Physicists study matter and try to work out why it behaves like it does.
Salary range: £14,000 to £70,000
How to become a physicist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- a graduate trainee scheme
Most employers will expect you to have a degree in physics, applied physics, or a related science or engineering subject. You may also need a relevant postgraduate qualification, like a master’s degree or PhD.
You could do a combined degree and master’s qualification, like an MPhys or MSci. These courses include more independent research and lead directly onto further postgraduate study like a PhD.
You may be able to do a 1-year physics foundation course before your degree, if you do not have a background in science.
You’ll usually need:
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths and physics
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to start on a company’s graduate training scheme after completing your degree or postgraduate qualification.
You may have an advantage if you’ve got relevant work experience. You could get this through a work placement as part of your degree or during vacations, or a scheme like the Year in Industry programme.
You can find out more about careers in physics through the Institute of Physics.
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- maths knowledge
- knowledge of physics
- excellent verbal communication skills
- science skills
- the ability to read English
- thinking and reasoning skills
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- knowledge of engineering science and technology
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
Depending on the area of industry you work in, you may be:
- involved in climate forecasting
- developing new medical instruments and treatments
- working in satellite technology and space exploration
- investigating new ways to generate power
- exploring robotics and artificial intelligence
- teaching in schools, colleges or universities
- using your knowledge to work in publishing, broadcasting or journalism
You could work in a workshop, in a factory or in a laboratory.
Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
You could work in health or research institutes, defence or robotics, aerospace, computing and electronics, power generation or gas and oil,or government departments, like the Met Office.
You could use your scientific knowledge in other areas like education, scientific journalism and patent work.
With experience, you’ll take on more responsibility and manage the work of other scientists.
You could also move into a senior research role, or progress into consultancy work.