The fact that you’re reading this article would mean one of two things – you have recently finished studying Physics in a higher institution, or you are considering pursuing a degree in Physics and wondering what your career prospects are. Knowing what you can do with a Physics degree beforehand is essential because it will help you make informed decisions.
Not to worry, this article aims to equip you with crucial information on what you can do with a Physics degree. A quick hint here: there is a whole world of possibilities in Physics, so this is one article you want to take your time to read through.
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What is Physics About and How Relevant Is a Physics Degree Today?
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Also known as the “science of everything” or basic physical science, Physics involves the study of everything that has a physical existence and how they interact with one another. Physicists, over the years, have made tremendous impacts through discoveries and innovations as they seek to expand our understanding of how everything in the universe works.
Studying physics is like getting into a world of wonder, as you get to question and explore nature, learn and apply various mathematical and computational methods of solving problems, and carry out exciting experiments. You would also have the opportunity to study the laws that control things like heat, light, gravitation, magnetism, electricity, sound, mechanics, etc.
Disciplines in physics cover all concepts from acoustics (study of sound and sound waves) to astronomy (study of space), atomic physics, computational physics, electronics, geophysics, chemical physics, molecular physics, and meteorology, quantum physics.
These applications make physics a relevant and versatile subject, granting a wide range of lucrative and transferable skills that allow you to work with numbers, analyse data, solve problems and communicate effectively. All these possibilities make physics highly relevant in our world today.
Now, let’s talk about what you can do with a physics degree.
What Can I Do With a Physics Degree? – Career Possibilities
As stated earlier, there are several pathways to explore with your physics degree, irrespective of where you earned your degree. Here are a few:
1. Medical Physicist
I bet getting into healthcare is not the first thing that came to mind for you, but here you go. With a physics degree, you can work in radiology, radiotherapy, nuclear medicine, radiation/radiology, X-ray, oncology units, etc., of hospitals, diagnostic centres and healthcare research institutions.
You will apply these concepts in diagnosing, treating illnesses and researching and testing medical equipment and other technologies.
2. Biomedical Engineer
Similar to the role of a medical physicist, a biomedical engineer functions in the healthcare sector. Biomedical engineers develop, test and maintain medical equipment, technologies, devices and software. They are usually called upon if there is a breakdown or a need to service various technologies, machines and tools used in healthcare facilities like labs, pharmacies, hospitals, etc. Biomedical engineers develop new technologies and find ways to improve existing ones to enhance the health and wellness of people.
As a biomedical engineer, you can set up your practice or collaborate with a team of other experts in the spirit of entrepreneurship. Alternatively, you can choose to work with an established company.
3. Research scientist
As a research scientist, your primary role will include conducting experiments and documenting and communicating your findings across any of the sub-disciplines of physics. Research scientists work in higher institutions, companies, and even special government facilities.
You can also function as a peer reviewer, research assistant (if you’re just starting), or research analyst.
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4. Electronics Engineer
As the name suggests, engineers work on electronics like your TV, air conditioner, refrigerator, computer, and even industrial equipment. The roles of an electronics engineer can range from designing and developing new equipment to inspecting and evaluating the performance of existing ones and repairing them.
An electronics engineering role will be a good fit if you like tinkering with electronics and electronic components. This role also has a wide variety of industries where you can work, from telecommunications to healthcare, to media and anywhere else where electronics form a core of the business.
5. Aerospace Engineer And Astronomer
Space Engineers and astronomists are the reason we can have a glimpse of what happens outside planet earth. Their tasks involve monitoring and collecting data from satellites and spacecraft, communicating with those on space missions via radio, and operating telescopes. These professionals explore the universe remotely, via research, or from space.
As an aerospace engineer, you may work on aeroplanes, where you get to design, build and repair space machines. You may also monitor and evaluate flight data to ensure the company’s processes meet industry standards.
Places to work in these roles include aircraft companies, research institutes, academia, government agencies like NASA and even planetariums.
