British science writer Simon Singh once said: “I reckon that physicists can do pretty much anything. Our training can be applied to almost any activity, and it allows us to see things in ways that might not be obvious to others.”
It’s certainly true that physics jobs are incredibly diverse. While many physics students undertake further study in order to be qualified for research-based physics jobs, many also go on to pursue physics jobs in a number of alternative industries, including business, finance, academia and other scientific areas. Even media broadcasting is an option, if you fancy yourself as the next Brian Cox!
Here are some physics jobs you could consider:
Aeronautical or aerospace engineers are the people who design, develop, service and test large airborne creations, such as aircraft, satellites, spacecraft and even weapons systems. Aerospace engineers use their extensive knowledge of scientific and technological principles in order to build and improve components of these systems.
Physics jobs in this sector will involve research and analysis, and will be heavy on data and statistics. Among your duties you may be tasked with improving the safety and efficiency of existing designs, controlling weight and speed and lowering costs. There will likely be an increasing emphasis on reducing the environmental impact of these systems. Specialist areas include avionics, propulsion, aerodynamics, systems integration, materials and structures.
To be an astrophysicist is every space-loving child’s dream. The role of astrophysics, according to NASA, is to “discover how the universe works, explore how it began and evolved, and search for life on planets around other stars.” But although it still sounds as cool now as it ever did, becoming an astrophysicist is highly competitive and challenging.
Careers in astrophysics are available within governmental and transnational space agencies (including NASA) and will involve astrophysical and cosmological data analysis, mission conception and control, and developing astronautical programs. Many astrophysicists are closely involved in academic research, working with leading universities, while some focus on developing technology and systems within smaller or transnational companies. Other astrophysics jobs are available within distribution, management, space policy and law.
As a mechanical engineer, you will specialize in the development and construction of components and machinery used in sectors such as manufacturing, transport, construction, water, power and health. Depending on your industry and the size of the company, you will most likely be involved in a number of different projects. You may carry out research, surveys and assessments, and/or play a role in designing, constructing, maintaining and managing different projects.
Physics jobs within manufacturing could involve designing pumps and valves for water distribution or creating off-shore wind turbines. Related opportunities in healthcare are also varied, and could involve improving the functionality of prosthetic implants for humans or developing more efficient and longer-lasting medical equipment.
Otherwise known as a field seismologist, the role of a geophysicist is to study the physical elements of the Earth and to collect information about earthquakes and seismic waves using highly advanced technology. Duties will include tracking and controlling quality data before interpreting it into hydrocarbon maps and data models. Geophysics jobs are often found within oil companies, consultancies and environmental consultancies.
Medical physicists apply their technical knowledge of physics to the practice of medicine in order to help with the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of various diseases, illnesses and health conditions. This is done through the development, testing and evaluation of specialist medical equipment and medical procedures. Areas of specialization for medical physicists include laser technology, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine and physiological monitoring. Medical physicists are often employed within public or private health services, external medical equipment manufacturers, regulatory authorities, research organizations and universities.
Scientific laboratory technicians work on numerous laboratory-based investigations with the aim of developing public knowledge in different areas of biological, chemical, life and physical sciences in order to advance modern medicine and science. This role will involve activities such as measuring, sampling, testing, recording and analyzing results, often within a team environment. Laboratory technicians are particularly important during the early stages of research and development (R&D) and are typically employed within governmental bodies, research organizations and industry R&D teams.
Other careers with a physics degree
Alternative careers for physics degree graduates include software development, medical technology, manufacturing and media. Roles in business and finance are also a major option for physics degree graduates, due to the high levels of numeracy and data analysis needed to study physics.
Other specialized physics jobs include careers in science journalism, ice science, coastal science, architecture, pyrotechnics, sound engineering, solar and renewable energy, radar and laser fusion and computer games design.