Scientific research

Around 10% of students who complete a physics degree stay in the fields of research, analysis and development. Those wishing to stay in pure physics tend to have a fascination for one or more of the core principles of the science, and popular routes for further research include astrophysics, particle physics, electromagnetism, quantum and classical mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, wave phenomena and the properties of matter.

Typically, those who succeed in making physics research a viable career have excellent technical skills, such as numeracy and mathematical modelling; good problem-solving and analytical skills; and the ability to manage projects effectively. They must also be highly self-motivated because research can often throw up lots of dead ends before useful results emerge. Candidates may also show a strong desire to work in a team, and they generally understand the constraints of working to a brief and staying within prearranged budgets.

The first step for any graduate wishing to pursue a career in academic research will be a postgraduate degree, followed by a stint as a postdoctoral researcher. A PhD is not essential for a research career outside the university sector, but you may find that a PhD or Master's degree will help your career prospects.

Case study: Careers, interrupted

Jan West describes how an organization inspired by the UK's first female physics professor has helped more than 200 people return to working in science after career breaks.

Case study: Have PhD, will travel

Life as a postdoctoral researcher offers opportunities for making independent contributions to science, but there are pitfalls too, as Margaret Harris explains.

Case study: Leadership required

What does it take to lead a lab with more than 2000 staff members and an annual budget in excess of €800m? As CERN celebrates its 60th anniversary this month, Sharon Ann Holgate finds out what's expected of the lab's next director-general,

Case study: Lessons in becoming a scientist

Iris Dillmann describes her journey through a profession that requires people to be both "flexible like a rubber band" and also "hard as steel".

Case study: On the Inside track

Industrial scientist Brent Neal explains what physics graduates and PhD students can do to make themselves stand out to recruiters.

Case study: The best years of your life?

Embarking on a PhD is a daunting prospect for many graduates, and finding out exactly what to expect from a doctorate can be difficult. Michelle Jeandron gets the inside story from five physics PhD students.

Case study: The good mentorship guide

Sarah Bohndiek describes some of the key traits postdocs should look for in a potential mentor and offers advice on selecting the right mentor for you.

Case study: The lifecycle of a physicist

Long-term career satisfaction for academics is closely linked to the type of institution where they work, as Joseph C Hermanowicz discovered when he set out to follow physicists through their careers.

Free webinar: PhD Opportunities at IMT Lucca

In these two interactive webinars, IMT Lucca will present four of the eight PhD cirricula offered to the 2014/15 Academic Year. While these eight curricula are field-specific, they all share a common background within the broad framework of the analysis and management of a plurality of systems.

Rolls-Royce Employer Showcase Event - Available to view on-demand now

This event has been designed to give you clarity of some of the main areas of our business and the career and development opportunities we offer Physicists. Whether you’re considering a new career now, or in the future, or simply interested in understanding the roles Physicists play in one of the world’s leading engineering and advanced manufacturing businesses, we’d be delighted to meet you. Click here to watch the video of this event now.

Case study: Finding balance in a new lab

Setting up a new laboratory is a formidable challenge for early-career researchers. Sarah Bohndiek shares a few lessons she learned in her first year as a group leader