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Science

Physicist

Physicists study the behaviour of matter and energy and construct theories to explain how everything fits together.

Annual Salary

£28,000 to £51,000

Average UK salary in 2022 was £33,200
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

37 to 40 a week

You could work: evenings / weekends / bank holidays; occasionally

2.4%
Future employment

There will be 2.4% more Physicist jobs in 2027.

Day to day tasks

As a physicist, you could:

  • design and conduct experiments, and supervise research
  • solve problems, make new discoveries and develop products
  • analyse data and build computer simulations, using mathematical modelling
  • develop theories to explain observations and predict natural phenomena
  • publish and present research findings

Working environment

You may need to wear protective clothing.

You could work at a research facility, in a laboratory or at a university.

Your working environment may be outdoors some of the time and you may spend nights away from home.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • a graduate trainee scheme
University

You can do a degree to start your career in physics. The course you choose will depend on your area of interest.

Course examples include:

  • physics
  • astrophysics
  • mathematics
  • medical physics
  • computer science
  • engineering physics

If you do not have the required entry qualifications to do a physics degree, you may be able to do a 1-year physics foundation course before moving onto a degree.

Some physics degrees combine an undergraduate course with a postgraduate master's qualification, like an MPhys or MSci. You'll do more independent research and courses can lead to further study for a PhD.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including maths and physics
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
For more information
Apprenticeship

You could apply for a work-based training route through a degree apprenticeship. There are a lot of apprenticeship options to develop your skills in physics.

Examples include:

  • Nuclear Scientist Level 6
  • Robotics Engineer Level 6
  • Space Systems Engineer Level 6
  • Research Scientist Level 7

These apprenticeships take between 3 and 4 years to complete.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a degree apprenticeship
For more information
Other routes

You may be able to apply for a place on a graduate training scheme with a commercial company, government department or university, after completing your degree or postgraduate qualification.

More information

Career tips

Try to get work experience to find out more about job roles and the areas where you could apply your knowledge and skills as a physicist. Look out for:work placements; internships and vacation schemes; the Year in Industry programme

Further information

You can find out more about careers in physics through the Institute of Physics and Planet Possibility.

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With experience, you can lead and manage the work of a research team. This could be in one of many different areas, for example:education, teaching the scientists of tomorrow; materials science, investigating the properties of superconductors; energy engineering, developing alternative fuels; medical research, building more sensitive scanners; aerospace, designing instruments for satellite systems

Physicists play an important role in the economy. You can learn more about the different career options from the Institute of Physics.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • knowledge of physics
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • persistence and determination
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
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