Mathematics and physics are fundamental to many aspects of modern life. This includes technology, such as the computer, the laser, the compact disc, nanotechnology, space travel, mobile phones, MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)… the list is endless! Government, industry and commerce also utilise the detailed analytical and modelling capability of mathematics and statistics to underpin many activities.
Professions mathematics and physics graduates go into include:
The largest employment area for physics graduates, e.g. about 66% of graduates from the Queen’s University of Belfast go into industry, working in production, research and development. Industry is also a major employer of mathematics graduates, utilising their analytical and modelling skills. The oil industry is one such area, where oil extraction relies heavily on numerical modelling.
The largest employment sector for UK mathematics graduates, with 40-50% taking up careers in business, commerce, finance and marketing. This sector also employs a considerable number of physics graduates, due to their excellent numerical skills.
Areas that handle large, population-level data-sets offer careers for statisticians, in fact due to the increased growth in the use of data, the demand for statisticians has increased. Medical physics is an area of increasing opportunity for physics graduates.
Because they have so many career choices, there is a shortage of physics and mathematics graduates entering the teaching profession. This, however, means that the career prospects for mathematics and physics graduates are very good indeed!
Many students, with a particular love of mathematics or physics for their own sake, will choose to stay at university to undertake research for a PhD. This in turn may lead to a career in university lecturing, or may lead to a more specialised research post in industry, government etc.
Given the wide range of career options open to mathematics and physics graduates it is unsurprising that a graduate in these subjects stands to benefit financially, as well as in choice. The Economist, on June 19th 2003 quoted from the report on Labour Market Trends (http://www.statistics.gov.uk):“ Those with degrees in subjects like Law, mathematics and economics can expect earnings around 25% higher than average. But returns in other subjects are sharply lower. Social studies brings a 10% premium. Education and languages may have returns close to zero. On average arts degrees show a negative return.”