How much do physicists make?

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Oct 26 2023

A career as a physicist is an exciting one, you’ll be making new discoveries and sharing them with the world. But, how much can you expect to earn as a physicist? This article will discuss the average salary for physicists based in the UK, and provide you with some advice on how to boost your salary.


What is a physicist?

A physicist is someone who studies the universe: planets, stars, galaxies, dark matter and everything in between. Physicists observe the natural phenomena that occur, and conduct experiments to understand how and why these phenomena take place. Their findings can be applied to give us a better understanding of other natural phenomena, and even helps contribute to new discoveries and inventions. Given the wide range of physic theory out there, most physicists choose to specialise in a specific area of physics, such as astrophysics, biophysics or particle physics

How much do physicists make?

Just like any job, the exact amount that a physicist makes depends on a number of variables. This includes: what sort of place they work at, where they live, their education level and their level of experience.

According to figures from the UK government, entry-level physicists make an average of £15,609. With more experience, mid to senior level physicists earn around £50,000.

How can a physicist improve their salary?

Working in a more profitable field

If you’re not yet sure what area of physics you’d like to specialise in, it’s worth seeing which sector has the highest salary. For instance, entry-level medical physicists earn around £31,365, with senior level workers earning approximately £51,668. The route to becoming a medical physicist is also less expensive, as you’ll complete a work-based learning programme (like the NHS Scientist Training Programme) which includes a fully funded master’s.

Similarly, higher profile companies, research bodies and other institutions tend to pay their employees more.

A side hustle

As a physicist, you’ll spend the vast majority of your time conducting independent research. However, your experience makes you an attractive candidate for other sources of income. For example, you could deliver lectures at a university (although you’ll need a PhD), help with textbook writing (or publish a book about your research) or privately tutor physics students. Once you’ve built up some experience, you could even teach in further education on an ad-hoc basis. You don’t even need teaching experience!

Postgraduate education

Not only will postgraduate education provide you with research skills and networking opportunities, it will allow you to access many senior level jobs. Research shows that those with a PhD or a master’s are more likely to earn a higher salary than those with an undergraduate degree. 

Although a postgraduate degree is likely to improve your earning potential, it’s not guaranteed. They can also be quite taxing, and very expensive. Thus, it’s worth taking some time to think carefully about whether postgraduate education is right for you. It’s also worth looking into different funding options as early as you can, such as fully funded PhDs and apprenticeships like the Level 7 research scientist apprenticeship.