Careers in physics require specialist knowledge and a true passion for the subject. While many people may only think of scientific or research roles when it comes to physics, going to work in this sector could actually see you land a job in a variety of industries.
Take a look at the benefits of a career in physics, the types of roles available, as well as the skills and qualifications needed for a job in physics.
- Why work in physics?
- What careers are available in physics?
- What skills are needed to work in physics?
- What degrees help with a career in physics?
Why work in physics?
Deepen your understanding of the world
A career in physics will give you a better understanding of the world around you, whether that is time and space or on a more human level. A physics career would enable you to satisfy your own curiosity about a certain topic, while at the same time contributing to technological advancements in a range of sectors.
Gain transferable skills
Physics careers are versatile, meaning that you’ll pick up a variety of skills along the way. Critical thinking, problem solving, attention to detail, plus many more, are all highly sought-after skills. So if you embark on a career in physics and go on to realise it’s not the right path for you, you can apply this skillset to a new career.
People study and work in physics all around the world, meaning a career in physics could see you work abroad. Physics is also relevant to a range of industries. You might think of physics as mainly the study of space and astronomy, but you could go on to work in engineering, technology or healthcare.
What careers are available in physics?
There are a variety of jobs in physics:
Researcher or scientist
A physics career could see you land roles such as academic researcher, clinical scientist or research scientist.
Clinical scientists work in the medical sector, helping to prevent, diagnose and treat medical conditions. As a research scientist within physical science, you would be employed within a certain area of physics – such as astronomy or geophysics – to conduct experiments and further our understanding of the area.
To find out more about careers in academic research, take a look at our article.
Geophysicists study the earth and the space surrounding it. As a geophysicist, you would study things like gravity and magnetic fields to understand more about the earth and other planets.
Astronomy is the study of celestial objects (objects outside of the earth’s atmosphere, for example the sun or milky way). You could work in observational astronomy, using telescopes and cameras to monitor things like galaxies and stars, or theoretical astronomy, where you would explain these observations and make predictions.
Nanotechnologists work with matter on a nano-scale (one billionth of a metre). A career in nanotechnology involves investigating nano-scale systems and using these findings to develop new materials.
Meteorology is about studying the weather and climate in order to make predictions, such as weather forecasts or climate change.
Radiation protection practitioner
Radiation protection practitioners monitor and assess levels of radiation in order to ensure the health and safety of workplaces, public spaces and the environment more generally.
Metallurgists work with a range of metals to design and manufacture new products.
There are a range of engineering roles available with physics too. You could become a sound engineer, working in studios and venues with musicians, presenters, comedians and many more to produce high quality sound. Nuclear engineers work with nuclear power to create new products and systems. Discover more careers in engineering.
Teacher or lecturer
You could go into the education side of a career in physics by becoming a physics teacher, at GCSE or A Level. Or you could teach physics in higher education and become a university lecturer. You will find more information about careers in education in our article.
What skills are needed to work in physics?
Physics is a very specialist subject, with each job role requiring a deep technical understanding. However there are some skills that would benefit you in a physics career:
- Analytical – this mindset is imperative for conducting research and experiments to generate new findings within physics.
- Communication – your career in physics may involve contributing to research papers, networking with colleagues, presenting your findings at events or teaching classes.
- Perseverance and resilience – this is a particularly useful skill if you go into the research side of things, as you may not always get the results you were expecting.
- Attention to detail – whether it’s analysing data closely to identify anything unusual, or working with matter on a nano-scale, a lot of physics is focused on the small details.
- Creativity and curiosity – physics is about asking questions, trying new things and coming up with new and innovative ways of doing things.
- Collaborative – you will have to be able to work well within a team, share your findings and be a supportive colleague.
If you are interested in a specific field within physics, it’s a good idea to find adverts for those roles and look at the job description and person specification. Here you can identify the skills and experience you already have and where you need to improve in order to meet the essential criteria for the role.
Take a look at the graduate skills that employers are looking for.
What degrees help with a career in physics?
As you may have guessed, you usually need an undergraduate degree in physics in order to secure a job in physics. Some physics graduates go on to study a masters or PhD in the following subjects:
- Quantum physics
- Particle physics
- Mathematical physics
If you are interested in becoming a research scientist, you can study for a Level 7 research scientist apprenticeship. This takes around 30 months and is the equivalent of a masters degree.
We would recommend checking the job descriptions of the kind of job you are hoping to do. Here you can see what level of education recruiters are looking for and make a decision about whether to go on to further study.
Last updated on 3 May 2023Share this article