Careers with Physics

Physics provides a training in how to solve problems. It also equips graduates with mathematical and information technology skills. Consequently a vast range of career options are available for a physics graduate, options which need not necessarily directly use physics. For instance, the CEOs of several large Australian companies are physicists. Physicists face the world with confidence and know where to obtain the information they need to complete a task. Of particular interest for many students will be the Double Degrees we offer, such as Science/Law, Science/Commerce, Science/Arts and Science/Engineering, with Physics as the principal scientific component. These degrees teach a broad range of skills, including the scientific methodology so important in solving problems, and provide recognised professional qualifications in the second discipline. Higher degrees such as the MSc or PhD are an essential prerequisite for a career in research. The School offers a vigorous research program where these degrees can be obtained through the submission of a thesis by research.

Physicists are thus employed in an extensive range of activities, both within and outside the discipline itself. Some of the opportunities include:

  • Astrophysics. Astronomical observatories are high-technology institutions, employing skilled scientists with engineering, electronic, computing and optical backgrounds, as well as astronomers. While the field is competitive, Australia has a proud record in astronomy. There are many opportunities both within Australia and abroad for astronomical careers. For example, in 1998 eight members of the Department of Astrophysics found employment at major observatories around the world.
  • Postdoctoral fellowships in universities and government laboratories, where you conduct independent research.
  • Technical and professional officers in universities, industrial and government laboratories.
  • Research positions in CSIRO, Defence laboratories or industry (such as BHP, CSR, ICI and Telstra).
  • Teaching at schools, TAFE and universities. There is currently a severe shortage of qualified physics teachers.
  • Medical physics, including biophysics and bioengineering, associated with hospitals, health departments and medical research.
  • Engineering. The best engineers are those who also understand and can apply physics.
  • Industrial Physics, such as manufacturing, communications, electronics & biomedical technology.
  • Commonwealth and State Public Service, jobs requiring an understanding of basic scientific processes, even if not directly using that science.
  • Scientific sales and management, especially in the computer industry.
  • Computing and computing science. The experience gained as a physicist, using computers to solve physics problems, is usually regarded by employers in the industry as more valuable than that of graduates who simply have a computing science degree.
  • Environmental science, including studying global climate change. Many of these problems require a sound physics background, often as a member of an interdisciplinary team.
  • Optoelectronics, including communication and data storage & retrieval using lasers, is one of the fastest growing areas in science and technology. Its impact on the world in the 21st century is likely to be as great and extensive as electronics was in the 20th century.
  • Management. Successful managers require a great many skills, and the ability to recognise and solve problems is one of the most important. A training in physics prepares you for this need.
  • Finance. The mathematical model building and problem-solving skills of physicists are in great demand in the financial sector.

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