Environment and earth science

Physicists have an important role to play in monitoring environmental change and understanding its impact on different parts of the world. You could use your physics knowledge to carve out a career in meteorology or oceanography – both of which are crucial for understanding climate change – or to understand the forces of nature deep below the Earth.

These fields rely on capturing and analysing large amounts of data, so you could get involved in instrumentation design or complex computer modelling. Typical research avenues include investigations of airflows, monitoring variability and change, seasonal forecasting, and long-term climate prediction. Scientists working in this field must enjoy working as an individual, as well as being part of a social network that requires them to liaise and work with colleagues from around the world.

Additional qualifications can improve your chances of securing a position, although specific employers will be able to tell you whether they favour particular courses or prefer to offer their own training.

Case study: Of time and tide

For Stephen Taylor, running a marine-software company means plenty of chances to apply familiar physics to unusual real-world problems – and being your own boss is nice too.

Case study: Riding the storm out

A career in severe-weather research offers flexibility and plenty of opportunities to experience the fascinating physics of the rotating fluid called the atmosphere. Josh Wurman describes the science of storm-chasing and why hurricanes are scarier than tornadoes.

Case study: Science in the freezer

Choosing to undertake a PhD can be a daunting prospect – all the more so if it involves a year in Antartica. Camilla Stark elaborates on the delights and drawbacks of life in the last wilderness.

Case study: Enjoy a new perspective of the Earth

Earth scientist and remote-sensing expert Shannon Franks describes how there is more to NASA than space exploration.