Use your subject

Physics and Astronomy

Think about what 'using your subject' means to you and what you're really looking for. Do you want to apply your subject-specific knowledge or skills to the real world? Or maybe you want to continue to practice and develop these skills? Maybe it's a broader interest in your subject that you want to keep alive by working in a relevant type of organisation?

As a start, use the resources below to create your own list of career ideas to research.

Remember that the vast majority of graduate jobs are open to graduates of any subject.

  • Look at what alumni from your department have done using the DLHE data we collect and through the University of Sheffield alumni page on LinkedIn.
  • Search for and contact alumni in your subject through our Graduate case studies database.
  • Browse the career ideas for Physics and Astronomy graduates on Prospects and Targetjobs but keep in mind that these are not a comprehensive list of all the careers related to your subject.
  • Brainstorm ideas and do some initial investigation to find out about research, organisations, start-ups, government bodies and freelancers connected to your subject.

Some career options

Our information resources - Occupations section is a good place to start to explore the following occupational areas. However you are not restricted to these and you should also consider any other additional factors which are important to you for your future career using our Understand yourself and your options section.


Astrophysicists research and improve the design and build of advanced satellites and space exploration vehicles and technologies. You may work in an industrial or an applied academic context.

Meanwhile, in the field of pure astrophysics you tend to remain based in universities to contribute to research into the early universe, stellar evolution, string theory, dark matter and gravitational physics.

Use our Occupations section Scientific research, analysis and support for more information and links to useful websites.

Civil servant

The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated leadership development programme providing graduates with the experience, skills and knowledge to become senior leaders within the Civil Service. It recruits graduates into a variety of administrative and policy roles via the Fast Stream or the general entry routes.

Through a variety of different placements or postings in government departments and agencies you’ll get experience of working in front-line operational delivery, policy and corporate roles and depending on the role potentially working with general public or senior government advisers or government ministers. If you want to influence decisions or make a difference on government policy and public service at a national level, enjoy analytical work, presenting persuasive evidence-based reports, scrutinising the implications of public sector policy and are eager to take on responsibility then you might enjoy the Civil Service Fast Stream.

If you are a language graduate you may be particularly attracted to roles/departments such as the Diplomatic Services Operational Officer in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, the Department for International Trade, the Department for International Development and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs which has a lot of links to Europe.

Departments of specific interest to scientists include Government Statistical Service, Government Operational Research Service, Science and Engineering Scheme and the Project Delivery Scheme, but there are many more.

Use our Occupations section Public sector administration for more information and links to useful websites.

Data analyst / scientist

Develops and applies record management systems, analyses and interprets data sets relating to her/his employer's business, and prepares reports using business analytics tools.

Data analysts are in high demand across all sectors, including pharmaceuticals, finance, manufacturing, government and education. They work across broad areas including business intelligence, data assurance, data quality, sales and marketing.

You might work for the organisation itself, eg a pharmaceutical company, or for a consultancy working on their behalf. Alternative job titles might include value analyst or business intelligence analyst.

Use our Occupations section Data science for more information and links to useful websites.


Geophysicists study physical features of what lies beneath the Earth's surface. They are involved in providing seismic information for energy, oil and gas companies, and infrastructure developers. Others are involved in drawing up detailed calculations to help environment and climate control researchers find ways energy companies can improve their performance in terms of sustainability impact agendas.

They may work for energy companies, energy and environmental consultancies and government agencies.

Use our Occupations section Energy and utilities for more information and links to useful websites.


Meteorologists collect data from satellite images, radar, remote sensors and weather stations worldwide in order to make short and long term weather forecasts for the general public and a variety of organisations. You may work for government services, the armed forces, aviation industry or the shipping and fishing industries.

In addition meteorologist undertake research into a climate change, weather patterns and global warming.

Use our Occupations section Environment and conservation for more information and links to useful websites.

NHS clinical scientist trainee

Science graduates aiming to become managers in an NHS healthcare science team setting will be provided with on-the-job training and a Masters qualification once they have obtained a place on the UK NHS’ Clinical Scientist Training Programme (STP).

Chemists can specialise in areas including clinical pharmaceutical science, clinical biochemistry and clinical bioinformatics - some roles are more hands-on/patient-facing; others are more lab or research focused such as Technician or Healthcare Science Associate.

There is also a specific medical physicist role for those who succeed to obtain a place on this path

Other specialist areas include, in a research based role, rehabilitation scientist or clinical bioinformatician. Alternatively you may work in a practical client/patient-facing role, as a hands-on technician or healthcare science associate.

Use our Occupations section Healthcare scientist for more information and links to useful websites.

Operational researcher

Operational research uses mathematical modelling, computer software and other methods to help organisations make strategic business decisions and develop better systems. The methods used enable effective analysis of complex situations and possible solutions.

Operational researchers need strong mathematical ability and quantitative and data analysis skills, as well as essential communication skills to explain solutions to different people. The variety of sectors and types of work that Operational researchers do is one of the attractions of the role.

Use our Occupations section Data science for more information and links to useful websites.

Patent attorney / patent examiner

If you have an interest in law, a methodical and meticulous attention to detail and excellent written communication skills you may enjoy applying your technical background and engineering degree to this area of work.

In this role you will assess whether inventions are eligible to be patented by searching through existing records of patents that have been approved and assessing whether the new product is sufficiently new and innovative. You will develop extensive knowledge of intellectual property law and have highly honed skills in drafting patents.

You may also advise companies and individuals through the process of gaining a patent or enforcing infringements.

Use our Occupations section Patents for more information and links to useful websites.

Researcher / research assistant

Researchers work in a variety of organisations and agencies, in academia, public and private sectors. The role involves collecting and analysing information and data in a range of different fields (everything from health, finance, government policy and consumer preferences) and presenting that information to other colleagues or clients via written reports, presentations or digital communication.

Roles often specialise either in quantitative (working with statistics) or qualitative (analysing non-numerical data) research and provide information that helps colleagues or clients make political, social and economic decisions.

Use our Occupations section Scientific research for more information and links to useful websites.

Science communicator / writer

Science writers prepare and deliver professional presentations on science-related topics to non-experts, including the general public as well as professionals in other disciplines. Opportunities range from schools outreach in HE to scientific events management with science communication agencies, public relations roles with learned societies, or education officer roles in science museums.

Some of the larger charities, eg Cancer Research UK or Wellcome Trust, may offer graduate schemes in areas like policy, public engagement and communications.

Science communicators also work in specialist publishing, journalism and broadcasting.

Use our Occupations section Scientific information and outreach for more information and links to useful websites.

Secondary school teacher (Physics / Science)

Physics teachers usually work with pupils aged 11-18 years old. You will design and deliver engaging ‘GCSE’ and ‘A’ level lessons, monitor your pupils’ progress, and prepare classes for external exams in line with national curricula. You will show patience, an interest in young people, up-to-date subject knowledge and excellent organisation and communication skills.

Teaching in further education colleges is also an option but fewer opportunities exist.

Use our Occupations section Primary, secondary and special needs for more information and links to useful websites.

Weapons / defence and intelligence services officer

Intelligence services officers might work for the British army, navy or air force or private organisations to develop communications solutions, weapons and guidance technologies, improve software design and develop/maintain nuclear warheads.

Defence/weapons developers and manufacturers require physics graduates who understand how complex lasers work.

Use our Occupations section Defence for more information and links to useful websites.