Once you graduate from high school in Australia, working out your future and considering jobs becomes more real. You may already have decided on a physics program or degree at university but you might still be unsure about your job opportunities as a physics graduate. More importantly, will a physics degree limit your career options?
Your university physics degree will set you up with skills that employers in all career fields, not only physics jobs, will value. These include:
- mathematics and numerical skills
- research and data analysis skills
- skills in effective science and report writing
- technology skills.
For many university students, job applications and the career market seem hard to navigate. It's a good idea to start working it all out well before you graduate. In this article, we'll get you started by looking at physics jobs in Australia at the graduate level and how to maximise each opportunity to give you the best chance to find and land the job you want.
A Physics Degree Does Not Restrict You to Physics-related Work
Obtaining a university degree does not lock you in to working in that field — and the same applies to a physics program graduate.
Naturally, you can submit applications for physics jobs but there are other options too, including work in a:
- gas and oil company
- engineering firm
- science field
- technology company
- corporate finance
- government or company research.
Your applications will, of course, outline your skills related to your degree specialisation. Jobs in nanotechnology will obviously require different skills from a job in geophysics.
Once you graduate, there is nothing to stop you from submitting applications for jobs that aren't specifically in the physics field but which utilise the skills you developed during your degree program. These jobs may include:
- management consultancy
- investment analysis
A side note about teaching
There is a huge teacher shortage in Australia, particularly in the science and mathematics subject areas, and specifically in physics.
If you're a physics graduate and have a Bachelor of Science degree, in Australia it is possible to extend this degree to include a teacher training program, qualifying you to become a physics or science teacher in an Australian primary school or high school.
Perhaps you've never really thought of yourself as a teacher, or perhaps working with young minds as a physics or science teacher in one of the Australian school systems has always been a dream — either way, it's certainly a rewarding position that is worth considering.
Take the opportunity to engage in further learning by enrolling in another physics program to expand your skills.
The most important thing is to keep an open mind. Look at each position carefully and weigh up each opportunity. Consider your personal career goals. Think outside the square. Submit applications for every position that suits your career aspirations and your interests.
Alternatives to entering the job market immediately as a physics graduate
As a physics graduate, you may find you don't necessarily want to start working immediately after you graduate.
You may decide to take the opportunity to travel before committing to a career. Or to gain experience in a volunteer role. Or perhaps you find the time is right for you to continue with further study.
If a postgraduate degree appeals to you, there are plenty of options to explore related disciplines such as:
- engineering physics
- theoretical physics
- medical physics
- quantum mechanics.
On the other hand, you may find you want to explore a graduate degree in a completely different field, such as humanities or business studies.
It may be that your ultimate goal is to obtain a postdoctoral degree (a PhD) — whatever you decide, it's a good idea to start planning now.
If continuing to study is a path you would like to pursue, seeking information from a career advisor at your school or university is highly recommended. They will be able to access information about the university admissions and applications process in Australia, plus any prerequisites needed for different degree courses. Also, they will work with you to help you make sense of all the information in front of you.
Another person who can offer advice at any time is your teacher. Remember, they've been through this process too and will be able to provide valuable and practical insights. And, if you have a physics tutor in Melbourne (or Sydney or Canberra, or wherever you may live), they will also be a reliable source of information.
Applying for Physics Jobs in Australia
You will have heard all the "do's and don'ts" of applications and job interviews — but which of these should you work on if you want to secure the job you've always dreamed about?
Emphasise the skills valued by employers
Every company and every employer is different when it comes to what they're looking for in job applications and potential employees. There is a definite art in reading between the lines of company selection criteria, however, in general, you'll find a job position will require at least some of the overarching skills you would have found essential throughout your physics degree. These include the company requiring a sound level of demonstrated skills in:
- communication — written and oral
- information technology
- problem solving
- research and data analysis.
As an example, if writing applications for jobs in meteorology, you'd be looking to show your experience and skills level with data analysis, research, report writing and practical mathematics applications.
Join an association
The Australian Institute of Physics should be your first stop when you enter the job market. They have a wealth of information, not only about job opportunities but also member publications and activities. Networking in any career is vital for advancement and professional learning. Membership of a well-known association is also viewed as a positive on your CV.
Get the best out of your CV
Your CV and cover letter form the initial view an employer has of you, irrespective of your level, so you will want it to leave a positive impression.
Degrees and association memberships aside, if we're honest, the one thing employers are really looking for is relevant, practical experience. If you can show that you have some work experience, even at a minor level, you will be elevated in the rankings against others who don't have that experience.
Getting experience can be tricky though, so it's a good idea to have this first and foremost in your mind even before you begin your degree. You may find a good opportunity for gaining useful work experience in the following ways:
- Gain part time employment (or volunteer) as a lab assistant.
- Utilise work experience placements offered as part of your degree.
- Apply for short-term internships or holiday jobs in a company you're interested in when they're available.
A career advisor at your school or university, your university lecturer, a trusted teacher, your physics or mathematics tutor or a contact in the company you wish to work for can all be sources of useful information, support and guidance when you're ready to put together your CV and start applying for those physics jobs in Australia.
Physics Tutors: Ensuring your Skills are the Best Possible
While you may now be able to view your physics degree as the gateway to your dream job, your degree is not a magic wand.
From the time you attend your first university lecture, through to your final exam, you need to ensure your academic performance is consistent and matches employer expectations. In fact, along with your work experience, a potential employer is also going to be weighing up your scores and grades as they naturally want the best person for the position.
Everyone needs help at some level, whether it's assistance with mathematics or physics concepts, structuring a report, time management or revision techniques. This is not the time to be 'proud', 'independent' or 'embarrassed' — if you know you need support, find it.
The level of help required may only necessitate that you find time to sit with your teacher to go through a concept you didn't quite understand or to ask advice on the best way to study for an upcoming exam. However, if your need for assistance is greater than this and likely to be ongoing, it may be prudent to think about engaging a tutor.
It is important to find a tutor who can help you with your specific needs. Most tutors will be able to work with you on time management and exam techniques. If your needs are centred more on physics or mathematics concepts, then you will need to ensure your tutor has skills and knowledge in that specific area.
The Superprof platform makes it easy to find a tutor to meet your academic needs. You can look for physics tutors in Sydney, Melbourne, Canberra or elsewhere in Australia, or find physics tutors who can work online.
When you make the decision to hire a tutor, you may have a few questions, like:
- Where do I start looking for physics tutors?
- What can I ask a tutor for help with?
- How much does tutoring cost?
And, if you're still not sure about applying for physics jobs, read this: 10 reasons you should definitely study physics.