A physics degree will lead to a set of versatile skills that are likely to be sought by a range of employers across different sectors.
Your degree will have explored fundamental scientific theories - alongside this knowledge you will have looked at applications of new technologies to solve complex problems; enhanced mathematical, analytical, communicational and computational abilities; and carried out industry-based projects under the supervision of leading physicists.
This knowledge, experience and set of skills are in high demand in sectors such as financial services, aerospace development, defence solutions, telecommunication, engineering and many more. There is also scope to pursue postgraduate study or further research.
Where do I start?
With your physics degree, a wide range of occupations could be open to you. It’s a great starting point for a career in scientific research, as well as a range of career paths in the business, finance, IT and engineering sectors. With many employers now accepting applications from graduates with any degree subject, your options may be even broader.
The Prospects website offers a useful list of job profiles each containing relevant information about key responsibilities, skill requirements, starting salaries, entry requirements and career prospects, with links to major employers and current graduate vacancies.
Job roles in this sector include (but are not restricted to):
- Acoustic consultant
- Geophysicist/field seismologist
- Higher education lecturer
- Radiation protection practitioner
- Research scientist (physical sciences)
- Secondary school teacher
Other job roles where your degree may be useful include:
- CAD technician
- Data analyst
- Investment analyst
- Machine learning engineer
- Nuclear engineer
- Operational researcher
- Software engineer
- Software tester
- VFX Artist
SEPnet - the South East Physics Network - also provides helpful resources to support you in exploring potential careers with your Physics degree. Take a look at their A-Z list of careers open to Physics graduates.
As part of your job-hunting strategy you will need to keep up to date on areas of employment where a physics degree could be useful. Below are some key resources to help you research the opportunities available. The knowledge gained through your research may help you to explore career options, target your job applications and prepare for interviews.
We also have a dedicated guide to researching an employer.
- Prospects - Careers website which provides an overview of what to do with a maths degree, job vacancy information and careers advice.
- Targetjobs - An overview of career areas with a physics degree.
- All About Careers - All About Careers provides some useful tips, advice and tools to help you explore what to do with a physics degree.
- The Institute of Physics - Offers information on the next steps for physics graduates.
- The Guardian - An insight into physics-related career areas and postgraduate courses from The Guardian.
When applying to graduate roles or further study opportunities, being able to offer relevant examples of work experience will greatly enhance your chances of success.
Engaging in any opportunities available to you will boost your future applications. Options include undertaking an industrial placement as part of your degree, getting involved with specialist groups and membership to professional institutions, such as the Institute of Physics. You can also gain transferable skills, such as teamwork, leadership and communication skills through part-time work.
Overall, the key to success when looking to gain experience is to prepare thoroughly, carry out research and to organise your placement, internship or volunteering opportunity in good time.
As part of your degree programme you may have the opportunity to take part in a salaried placement year, either in the UK or overseas to gain proven industrial experience by the time you graduate. This will provide you with an invaluable insight into working life and offer a unique opportunity to apply the knowledge and skills you are learning as part of your studies.
Placements will also enable you to gain transferable skills in the workplace, such as communication, teamwork and time management, in addition to finding out more about a specific job role or industry, which will lead to more informed decisions upon graduating. To find out more about the range of different companies and roles students in your area have previously worked with, please find out more on the Maths, Physics, Computing, Engineering and Surveying placements webpage.
To find out more about sourcing and arranging your placement, we would encourage you to get in contact with your placement office.
An internship is usually a work experience opportunity that is offered for a fixed period or a limited amount of time. Internships tend to be undertaken by students and graduates who are looking to gain more relevant/industry specific skills and experience in their particular field.
These opportunities can be paid for a period of between one to four months and typically take place over the summer, with closing dates generally around January to March, but some can be earlier.
Finding placement and internship opportunities
Examples of companies who may offer internship and placement opportunities relevant to Physics students are listed below:
- CERN - the world's largest particle laboratory offers fully paid work placements for undergraduate students in many areas of physics. The programme also incorporates a lecture series, workshops and visits to CERN experimental sites. Applicants must have completed three years of university study and not yet graduated at the time of application.
- BuroHappold - offers eight week summer or year-long internships for undergraduates, allowing students to become involved in and contribute to one of their current projects.
- Diamond - the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility offers paid placement opportunities of eight to 12 weeks for penultimate-year undergraduate students. This can involve work on a research or development project.
- DSTL- the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory offers paid year-long placements to undergraduate students. These tend to be advertised from October each year and summer internship opportunities of between eight and twelve weeks are advertised from November each year.
- IBM- offers paid 12 month placement opportunities, in addition to 12 week summer internships. This offers the opportunity to tackle a real business problem and develop a proof of concept solution.
