Why get into physics?
The sheer breadth of physics disciplines should hardly be surprising given its underlying goal is to understand pretty much everything. However, it can still be incredibly bewildering. From the tiniest particles to clusters of galaxies and everything in between, the scope of this task is truly staggering.
What can physicists do?
With such a vast array of phenomena to study, postgraduate study followed by a career in academia is a common route for physicists. This allows the physicist the greatest flexibility and control over what science they are involved with, and it is often the only professional access to the fundamental areas of physics (particularly non-classical physics, such as quantum mechanics).
Alternatively, the general analytical and mathematical skills possessed by physicists allow them access to a great number of other professional fields, including scientific research and development, engineering, computer science, electronics and finance.
What career options do physicists have?
In academic routes, anything is possible. The key areas of research at present include: particle physics, astrophysics, properties of matter and nanophysics. However, whatever you’re interested in, you will be able to find an institution where you can study it in extensive detail.
When it comes to physics careers in industry, it’s largely the areas that are applicable to technology research and development that are the most desirable. For example, physicists that specialise in material sciences will be extremely valuable to almost all engineering and manufacturing fields.
Additionally, the electronics industry is built around semiconductor technologies and therefore solid-state physicists are vital to the fundamental hardware of this industry.
Automotive and aerospace companies have a particular interest in the mechanics and thermodynamics knowledge possessed by physicists. Consequently, they will generally form combined teams of engineers and physicists.
For people more interested in wave phenomena, a possible area of interest might be in advanced communications technologies, such as antenna design.
If you’re looking for something utterly cutting-edge, then nanotechnology is one of the newest fields in physics and is rapidly becoming central to many of the most innovative recent developments. Carbon nanotubes are providing new standards in material strengths and conductivity; and even the most absurd of physics concepts is becoming possible, with metamaterials providing the first steps towards invisibility devices.
So really it’s a case of take your pick. For physicists, not even the sky’s the limit!