Career Options - Maths and Physics

  • Career Options - Maths and Physics

Maths and Physics Graduate Destinations

A survey of graduates 6 months after graduation reveals that Queen's graduates from these programmes have recently gone into the following…

Maths (Jobs): Data Scientist, Risk Analyst, Predictive Modeller, Quantitative Analyst, Financial Programmer, Financial Software Developer, Financial Engineer, Account Administrator, Graduate Data Analyst, Financial Analyst, Software Developer, Statistician, Trainee Chartered Accountant, Data Quality Analyst, Mathematics Tutor, Online Trading Analyst, Quantitative Research Analyst, Business Analyst, Technology Consultant.

Maths (Further Study): MSc Risk Management, MSc Software Development, MSc Geographical Information Systems, PGCE, PhD

Physics (Jobs): Data Scientist, Software Engineer, Trainee Tax Advisor, Trainee Clinical Scientist (NHS), Research Physicist, Telescope Operator, Business Analyst, Data Analyst, IT Graduate Associate, Software Engineer, Engineer, Trainee Teacher, Youth Worker

Physics (Further Study): PhD, MSc Advanced Mechanical Engineering, MSc Computational Finance, MSc Physics, MSc Quantum Fields & Fundamental Forces, MSc Astrophysics, MSc Software Development, PGCE, 

Some Recent Employers: Allstate, AquaQ Analytics, Citigroup, Deloitte, First Derivatives, Jane Street, Mercer, PwC, Randox, Seagate, Teach First, UCAS

Non-graduate jobs: As with all programmes at all universities, some graduates have not gone into graduate level work. Recent roles have included: Bar Staff, Sales Assistant, Receptionist, Customer Adviser and Classroom Assistant

There can be many reasons to explain why graduates go into non-graduate jobs, including saving for further study, getting relevant work experience, wanting to take some time-out, but often it is due to a lack of career planning prior to graduating. Reviewing these careers resources and taking advantage of opportunities to Go Further will help to ensure that you fulfil your career potential. If you wish to book an appointment to discuss your options and plan your career you can do this through myfuture.

The National picture: What do graduates do? is an annual report showing the national picture of graduate destinations.

Some typical roles:

Accountancy, Banking, Finance, Management and Technology Consultancy

This broad sector covers a range of different roles including Accountant, Actuary, Investment Banker and Financial Trader.  Prospects: Accountancy, Banking and Finance has role profiles with more details about each of these areas.  A number of large professional services firms offer a range of graduate opportunities including Management Consultancy and Technology Consultancy.  These firms are interested in Maths & Physics graduates due to their analytical, numeracy and problem solving skills. Interested students are recommended to find opportunities, while they are still students, to build their commercial awareness and business understanding e.g. attending employer presentations on campus, reading relevant publications, looking for relevant placements and internships.

There are lots of opportunities to gain relevant experience in these areas while you are a student including Insight Days for Level 1 students, summer internships and placements for Level 2 students.  See "What can you do to Go Further?" for some links on how to find these opportunities.

Graduate schemes in this area are plentiful and usually open to graduates of any degree discipline.  See "Relevent Job Websites" for some links on how to find these.

Data Science

The labour market for Data Scientist jobs has seen huge growth in the last few years and is continuing to grow as organisations try to provide meaning to the mass of data they collect. Data Scientist roles exist within a variety of organisations including Finance, IT, government and commercial organisations. Due to the nature of the work, the analytical, numerical and problem solving skills of Maths and Physics graduates are prized by employers. You can gain an insight into the role by reading these case studies from some Queen's graduates currently working at AquaQ and this video from First Derivatives.

While there are postgraduate qualifications in this area (see prospects.ac.uk for a database of postgraduate courses), many companies hire undergraduates and train them in-house.   

A few year-long placements exist, but opportunities for summer work experience for students in this area are rare. You can search for student and graduate work opportunities on Relevant Job Websites - particularly (but not exclusively) those related to Data Science. Having some programming skills would help to gain entry into this type of work. Experience of any programming language would be useful and there are lots of free online courses as well as opportunities on campus (keep an eye on MyFuture).

