Is a physics degree worth it?
Physics degrees offer the opportunity to explore and understand the fundamental building blocks of the universe. It is a perfect choice for those that are inquisitive about the world and want to unravel its secrets. A degree in physics is a great place to start if you seek a career in scientific research. It also offers the transferable skills to succeed in various other professions such as business, finance, IT and engineering.
Natural career paths following a physics degree:
- Academic researcher
- Acoustic consultant
- Clinical scientist, medical physics
- Higher education lecturer
- Radiation protection practitioner
- Research scientist (physical sciences)
- Secondary school teacher
- Sound engineer
- Technical author
Career paths where you’ll have transferable skills:
- Applications developer
- Clinical technologist
- Data analyst
- Nuclear engineer
- Operational researcher
- Patent attorney
- Software engineer
- Telecommunications researcher
These should only be used as a guide. Many employers will accept applications from students that have studied various degrees.
Having work experience before applying for a role is valued highly by employers, especially experience directly related to a role that will require physics skills. Some physics courses may even include a year’s work placement, where you will be able to learn industry skills, develop your commercial awareness and gain insight into what a career in physics would look like.
If you are specifically seeking a career in science, then you may want to consider looking for a part-time or summer internship in a laboratory. Here you will be able to shadow laboratory technicians and gain valuable skills to enhance your CV.
As a physics graduate, there will be various options available to you; however, typical employers will be the likes of academic institutions, schools and colleges, government research organisations and the armed forces. You will then be assigned to a specific industry which could include:
- Aerospace and defence
- Energy and renewable energy
- Health and medicine
- Meteorology and climate change
- Oil and gas
- Science and telecommunications.
How to enhance your CV
A physics degree will teach you the foundations of physics and will provide you with a range of subject-specific skills. These may include but are not limited to, astronomy, computational and experimental physics, dynamics, quantum mechanics, etc.
During your degree, you will also have developed transferable skills that will apply to many job roles if you do not choose a career related to your degree. These include:
- 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
- Information technology (IT)
Several physics graduates will choose further study following graduation to further their knowledge or specialise in a particular field. Postgraduate courses include:
- Quantum physics
- Particle physics
- Mathematical Physics
Many graduates will enrol on a graduate scheme with a research company or consultancy, as these employers will offer on-the-job training and will have opportunities open to graduates annually.
One area where physics students are sadly lacking is teaching. If you would like to become a teacher, you will need to take a teaching qualification such as the PGCE in order to do so. There are also scholarships and bursaries available to help with the cost of teacher training.
What are physics graduates doing?
Most physics graduates are employed 15 months after graduating and often work in professional, scientific and technical areas of employment (23%). The most popular profession amongst physics graduates is within IT (14%). The top five jobs also include business, research and administrative professionals, teaching, natural and social science professionals and finance professionals.
The professionally-recognised BSc Physics degree will develop your understanding of the fundamentals of physics as a core science and will build your knowledge and professional skills to prepare you for a career in any area of physics, including industrial applications and academic research.
Nuclear technology has far-reaching applications for our world; in medical imaging, environmental monitoring, radioactive dating, and nuclear energy generation. Nuclear physics and radiation detection are also prerequisites in conducting research in nuclear and particle physics at large laboratories such as CERN, the European Organisation for Nuclear Research.
You will graduate from the programme well equipped for a career in nuclear power, nuclear medicine, environmental monitoring, fundamental and industrial research, or nuclear decommissioning.