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UCD School of Physics

Scoil na Fisice UCD

Career Options for Physics Graduates

As a physics graduate, you have the advantage of a three-way choice when it comes to developing a career. You can become a scientist; opt for work that involves science outside the laboratory; or consider to do something quite different. The skills that come from studying physics such as numeracy, lateral thinking, teamwork, project management and the analysis of data are highly valued by employers across the board. Physics graduates successfully work in academia, engineering, computing, aerospace technologies, financial services, health and care services, energy systems, etc. Visit the Institute of Physics in Ireland for more.

Telecommunications:

There is no doubt that we are in the grip of a telecommunications revolution. Optoelectronics, microwaves and radio communication are all extremely important technologies, and both equipment producers and service suppliers are actively recruiting. Some employers of physics graduates in these areas include Lucent Technologies, Motorola, Eircom, Ericsson, and Sumicem Opto-Electronics.

Materials Science:

Work with materials provides another attractive area of employment for physicists. You might work on electronic materials for one of the leading integrated-circuit manufacturers, semiconductor providers or electronics companies. Alternatively, work can be found with electronic equipment producers such as Analog Devices and Intel, or with contract research organisations like the National Microelectronics Research Centre.

Energy & Environment:

The energy sector should not be neglected. In exploration and production, this means openings for geophysicists to work on seismic surveys, and to carry out physical analyses of oil fields and wells. Other significant areas of study include the processing and distribution of oil, as well as applications such as lubrication. Many oil companies, including BP Amoco, Esso, Shell, and Schlumberger recruit science graduates to research posts and other opportunities. Increasingly, these companies are seeking new innovations for sustainable energy and are utilising the skills of physicists.

Physicists are employed by the Radiological Protection Institute of Ireland to advise Government and implement policy regarding radiation safety and to monitor radiation levels in the marine environment around our shores, as well as radon levels in our homes.

Medical Physics and NanoBiotechnology:

Physics continues to have an increasing impact on medicine. The major hospitals in the country employ medical physicists to develop, calibrate, maintain and use highly sophisticated equipment (e.g. MRI, PET, Linacs) for the diagnosis and treatment of a range of diseases. The provision of radiotherapy services for cancer is currently undergoing a major national expansion and physicists are greatly in demand.

The manufacturing of medical devices is one of the most important industries in Ireland, where it employs some 30000 people, and is representing about 20% of national exports (€5-8bn. p.a.). The field is represented by GTRI (Athlone), Medtronic, Abbott Laboratories, Boston Scientific, and ClearStream, all of which have active R&D divisions in Ireland employing physicists, chemists, and engineers. For more information on nanoscale technologies and biophysics at UCD, please refer to the MSc degree programme in Nanobio Science.

Meteorology, Astronomy & Space Science:

Astronomy will never be a major area of employment, but some physicists, usually those with a PhD, do find work in this area within university departments at home or in research organisations, such as the European Space Agency and NASA, abroad. For more information on astronomy at UCD, please refer to the degree programme in Physics with Astronomy & Space Science.

Those interested in careers in meteorology may follow in the footsteps of physics graduates like Evelyn Cusack, Aidan Nulty and Gerard Fleming (among others) and find employment with the Met. Office.

Teaching:

Qualified physics graduates are in short supply in the teaching profession. This is a rewarding job if you like communicating your science at many different levels, enjoy being centre-stage, and can cope with plenty of administration. Employers include state schools, private schools, international schools and colleges of further education.

Business & Marketing:

Opportunities also abound to make a career as a patent agent, a technical writer in technical sales and marketing and a host of other jobs where a broad scientific education is essential.

Information Technology:

Physicists are renowned for their logical thought, analytical minds and problem-solving skills, which -- together with their mathematical and experimental talents -- make them exceedingly employable over a wide range of jobs.

Outside science, the area presenting the most vacancies for physicists is Information Technology. Physicists make excellent computer programmers and anyone with a good degree in physics will already have learnt some of the skills now in constant demand e.g. C, C++, Visual Basic, Java, as part of their practical training. Employers include consulting companies, software houses, engineering companies and IT departments of large firms. Electronics companies, in particular, employ software engineers, who work closely with electronics engineers on the design of circuits and the development of embedded software.

Other jobs now available in the IT sector include Web-site developer, Web-site manager and network manager. There are also roles in customer services and help desks, in multimedia, electronic commerce and virtual reality, as well as in artificial intelligence.

Major companies such as Microsoft, Google, Sun Microsystems, Silicon & Software Systems (S3) and ICL employ physics graduates in IT roles.

Finance:

For many graduates, the world of high finance beckons. Increasing numbers of physicists -- especially those with a PhD -- find jobs as investment bankers and financial analysts, where their roles include research and forecasting. These physicists, sometimes known as rocket scientists, play key roles in areas that require their ability to analyse extremely complex problems, such as modelling interest rates, or evaluating the risk associated with complex financial deals, such as derivatives. Ulster Bank, Bank of Ireland and other financial institutions (e.g. in the IFSC) employ physicists in these roles.

Chartered accountancy firms regularly take on trainees who have degrees in physics. Insurance companies and retail banks are also major recruiters in the field.

Salaries:

In a survey of UK physics graduates conducted by the Institute of Physics, the median annual salary of physics graduates was ~ € 54,000.