What can I do with a physics degree?

What can I do with a physics degree?

Physics students are trained to analyse evidence and handle equations. This way of thinking can be applied to many job roles, giving them the option of working in a range of industries.

One of the great benefits of studying physics is the employability and the wide range of potential career directions afterwards. Physics grads are a blank canvas for employers to mould!

This guide should help you think about the skills you have, the jobs they can be applied to, and the options available.

Skills for your CV

Skills you should have picked up include:

  • communication and presentation skills
  • computational and data-processing skills
  • data analysis using a range of appropriate statistical methods and packages
  • identify and predict trends and patterns
  • problem solving skills
  • report writing
  • research skills.

Job roles and career areas you could work in

Obvious careers for physicists that want to start now include working for research companies like DSTL or consultancies like Atkins. These employers generally use on the job training and take on many graduates each year.

Other jobs physics graduates go into include finance and IT. The creation of models or running of analysis are also big employers of physics graduates. Associated roles can include anything from risk analysis to weather forecasting.

One area where physics students are sadly lacking is teaching. The government has set up a scholarship scheme to support graduates who want to train to teach. 

Other solid careers for physics graduates include:

  • aerospace engineering
  • energy and power provision
  • environmental consultancy
  • manufacturing (including computers, electronics, medical equipment)
  • medical technologies
  • patent work
  • research and development
  • scientific publishing
  • telecommunications
  • water and environmental control.

What do physics graduates go on to do?

Here’s what physics graduates who finished their degrees in 2016 were doing six months after graduating, according to the What do graduates do? report published in 2017.

Destination Percentage
Full-time employment in the UK 38.7
Part-time employment in the UK 6.6
Working overseas 1.2
Working and studying 4.9
Further study 35.3
Unemployed 8.3
Other 5.0

Source: What do graduates do? 2017

Key areas of employment for fresh physics graduates

These are the top five areas of work taken up by 2016 physics graduates six months after graduation, according to the 2017 What do graduates do? report.

Areas of employment Percentage
Business, HR and finance professionals 21.3
Information technology professionals 18.7
Retail, catering, waiting and bar staff 9.7
Engineering and building professionals 7.8
Education professionals 7.6

Source: What do graduates do? 2017

Famous people with physics degrees

Of course there are plenty of other things you can do with a physics degree. They don’t even have to have any visible connection to physics. Just take these famous graduates for example:

  • Brian Cox – completed his undergraduate degree, masters and doctorate at the University of Manchester, and has since presented science documentaries such as Wonders of the Solar System.
  • Dara Ó Briain – the host of Mock the Week has a degree in maths and theoretical physics from University College Dublin.
  • Brian May – the lead guitarist of Queen has a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London.
  • Angela Merkel – worked as a research scientist before becoming Chancellor of Germany.

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