthcare systems. Or, if you’re passionate about space exploration, a career as an astrophysicist allows you to conduct in-depth research into the wonders of space. 

As an early careers physicist, you’ll probably start in an entry-level position (i.e Research Assistant) and work your way up. Physicists can seek employment in a range of places, including universities, research centres, NGOs, and for-profit organisations.

Building a successful career

As discussed, work experience is crucial to standing out in the physics sector. Taking the time to make your application stand out is crucial to securing an internship or shadowing opportunity. You can do this by researching the organisation thoroughly and tailoring your application to align with their values, rereading your application several times to check for spelling and grammar mistakes and doing mock interviews beforehand. 

Networking is also a crucial part of becoming a successful physicist. Attending events and joining professional organisations allows you to stay up to date with new developments in the sector, and connect with other physicists. A conversation with someone at a seminar or public lecture could lead to a mentoring relationship or even a recommendation for a full-time role. The Institute of Physics, The Learned Society of Wales, and the Royal Society are three great institutions fostering connections between scientists.  

Opportunities in the Welsh physics industry

Although the physics industry is facing challenges like funding cuts and competition for research grants, there’s also numerous opportunities for innovation and growth within the field. For example, to increase uptake in Physics post-16, six Welsh universities have launched a mentoring programme which involves physics students supporting secondary school students. Other exciting developments include: researchers at Swansea University developing a non-invasive blood test for early detection of bowel cancer and Cardiff University leading one of 65 new training centres to support research into areas of national important (i.e. AI)

This article has offered an overview of the opportunities available for physicists in Wales, from networking associations to exciting research developments. Why not take advantage of these opportunities, be that through attending a networking event or connecting with a physicist you admire?