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Physicist

Physicists study matter and try to work out why it behaves like it does.

Annual Salary

£15,609 to £50,000

Average UK salary in 2019 was £30,378
(source Office for National Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40 a week

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

Day to day tasks

In your day to day tasks you could:

  • analyse theories and develop ideas
  • use computer simulations and mathematical modelling techniques
  • design and conduct experiments and supervise research

Depending on the sector you work in you could:

  • be involved in climate forecasting
  • teach in schools, colleges or universities
  • develop new medical instruments and treatments
  • work in satellite technology and space exploration
  • investigate new ways to generate power
  • explore robotics and artificial intelligence
  • use your knowledge to work in publishing, broadcasting or journalism

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'll need 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.

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.

Some physics degrees combine an undergraduate degree and master's qualification, like an MPhys or MSci. You'll do more independent research and courses may lead directly onto further postgraduate study like 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 do a level 7 research scientist degree apprenticeship.

This apprenticeship typically takes 30 months to complete.

It may give you some of the requirements you need to become a chartered physicist.

Entry requirements

Employers will set their own entry requirements.

  • a degree in a relevant subject for a degree apprenticeship
For more information
Other routes

In some industries you may be able to start on a research scientist, graduate training scheme 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 sectors 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.

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Physicists work in lots of sectors of the economy and their skills are often transferable across them.

Take a look at the Institute of Physics for information on potential career pathways.

With experience, you can take on more responsibility and manage the work of other scientists.

In higher education you could progress from postdoctoral research roles to senior lecturer positions and professor.

You could also become a consultant or special adviser or work in science communication.

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

You'll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of physics
  • knowledge of engineering science and technology
  • analytical thinking skills
  • science skills
  • the ability to think clearly using logic and reasoning
  • thinking and reasoning skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to read English
  • to have a thorough understanding of computer systems and applications
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