Career outlook for physicist

Figures and forecasts for roles at the same level, which require similar skills and qualifications.

Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


Average UK salary


Currently employed in Scotland


"LMI for All" supplies our salary and employment status information. "Oxford Economics" supplies job forecasts and employment figures.

Due to COVID-19 the jobs market is constantly changing. Some of the information may not reflect the current situation.

What's it like?

You would study the world around us and the scientific laws that make objects behave as they do. Your research would help develop all kinds of technology.

If you worked in theoretical analysis you would come up with theories. You would run models to predict and explain behaviours.

If you worked in experimental pure and applied research you would carry out experiments to put theories to the test.

You could specialise in many different fields.

For example, you might:

  • Work on climate forecasting
  • Improve medical processes
  • Develop analytical tools
  • Work on satellites and space exploration
  • Find new ways to generate power
  • Work with robots and artificial intelligence
  • Teach in schools, colleges or universities
  • Work in publishing, broadcasting or journalism

You would write up your findings in reports for project managers, scientific journals and funding bodies. You might also present your work at scientific meetings and conferences.

It would be important to have a good understanding of statistics and relevant computer software.

Working conditions


You would usually work 37 to 40 hours a week, Monday to Friday


Your workplace could range from a laboratory, workshop or factory, to the outdoors carrying out fieldwork. You may have to wear protective clothing for some jobs to prevent contamination and contact with hazardous substances.


Fieldwork is likely to involve travel and working away from home, possibly for weeks or months at a time.

UK employment status





Self employed


People behind the job

Meet real people who’ve done this job – hear their stories and the path they took to get there.

Here are some of the skills needed for this job. Sign in to see how your skills match up.

  • Cooperating
  • Verbal communication
  • Working with technology
  • Written communication
  • Problem solving
  • Observation
  • Researching
  • Developing a plan
  • Taking initiative
  • Understanding

Skills Explorer

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To understand more, have a look at What are my skills?

Our Skills Explorer tool will help you understand what skills you have and match them to jobs that might suit you.

Use the Skills Explorer tool

Getting in

Entry requirements for courses can change. Always contact the college, university or training provider to check exactly what you’ll need.


You would need a degree (SCQF level 9/10) in a subject such as physics or applied physics. Or in a related science like engineering, mathematics or astronomy.

Most physicists also have postgraduate qualifications such as a Master of Science (MSc) or a Doctoral degree (SCQF Level 11/12). 

Entry requirements for courses vary. For undergraduate courses, you would need at least four Highers at B or above. Some universities may require four Highers at AAAA taken in one sitting. An Advanced Higher in Maths would be useful. 

Some universities offer an integrated Master's (SCQF Level 11) which combines a degree and Master's course over five years. 

You might be able to gain entry to a degree course with an HND in Applied Science (SCQF Level 7). 

Edinburgh College offers an Access to Physical Science (SWAP) course which allows people with few or no formal qualifications to move towards a degree.

Useful subjects

Many courses require:

  • Physics
  • Maths