- Met Office - the UK’s national weather service offers a range of opportunities, including paid three month summer placements for recent graduates and current undergraduates; and paid year-long placements for students on relevant courses, including Physics.
- Leonardo in the UK - as a leader in electronics and IT, international company, Leonardo offers placement opportunities in business or engineering. Work experience, industrial placements and summer internship opportunities are available.
- SEPnet - the South East Physics Network, to which the University of Portsmouth is a member, offers a range of placements to undergraduates in their second and third year of study. These are typically eight week placements.
- Wellcome Trust - the Wellcome Trust offers a summer internship for undergraduates who will have the opportunity to work alongside experienced staff in an area of interest; offering the opportunity to make a real contribution to the organisation.
This information has been sourced and updated from the Institute of Physics website.
The websites below provide further information about placement and internship opportunities:
- Gradcracker - as the UK’s careers website for Science students, Gradcracker provides a search function for placements and internships relevant to your degree discipline
- RateMyPlacement - offers information on a range of internships and work experience, including finance, business, engineering, science and research.
- TARGETjobs - provides a specific section on different career sectors, with the ability to search for placement and internship opportunities in financial services, engineering, logistics, technology, science and research.
- The Big Choice - includes a search tool for work placement opportunities across financial services, engineering, information technology and public sector services.
- Milkround - provides a search tool for internships and industrial placements across sectors, including IT and related business support roles, engineering, logistics, science and telecoms.
Getting involved in volunteering gives you the opportunity to develop employability skills and experience a variety of working environments. It also provides the chance to network, meet new friends and boost your confidence.
Volunteering also enables you to gain practical experience and working examples to support your graduate applications. If you choose to commit a significant amount of time and impress the organisation during your volunteering, they may also provide you with a professional reference.
Volunteer to gain practical experience
Approaching local organisations, charities or community groups who would benefit from your skills is one way of gaining that all-important experience. The competencies developed will be invaluable and enhance any speculative applications you make.
The Careers and Employability Service offers current students and graduates access to a Virtual Volunteering Bank, which provides local opportunities to undertake alongside your studies. Similarly, you can access these opportunities through the paper-based bank located in the Careers and Employability Centre.
Examples of roles previously advertised and recruited by the Volunteering Team that may be of interest to maths students and graduates include:
- STEM Ambassador with STEM Learning - acting as an ambassador of your subject area to inspire children and young people and demonstrate the possibilities of STEM subjects and careers by delivering workshops and/or activities within schools or local organisations.
- Higher Education Mentor with Brightside - communicating with mentees online through a dedicated mentoring platform to share resources, information and activities to help to raise aspirations and encourage young people to consider their education and career options.
- Funding Researcher with Portsmouth Foodbank - researching potential funding streams and compiling a report of the findings to present to the board of trustees with advice and suggestions on suitable opportunities to explore and apply for.
- Home Safety Advisor with Hampshire Fire and Rescue - acting as a representative to deliver information to fellow students and members of the community to enhance safety and tackle issues or concerns.
- Mobility Aids Spoke with the British Red Cross - dealing with wheelchair requests, entering details on a database and enabling people to return to their homes after an illness or surgery.
If you have any questions regarding the volunteering opportunities available to you in Portsmouth then please contact the Volunteering Team on email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tips for success when looking for experience
Initially, it is important to identify whether or not there is specific experience you wish to gain within a particular sector or could your search be broader where you are looking to gain transferable skills?
Some key considerations for your search may include:
- Are you looking for experience that relates to a specific unit you are taking as part of your university course?
- What are your career goals and aspirations? How might the opportunity help you work towards these?
- Are there any gaps in your skillset that need to be addressed? How might an opportunity enable you to fill this gap?
- What is the time commitment and location of the role? Does this fit in with your plans and other commitments during term time or over the summer period?
- What type of organisation would you like to gain experience with? A bigger national or multinational company? A small to medium-sized enterprise, charity of not-for-profit organisation?
Make sure you carry out thorough research
Research the different potential employers who may be looking for graduates with a scientific degree and/or associated skills and expertise before you apply for work experience. Are you interested in research opportunities, teaching or consultancy? Do you have a specific goal to work within the engineering or manufacturing sector? Do project management roles, roles involving acquisition or data analysis appeal to you?
As a starting point take a look at the job profiles included on the Prospects website to consider the type of work experience recommended and the skills you will need to develop to enhance graduate applications to specific roles.
Use your initiative and make direct contact with organisations that interest you and apply speculatively - send a targeted CV and a covering letter focused on why you are interested in them and why they should be interested in you.