Software Engineering

Similar to Data Science, the labour market for Software Engineers has seen a huge growth recently. Companies are looking beyond Computing graduates to fill these vacancies and Maths & Physics graduates are in high demand due to their exposure to programming through their degree and their analytical and problem solving skills. Some companies require some further study in software engineering, which could be achieved through a postgraduate course e.g. the MSc Software Development at Queen's (see prospects.ac.uk for a database of postgraduate courses) or some free online courses (e.g. MIT Foundations of Software Engineering, lynda.com). Other companies will consider applicants with no additional qualifications in software engineering, providing they can prove an interest in the area.   

You can find opportunities for year-long and summer placements in Software Engineering that are open to Maths & Physics students on the main graduate schemes websites as well as those specifically related to Software Engineering.

Engineering - Energy, Oil & Gas, Telecoms, Aeronautical, Process etc

While certain types of engineering e.g. Civil, Electrical, Mechanical, Chemical tend to be restricted to those with a relevant degree, employers for other types of engineering - (energy, oil & gas, IT, Systems and Telecoms, Aeronautical, Process) - welcome applications from Maths & Physics students. You can find more about what these jobs might involve by reading the job profiles on www.prospects.ac.uk.

You can find opportunities for year-long and summer placements in Engineering that are open to Maths & Physics students on the main graduate schemes websites as well as those specifically related to Engineering.

Government and Defence

Government departments hire science graduates into a variety of both scientific and non-scientific roles including operational research, engineering and technology.  DSTL – The Defence Science and Technology Laboratory have graduate scientist and graduate analyst and operational research roles for science graduates.  They also offer some year-long and summer placements.  DESG - The Defence Engineering and Science Group run graduate schemes for engineers and scientists. The Civil Service Fast Stream is an accelerated training and development programme for graduates, placing them into a variety of departments within the Civil Service. 

Medical Science

Clinical Engineering, Medical Physics and Radiology are growing fields within healthcare science for which Physics graduates in particular are being sought. The NHS Careers website has more information about the different roles within healthcare science and about its Scientist Training Programme (STP). The STP typically opens for applications in January and closes in February. Competition is tough. Interested students are recommended to look for volunteering / work shadowing opportunities within hospitals.  The Belfast Trust has a web page with information about how to volunteer with them. Even if the opportunities are not directly relevant to the specific areas of interest these should provide an insight into the NHS that would be valuable for STP applications.

More information about careers in Medical Science can be found through the Institute of Physics and Engineering in Medicine, British Nuclear Medicine Society, British Institute of Radiology, British Academy of Audiology

Research

If you are interesting in contributing to the body of knowledge about your subject, a career in research is worth considering. Research Councils UK have a collection of case studies of researchers which give an insight into life as a researcher and the different career paths some researchers take. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. A postgraduate qualification (most often a PhD) is likely to be required.  Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.

There are a few year-long and summer internships available at research institutions e.g. CERN and Diamond. See "What can you do to Go Further" for more details.

Science Communication

Translating scientific and technical information into a style that is easy for others to understand requires specialist knowledge and strong communication skills. This job profile (Science Writer) has more details about the work, including case studies, entry requirements and typical employers. There is useful information on the website of the Association of British Science Writers, the NCTJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists) and journalism.co.uk.

With a first degree in Science, a qualification in journalism can be helpful to make the move to writing. You may find some advertised volunteering opportunities in journalism and PR, and some opportunities through The Gown.  It is also worth making proactive, speculative approaches to relevant magazines and newspapers. It is important to start building a portfolio of written articles as soon as you can. 

Patent Examiner

There 3 main bodies for managing patents and intellectual property (the Intellectual Property Office, the European Patent Office and the World intellectual Property Organisation) all offer entry-level patent examiner opportunities for graduates. They are particularly interested in graduates of law, science or technology. Some student internships are available - see the websites of the individual organisations for more detail.

Teaching

In Schools:A recognised teaching qualification is essential to find work in this area. The Department of Education Northern Ireland has general details about Initial Teacher Education (which includes the PGCE). The Universities and Colleges offering the training also have information on their websites which include how to apply and the closing dates e.g. Queen’s Initial Teacher Education (PGCE) information. See Applying for PGCE Teacher Training to find out about applying in other parts of the UK and in Ireland.

