A degree in Physics can lead you into a whole host of careers, some deeply involved in the subject itself, and others totally unrelated to physics. Either way, a physics degree is an impressive one to hold as it demonstrates a sharp, analytical and curious mind on your part. And you’ll be rewarded financially too -- the average physics graduate starting salary in the UK is around £3,000 higher than the average overall graduate salary.
But working life isn’t always all about money. Many high earning jobs come with an overwhelming amount of stress and a low job satisfaction overall. But how do we define job satisfaction if not financially? Well, money is important, but most people can be satisfied with earning “enough” to live comfortably off. The enjoyability of a job, the chances for career progression and growth, a healthy work / life balance, and a feeling that you’re making a difference in the world -- that your work matters, all play a huge role in measuring job satisfaction.
As usual, we’ve done the painstaking research and found a diverse number of careers where physics graduates earn well, get plenty of perks, make an impact, and by and large enjoy their work even when stress comes knocking at the door.
This one might seem pretty obvious, but with good reason. The average research scientist earns about £38,000 per year in the UK, which is £8,000 above the national average, so you’ll have enough to live off with comfort. There’s plenty of work available in both the private and public sectors, and it’s important work too. Research scientists make discoveries about just about everything there is to investigate. Without them, we’d know very little. Now THAT’s making an impact! Naturally, a career as a research scientist comes with its pressures, as you’ll be carrying out experiments, publishing papers, and constantly seeking funding for your work, but if you're passionate about making new discoveries, then you’re sure to enjoy this one.
Another somewhat obvious one, but professors have pretty good lives. Conducting research, writing and publishing papers, and passing on knowledge to the next generation of students, all the while earning a very tidy salary. In fact, professors in the UK tend to earn more than double the national average, pulling in a very tidy £66,000! Of course, getting into a position like this is hard, requiring a lot of post graduate work and qualification, but if you’re willing to rough it for a few years for something you’re passionate about, the rewards are waiting.
Yes, physics graduates can use their degree to transition into a career in software engineering. There’s little doubt that this can be a hard job, but the majority of software engineers are happy in their line of work. They earn well, at around £38,000 per year, and they are in high demand, so there are plenty of perks. Software engineers are often allowed to work flexible hours, have a relaxed dress code, and work remotely much more than average. Why such flexibility though? Well, when software engineers are working, they’re really working. It’s an intense career, often demanding great effort and concentration. With that in mind, plus the high demand for software engineers, employers are usually willing to make life as comfortable as possible for their staff.
Data Science careers are actually considered to be one of the very best in the world in terms of job satisfaction. Junior salaries start at between £25,000 and £35,000, and can quickly climb to well above £50,000 per year. It’s not an easy job analyzing, interpreting and forming insights from huge volumes of data, but the high job opportunities and great salary makes it one of the best careers out there. As well, as this, the future looks bright for data scientists: We live in the digital age, and have only reached the tip of the iceberg in terms of the amount of data we have access to. This is going to keep on growing over the next decades, and the demand for people who can extrapolate and interpret data is only going to grow even more.
Now we’re getting a little more 'out there'. Astronomers study the universe, the stars and the planets, delving into some of life’s greatest mysteries. It’s a research heavy job, requiring great curiosity and patience, but the pay is pretty great, with an average UK salary of £45,000. Aside from money, astronomers are generally happy in their work as they’re following a passion, and making discoveries that most people in the world wouldn’t even dream of, and are often employed by high profile government agencies. Also, think about this: You’re at a dinner party and someone asks you what you do for a living. Tell them you’re an astronomer and most of the time, you automatically become the most interesting person in the room. That’s bound to be pretty satisfying!
Designing aircraft and spacecraft is bound to be pretty engaging work, and it’s well compensated too. Graduate aerospace engineers earn as much as £28,000 in the UK, a number which rises to north of £45,000 after a few years on the job. Job satisfaction is generally very high, as there is a feeling of accomplishment with the work, as well as a constant demand -- you’re unlikely to have to spend very long looking for a job. There’s also a healthy work life balance, with the majority of aerospace engineers working regular 9-5 hours, leaving plenty of time to have a social life.
Using your physics knowledge to figure out how the earth works, while spending ample time in the great outdoors rather than in an office environment? That sounds pretty good to us. Geophysicists’ work is wide ranging -- you might figure out climate change, predict earthquakes, study electrical fields, or manage the extraction of natural resources. Basically, job opportunities are plentiful and diverse. The salaries are great too, usually starting out at least £28,000 per year, and going as high as £50,000 on average across the UK after enough years on the job. Generally, geophysicists are happy in their work -- perhaps knowing they make a difference in the world, the tidy salary, as well as the fresh air help alleviate any stress that comes up!