Physics and Astronomy

Science banner

There are lots of starting points for choosing a career and using your subject is just one of them. You are not restricted to the career ideas below and you may wish to consider additional factors which are important to you for your future career using our Understand yourself and your options section.

Remember too that the vast majority of graduate jobs are open to graduates of any subject and so your options are much broader than the examples given below.

Firstly, have a think about what ‘using your subject’ means to you and what you’re really looking for. Do you want to apply your subject-specific knowledge or skills to the real world? Or maybe you want to continue to practice and develop these skills? Maybe it’s a broader interest in your subject that you want to keep alive by working in a relevant type of organisation?

Using your subject can help provide you with some focus for your career research, but the broader your interests the more career options you will have open to you. Use our resources below to stimulate your thinking.

Generating career ideas with Physics

Using the resources below you can start to create your own list of career ideas to research

  • Look at what alumni from your department have done using the DLHE data we collect and through the University of Sheffield alumni page on LinkedIn.
  • Search for and contact alumni in your subject through our Graduate case studies database.
  • Browse the career ideas for Physics graduates on Prospects and TargetJobs but keep in mind that these are not a comprehensive list of all the careers related to your subject.
  • Brainstorm ideas and do some initial investigation to find out about research, organisations, start ups, government bodies and freelancers connected to your subject. Our Information resources - Occupations section is a good place to start.

Some career ideas for Physics and Astronomy graduates

Researcher / research assistant

Researchers work in a variety of organisations and agencies, in academia, public and private sectors. The role involves collecting and analysing information and data in a range of different fields (everything from health, finance, government policy and consumer preferences) and presenting that information to other colleagues or clients via written reports, presentations or digital communication.

Roles often specialise either in quantitative (working with statistics) or qualitative (analysing non-numerical data) research and provide information that helps colleagues or clients make political, social and economic decisions.

Data analyst

Data analysts use advanced analytical and specialist computer programming skills to solve complex scientific or engineering problems. You will apply mathematical models to help analyse complex data and compile summary reports.

Similar job roles in ICT organisations include systems engineer/software developer/programmer. Physics graduates are increasingly working in cutting edge areas as nanotechnology.

Astrophysicist

Astrophysicists research and improve the design and build of advanced satellites and space exploration vehicles and technologies. You may work in an industrial or an applied academic context.

Meanwhile, in the field of pure astrophysics you tend to remain based in universities to contribute to research into the early universe, stellar evolution, string theory, dark matter and gravitational physics.

Geophysicist

Geophysicists are involved in drawing up detailed calculations to help environment and climate control researchers find ways energy companies can improve their performance in terms of sustainability impact agendas. Other job roles/titles in the energy, oil and gas industries include nuclear engineer, seismologist and metallurgist.

You may thereby help provide evidence that companies are complying with ‘greenhouse gas’ emission regulations and help find sustainable renewable energies.

Meteorologist

Meteorologists collect data from satellite images, radar, remote sensors and weather stations worldwide in order to make short and long term weather forecasts for the general public and a variety of organisations. You may work for government services, the armed forces, aviation industry or the shipping and fishing industries.

In addition meteorologist undertake research into a climate change, weather patterns and global warming.

Weapons / defence and intelligence services officer

Intelligence services officers might work for the British army, navy or air force or private organisations to develop communications solutions, weapons and guidance technologies, improve software design and develop/maintain nuclear warheads.

Defence/weapons developers and manufacturers require physics graduates who understand how complex lasers work.

Patent attorney / examiner

Patent attorneys use their intellectual property legal knowledge to lead individual inventors or companies through the required process to obtain a patent, draft the patent and then act to enforce inventors' rights if patents are infringed. They work for a firm of patent agents, very large industrial organisations or government bodies.

Patent examiners, working for the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) or the European Patent Office (EPO) are responsible for checking an invention is new, clear and inventive, not merely an adjustment to something already existing.

NHS clinical scientist trainee

There is a specific medical physicist role for those who succeed to obtain a place on this path of the UK NHS’ Clinical Scientist Training Programme (STP) where you will complete on-the-job training and gain a Masters qualification with the aim of gaining a future managerial role in an NHS healthcare science team.

Other specialist areas include, in a research based role, rehabilitation scientist or clinical bioinformatician. Alternatively you may work in a practical client/patient-facing role, as a hands-on technician or healthcare science associate.

Physics / science secondary school teacher

Physics teachers usually work with pupils aged 11-18 years old. You will design and deliver engaging ‘GCSE’ and ‘A’ level lessons, monitor your pupils’ progress, and prepare classes for external exams in line with national curricula. You will show patience, an interest in young people, up-to-date subject knowledge and excellent organisation and communication skills.

Teaching in further education colleges is also an option but fewer opportunities exist.

Science writer / communicator

Science writers prepare and deliver professional presentations on science-related topics to non-experts, including the general public as well as professionals in other disciplines. You may work in a range of areas including HE schools outreach, scientific events management, public relations roles with a learned society, or education officer roles in science museums.

Some larger charities offer roles in science policy, public engagement and communication. Science communicators also work in specialist publishing, journalism and broadcasting.

Subject specific resources