6. Environmental and Energy Engineer
If you are passionate about the environment, consider working as an environmental and energy engineer. As an environmental engineer, you can develop solutions to environmental problems like pollution, waste management, recycling, water systems, and soil health.
Alternatively, you can work in the energy sector, where you can leverage your knowledge of the environment and the earth’s characteristics in energy extraction. On the other hand, you can go in the direction of alternative energy sources like solar, water and wind energy. Within these fields, there are many diverse roles like solar system installer, researcher, etc.
7. Optical Engineer
The role of an optical engineer is not widely known. However, you can see the impact of their work in everyday activities when you use glasses, telescopes, binoculars and microscopes.
If you opt to work as an optical engineer, your role would involve developing designs, calibrating and refining various tools and equipment that require optical technology.
Among other functions, geophysicists apply their knowledge of physics to identify when something is off, and a disaster is likely to happen. Geophysics has come in handy in different events worldwide, including predicting earthquakes and volcanos and evacuating people who may be in harm’s way.
Similarly, meteorologists are concerned with studying the weather, forecasting and monitoring climate change. These experts are why you know to take your umbrella when you go out because your weather app shows that it may rain during the day.
9. Teaching and Lecturing
If you find more fulfilment in imparting knowledge to others, you should consider teaching or lecturing. You can decide to work as a physics teacher or home tutor to primary and secondary school students or as a lecturer in a tertiary institution. The latter is often combined with research activities too.
Other job opportunities that are available to graduates with a physics degree are:
- Data scientist
- Lab manager
- Technical writer
- Systems analyst
- Process Engineer
- Nuclear engineer
- Aeronautical engineer
- Software engineer
- Mechanical engineer
- Manufacturing Engineer
- Accelerator operator
- Quantum physicist
What Can I Do With a Physics Degree? – Further Study Options
Some people would love to continue their studies to gain in-depth knowledge and skills in a specialised area of physics, which is fine. As stated earlier, Physics is a gift that keeps giving; it lays an excellent foundation to explore other areas of study.
Possible areas for further studies include:
- Quantum physics
- Mathematical Physics
- Computational physics
- Medical Physics
- Biomedical engineering
- Particle physics
- Aeronautical engineering
- Sales and marketing (for those who want the people-facing side of things)
- Applied electronics and electrical engineering
Useful sites to explore study options include Masters Studies, Postgraduate Search, Find A PhD, etc.
How To Make the Most of Your Physics Degree
While physics offers a variety of opportunities for anyone looking to forge a career path in the field, such opportunities won’t fall into your laps. You need to know how to make your Physics degree work for you.
Here are quick tips on how to make the most of your physics degree:
1. Decide on the path you want to follow
Lots of options can be a blessing or a bane. Take your time to research more into each of them, and then decide which path you want to take. Doing will enable you to focus your time, energy and resources on making it work, rather than spreading thinly across many.
2. Build skills and knowledge
As a Physics student, there are several core skills that you will need as your career takes off. These include:
- Research designing, execution and report writing
- Communication and presentation (oral and written)
- Data management (from collection to analysis and presentation)
- Analytical and logical reasoning
- Pattern identification, modelling and trends prediction
- Numeracy, mathematical and computational skills
- Attention to details
- Ability to use scientific tools and equipment
- Information technology
- Quality management
You also need to be adept with time management, self-management and organisational skills to keep you on track with your research and experiments. In addition and depending on your sub-discipline of interest, you need to get or sharpen the relevant skills for your speciality.
3. Pitch yourself out there
Let people know the many beautiful things you can do with your physics degree. Whether during your job search or your applications for an advanced degree, ensure that your profile and documents sell you positively and effectively.
This was a whole ride, wasn’t it? Yet there is still a lot to know. After all, Physics isn’t called the science of everything just for the sake of it.
Now that you know the many things you can do with a Physics degree, it is time to consider these options, weigh the pros and cons, and decide on what you want to do. Most importantly, go ahead and do what you have chosen to do.