Manufacturing and product development
Development engineering can offer a diverse and challenging career for people who enjoy experimentation and problem solving. The timescales tend to be shorter than in academic research, which means that you'll have the satisfaction of seeing a project through from initial concept to final production. The commercial impetus also means that greater resources are often available to meet customer demands.
Product engineers need a good technical understanding of the product and the manufacturing process, and also need to troubleshoot problems as they arise. Other skills that you'll have developed at university, such as the ability to communicate clearly and write concise reports, are also crucial in this role.
Physicists who start in product engineering can move on to a wide range of roles. You might choose to specialize in a particular technology, move into applications engineering – in which you would work closely with the customer to bid for new contracts – or you may progress to managerial roles such as team leader or project manager.
Case study: Fostering innovation
A cluster of independent consultancies has helped make Cambridge a hot spot in the UK’s hi-tech economy. Andrew Baker-Campbell describes what it’s like to be a part of this growing industry
Case study: Powders, powders everywhere
Nishil Malde describes how the ubiquity of powders in industrial processes led him from academic research to an international role at a firm that undertakes powder testing
Case study: A degree of choice at Siemens
Siemens is one of the world's biggest industrial companies, employing some 430,000 staff in 190 countries. Frank-Stefan Becker looks at what physicists there actually do
Case study: A super(conducting) career
Joe Brown from Oxford Instruments explains why he is still enthusiastic about designing and manufacturing superconducting magnets after nearly 40 years in the industry
Case study: A clean solution
Michael Duncan, John Girkin and Tom McLeish describe how an unusual cross-disciplinary collaboration between Procter & Gamble and Durham University is generating benefits for both sides
Case study: Scientist for hire
Specialized technology companies and academic research are not the only ways of building a career using your skills as a physicist. Technology consultant Jeffrey Philippson shares his enthusiasm for a more varied option
Case study: The sixth element
Stephanie Liggins describes how her PhD research on defects within the structure of diamonds led her to a career in industrial product development
Case study: Serving an ageing population
Gerontechnologist Lawrence Normie describes his work on devices that improve the lives and health of older adults
Case study: The view from the VC side
With a PhD in theoretical physics and more than a decade of experience in the investment world, venture capitalist Alexei Andreev has seen his share of innovation successes and failures
Case study: A 'static' business
John Chubb built his own small business developing electrostatic measuring instruments. Now retired, he relates his company's story and the lessons he learned from running it.
Case study: Freeze brain
The challenge of designing the equipment that makes low-temperature science possible has kept Roger Mitchell fascinated throughout his 30-year career at the UK firm Cryogenic, where he is now technical director