What can I do with a physics degree?
One of the great benefits of studying physics is the employability and the wide range of potential career directions afterwards. They may pursue careers in science in academia or industry, seek work in a related area such as teaching physics or science communication, or take up jobs in business or finance. Many physics graduates go on to further study after finishing their undergraduate degrees.
This guide should help you think about the skills you have, the jobs they can be applied to, and the range of options available. You will also find out about employment rates for physics graduates, the areas of employment that attract them and the type of work they are likely to be doing six months after graduation.
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 working now include graduate schemes with research companies like DSTL or consultancies like Atkins. These employers generally use on the job training and recruit graduates on an annual basis.
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. There are scholarships and bursaries available to help with the cost of teacher training to encourage physics graduates to enter the profession.
With further qualifications or training, job roles open to physics graduates in science, business and other areas include the following:
- commissioning editor
- computer scientist
- environmental scientist
- materials specialist
- medical physicist
- patent attorney
- patent examiner
- research scientist
- secondary school teacher
- technical author
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.
|Full-time employment in the UK||38.7|
|Part-time employment in the UK||6.6|
|Working and studying||4.9|
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|
Source: What do graduates do? 2017
Which careers attract physics students?
Scientific research and development was by far the most popular career choice for students of natural sciences identified by a 2017 survey of more than 60,000 undergraduates carried out by trendence UK, a partner of TARGETjobs’ parent company GTI. More than half (57%) of students of natural sciences, a group of degree subjects that includes physics, who participated in the survey said they were interested in this area. The most popular careers for students of natural sciences were as follows:
|Scientific research and development||57% expressed an interest|
|Consumer goods – manufacturing and marketing||33|
|Engineering, design and manufacture||14|
|Charity and not-for-profit||10|
Source: trendence UK Graduate Study 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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