December 18, 2017, by Meghan Gray

What can I do with my physics degree? Reflections on our first Careers Week

As we’ve reached the end of a very busy Autumn term, we reflect back on some of the changes we’ve made this term. One new development was the introduction of a Physics Final Year Careers Week in November — a week of career-focused activities to help Physics students learn more about their career opportunities, increase their confidence, and enhance their application skills. Events were led by the Careers and Employability Service and members of the School of Physics and Astronomy.

In this guest post, Chris Jones, Senior Careers Advisor for the Faculties of Science and Engineering, describes the events of the week.


“What can I do with my Physics Degree?”

Is a question we often hear from students thinking about their next steps, who know that Physics is seen as a desirable degree by many employers, but aren’t really sure about their specific options.  The introductory session, “Your Future With Physics” looked to reframe this question to help students ask instead “What can my Physics Degree do for me?” by giving an overview of career planning strategies as well as an insight into the range of roles and sectors that previous Physics graduates have progressed into.  During the first day we also looked at what skills and qualities employers want from graduates; how to identify and articulate your own strengths and skills; and how to put together an effective CV and application.

“We are all imposters!”

Meghan Gray from the School of Physics gave a thought-provoking presentation on ‘the imposter phenomenon’ – the feeling that we’re not as good as other people and are somehow ‘faking it’.  This is surprisingly common even among successful academics and scientists, so it was helpful to share and talk about this and look at strategies for overcoming our self-doubt.

Meet the Employers

Wednesday provided an opportunity to meet and talk to some relevant employers.  Following a session on effective networking with employers, we heard from a panel including speakers from Romax Technology, TerOpta and Tessella, all of whom gave some really interesting insights into their sectors, where Physics graduates fit in, and what they look for in new recruits.  This followed on from other opportunities to meet employers earlier in the term at the White Rose Industrial Physics Academy Careers Fair and the University’s Science and Technology Fair.  Thursday lunchtime also provided an opportunity to meet with teachers and teacher training providers at the ‘Physics Café’, hosted by the Institute of Physics, designed to give students an insight into opportunities in teaching Physics.

Making Successful Applications

Thursday focused on how to make effective applications and succeed in the recruitment process.  We kicked off with a session on making the most of LinkedIn to research careers, make contacts and create an effective online profile.  This was followed by a workshop on interview skills.  The afternoon saw sessions on other aspects of the recruitment and selection process; BAE Systems introduced a workshop on Psychometric tests, and Rolls Royce shared their insights into how to perform well at an assessment centre, and offered students the chance to sign up for a Rolls Royce run mock assessment centre the following week.

To PhD or not to PhD?

More than a third of University of Nottingham Physics graduates progress on to do a PhD, so this continues to be a popular option.  On the final day of Careers Week, we heard from current PhD students and supervisors on their experiences of doing theoretical and experimental Physics PhDs and research at Nottingham to help give an insight into this pathway, the requirements and process of securing a PhD.  We wrapped things up with a drop-in session for students to help them with any individual queries thrown up during the week.

So overall it was a busy week with plenty going on, hopefully leaving our final year undergraduates feeling more informed, prepared and confident about planning their exciting futures.

Posted in CareersNewsStudent Life