Teacher Training Scholarships are available from the Institute of Physics and the Institute of Mathematics and its Applications. Check the eligibility requirements carefully - these scholarships may require that you undertake your teacher training in England.

PGCE courses are competitive to get into so interested students are recommended to: 

  • Gain experience of working with young people of the age group you hope to teach – usually gained through voluntary work.
  • Get an insight into what work as a teacher is like by trying to arrange to speak to a teacher to ask them about their job, and/or try to get some classroom observation experience. You may be able to arrange visits through personal contacts or with schools where you were once a pupil. It may be possible to arrange with a local school via a speculative application.
  • Keep up-to-date with what’s happening in Education via the Times Education Supplement and the Guardian’s Education section.
  • Apply early.
  • These interview tips are useful when preparing for the course interview. 

The Teach First Leadership Development Programme recruits high achieving graduates to work as teachers in some of the most disadvantaged schools in England and Wales.  Its 2 year programme combines this work with business skills training, internship and mentoring opportunities. At the end of the programme around 50% stay in the teaching profession in a leadership position, the other 50% are readily employed in a variety of business areas.

The JET (Japan Exchange and Teaching) Programme is an official and prestigious Japanese government scheme that sends graduates to Japan in order to promote international understanding at grass-roots level and to improve foreign language teaching in schools. Although participants teach English to school pupils, applicants for the programme can come from any degree discipline providing they hold a full UK passport.  It is a tough application process that begins in the October preceding the departure the following summer. 

The TET (Teach English in Thailand) programme offers students and recent graduates a 9 week placement opportunity as a Teaching Assistant in Thailand.

In Colleges: Further Education Colleges will sometimes hire people to teach without them having teaching qualifications. These teachers will often be expected to work towards a teaching qualification and will be expected to have other relevant (vocational) qualifications and experience to offer. Colleges list job vacancies on their own websites. You can find a list of colleges on the Department of Education Northern Ireland website.

In Higher Education: University lecturers will normally be expected to have or be working towards a PhD. An Academic Career provides more information about this career route. Jobs and some PhD studentships can be found on Jobs.ac.uk. More PhD opportunities can be found on findaphd.com.

General Graduate Options

Approximately 50% of graduate vacancies are open graduates of any subject. Some may require some additional, specialist, post-graduate training but some do not. The list is extensive but includes fields as diverse as accountancy, IT, housing management and recruitment consultancy.  You can get an idea of the variety of opportunities plus find year-long and summer work opportunities by looking on the graduate scheme websites.

How do I make a decision?

There isn’t one right way to make a career decision, but there are a few things worth doing and worth considering in order to make an informed choice:

  1. Don’t think you have to choose just one option – instead a shortlist of preferred options can be a useful strategy. Transferable skills can be gained from any type of work experience, so even if your work experience relates to one area, that won’t restrict you from moving into a different area.
  2. Think about what is important to you and look for evidence of those things when exploring your options e.g. if it is a priority for you to stay in Northern Ireland, look at the Relevant Job Websites for career areas that interest you to see how many job adverts you can find for that type of work here.
  3. The above are just a few of the options related to your degree area. It isn’t a comprehensive list.  Spend some time exploring the Relevant Job Websites to find other job titles and areas.
  4. Look at LinkedIn’s alumni tool (Topic 5 on the LinkedIn for students website) to see the career paths of alumni on LinkedIn.
  5. Speak to company representatives at on campus events (including fairs and employer presentations). Keep an eye on MyFuture for these opportunities.
  6. Need more information – approach any contacts you have, or speculatively approach companies, to set-up an information interview.
  7. If you’ve managed to successfully make use of an information interview, you could ask for a brief period of work-shadowing, i.e. observing someone while they work.  As little as a few hours of work-shadowing can give you a real insight into a job and company, and it is often easier for a company to agree to this than it would be to agree to a period of work experience.
  8. Still can’t decide? Sometimes you can only truly get a feel for whether a certain job is for you by trying it out.  Short-term work experience for students is a great method for trying-out different jobs and companies - see "What can I do to Go Further?" to find relevant opportunities.  If you are a graduate, remember, even a permanent job isn’t necessarily a job for life!

If you’d like to discuss any of this with a Careers Consultant please book an appointment through MyFuture.