Create a positive online presence
Create a LinkedIn profile to network with sector employers.
Finding a job
There will be a range of potential employers interested in physics graduates, including academic institutions, industry and/or government research organisations.
The variety of skills you have developed as a physics graduate, will provide you with a fantastic platform from which to enter a range of interesting sectors. These include:
- Armed Forces and Defence Solutions
- Energy and Utilities
- IT and Technology
- Medical physics
- Meteorology and climate change
- Oil and Gas
- Scientific Research or Journalism
- Teaching and Education
- Transport and Logistics
Further information on employers across a range of sectors can be found by using the Prospects website:
Useful websites to help you start your job search
- CERN - the world's largest particle laboratory offers a range of graduate programmes across entry levels, including fellowships and technical experience programmes.
- BAE Systems - as a leading global defence and aerospace company BAE Systems provides a range of early careers opportunities across its engineering and business areas.
- BuroHappold - offers a range of graduate opportunities to develop careers in engineering and consulting.
- Defence Jobs - an online jobs board which provides a full range of UK roles within a variety of industries.
- Diamond - the Diamond Light Source synchrotron facility provides employees with the opportunity to develop either engineering-focused or scientific-focused careers.
- DSTL- the government’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory offers a variety of graduate roles, including its Graduate Development Programme.
- E.ON - one of the UK's leading energy providers, has a range of opportunities looking at pioneering energy solutions and digital products for its customers.
- Experian - Experian Decision Analytics provides credit risk and fraud management consulting services and products; offering the potential for a range career opportunities.
- GCHQ - the Government Communications Headquarters for national intelligence and security provides a range of opportunities related to technology, engineering, analysis and research.
- Government Statistical Service - The GSS collects, analyses and publishes official statistics and offers a range of career development opportunities.
- Government Operational Research Service - GORS supports policy-making, strategy and operations, and employs around 500 analysts.
- IBM- offers a range of consulting, business, technology and design-based graduate roles, aiming to kick-start a career in the industry.
- Institute of Physics - a range of different employers are registered with the professional body - more information can be found through the website.
- Leonardo in the UK- as a leader in electronics and IT, international company, Leonardo offers a range of graduate opportunities in electronics, defence and security systems.
- Met Office - the UK’s national weather service offers a range of graduate opportunities across science, engineering, technology and IT and forecasting and observations.
- Office for National Statistics - The Office for National Statistics is responsible for collecting and publishing statistics related to the UK's economy, population and society and offers a range of graduate opportunities.
- Wellcome- a two year graduate development programme, offering the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals in a range of areas, including funding, policy, investments, public engagement, communications and operations.
Other job search and recruitment sites to consider include:
If you are aiming to carry out research about an employer, either to find out more about them, or in preparation to submit an application for a role, then don’t forget to use our helpful guide to researching an employer.
Useful social media feeds
Follow companies and professional bodies on Twitter, Facebook and/or LinkedIn to tap into the hidden jobs market and also receive news and information on companies that seek graduates with a range of transferable skills.
Some physics undergraduates will be keen to explore the potential for further study in a specialist area. An increasing number of students consider postgraduate or further study as an option. You may choose this option for many different reasons which can include:
- Developing specialist expertise in an aspect of your first degree subject;
- Changing direction into a new subject area and develop new skills;
- Entering a profession for which a postgraduate course is essential;
- Enhancing your employment prospects in areas where specialist knowledge is needed.
Some of the most popular physics-related courses at postgraduate level include astrophysics; quantum physics; particle physics; mathematical physics; thermodynamics and nanotechnology.
Some physics graduates complete a teaching qualification, while others begin a PhD to start a career in research science.
For more information on further study and to find a course that interests you, visit the sites below:
If you need more information why not check out some of the resources below to help you to research a sector in more depth.
- The Graduate Recruitment Consultancy - works with over 6000 local employers across Hampshire and the South Coast, offering a job match service unique to University of Portsmouth students
- STEM Graduates - A recruitment agency that support students and graduates from science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines.
- STEM Recruitment Solutions - An independent consultancy for the scientific, technology, engineering and manufacturing industries.
- Graduate Recruitment Bureau - a specialist recruitment agency placing graduates into relevant opportunities. They work with graduate recruiters across sectors, including some of the UK’s fastest growing companies.
The Careers and Employability Service offers support to students throughout their studies and provision for graduates up to five years after graduation, with advice and guidance on:
- Career options
- Further study
- CV and covering letters
- Application forms
- Job search
We have an online jobs board advertising a variety of graduate jobs across different sectors and locations. We also have a dedicated in-house Graduate Recruitment Consultancy that delivers a personalised job matching service.