Physics and Astronomy

Careers in Physics and Astronomy

Develop your knowledge and understanding of fundamental physics laws and principals and the ability to apply them, an analytical approach to problem solving, and effective use of IT for analysing data. Develop the ability to work independently, work to tight deadlines and develop skills to communicate scientific information. All of these are highly prized by employers. You'll get the opportunity to learn research skills which will help prepare you for a career in research.

  • You can see a Careers and Employability Adviser at any time during your course and for up to three years after you graduate.

Graduate destinations

As a Physics graduate you can enter a wide variety of fields, including becoming a professional scientist in industry, government or academia, and your broad training means you can cross over into other scientific and technological disciplines. 

Other career options include the financial sector, where physicists’ ability to handle complex abstract models is particularly valued. Your analytical training also makes you suitable for careers in law, consultancy and business management.

Our MPhys degrees are perfect if you are planning a career in science or who want to go on to a higher research degree.

Many of our recent graduates have also gone on to study for a PhD at Sussex or other top interational universities.

Find out more about what to do with a Physics degree and in which jobs/sectors some of our recent Physics and Astronomy graduates have started working.


What are some of our graduates doing now?

Vicky on her role as Lead Developer for Homeflow 

Head shoulder photo of alumni Vicky Stephens"My first position after graduation was as a software engineer for a company that made business-to-business photo printing software. Since then I've worked in aviation, ecommerce, and journalism sectors before finding my current role with Homeflow as Lead Developer of our backend team.

"My job is about a 50/50 split of software development and management, so I provide technical guidance for a team of approximately 6-8 software engineers. My job involves a lot of analytial thinking and problem solving, so while it's not deriving equations, in many ways it's exactly the same thought processes.  

"I would recommend software engineering to anybody who loves problem solving and making things work - which makes it ideal for a Physicist. It's a great career to be in right now as it's a rapidly developing field, and our skills are in high demand. To anyone thinking of studying Physics at Sussex, I cannot recommend it enough! The physics community at Sussex is a supportive and welcoming group, the teaching quality is fantastic and you have cutting edge research happening in every department. I am a Sussex Physics evangelist to anyone that asks!"

Vicky Stephens
Physics BSc

Samuel Morgan on his career as a Geophysicist at CGG

Head shoulder photo of alumni Samuel Morgan"As a Geophysicist, I use cutting-edge imaging techniques, state-of-the-art computational infrastructure, and a comprehensive framework of shared knowledge and experience to process seismic data into stunning and insightful images of Earth's subsurface.

"Recently I have been working on Full Waveform Inversion for velocity model building. In seismic imaging, a velocity model describes the speed of propagation of energy through the subsurface. An accurate velocity model is crucial for reconstructing a true-depth image from a signal detected, in time, at the surface. Full Waveform Inversion is a powerful tool, using the whole measured seismic wavefield to iteratively improve the model.

"At CGG, I've worked on some really interesting projects with great teams of people. I'm constantly challenged and get to put the skills I learned throughout my physics degree to use every day."

Samuel Morgan
Physics (research placement) MPhys

Read about Sam's 2 summer research placements with the Emergent Photonics (EPic) research group (now based at Loughborough University).

Elvira on her career as a Research Scientist at Living Optics

Young female pictured in front of a lake with mountains in the background"I am now a Research Scientist in Hyperspectral Technology and Lab Manager at Living Optics. I am working together with a great team to push the boundaries of computer vision. We are at the beginning of a very exciting journey and currently working on our first products.

"Our unique approach to hyperspectral imaging combines patented optical methods, built-from-scratch neural networks, and a small dose of pure maths. We are well on our way to radically democratise and miniaturise hyperspectral systems.

"Our technology will change how humans see objects and has applications across many sectors including surveillance, materials sorting, gas detection and human science."

Elvira Castello
Physics BSc

Read about Elvira's SEPnet placement at the National Physical Laboratory

Elvira won the Andrew John Symonds Memorial Prize in 2021 for outstanding performance on BSc courses

Jessie on her career as a Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Helsinki and her PhD at Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany

graduate Jessica Hislop with Prof Peter ThomasJessie at graduation with Prof Peter Thomas

"I'm currently at the University of Helsinki as a postdoctoral fellow working on resolving the interactions between individual stars and intermediate mass black holes in high resolution simulations of dwarf galaxies.

"I studied for a while to be an opera singer and then decided to leave and do a foundation year in Physics at Sussex. I loved my foundation year so decided to continue and did an MPhys Physics with Astrophysics (Research Placement) working with Prof Peter Thomas predicting gravitational waves from galaxy simulations. 

"I did my PhD at the Max Planck Institute for Astrophysics in Garching, Germany. I was working on high resolution simulations of individual dwarf galaxies, looking at the properties of star clusters.

"My degree gave me all of the varied background knowledge that is absolutely vital for doing a PhD, but what really helped me was the research placement at Sussex which I completed during my summers, as well as my MPhys final year project. Being able to do original research with excellent scientists really taught me so many invaluable skills, meaning I started my PhD with a really solid foundation and good practises in how to do research.

"During my degree, I was recruited to work on the Dark Energy Survey (DES) project which gave me extra income as well as amazing experiences such as being able to go to my first conference and working within an international collaboration, as well as having to keep secrets such as some of the gravitational wave detections!

How did being a PhD student compare to being an undergraduate student or a working professional?

"Undergraduate degrees are full of constant deadlines and exams, and I always preferred the more open ended relaxed format of research whilst I was still studying. However, a PhD is basically a big module stretched out over 3-4 years, and I actually really missed doing my undergraduate studies. I missed the constant feedback and being able to tick things off a list. I quickly realised the discipline I learnt during my undergraduate degree at Sussex was so important to implement for myself during my PhD as well. You are an almost independent researcher and you have to set your own deadlines, and at times it's really tough, but extremely rewarding. When I felt a bit deflated, I looked back at pictures of myself from my MPhys graduation ceremony and my final day at Sussex and just remembered how far I'd come and I felt really proud of myself.

"Since leaving Sussex nearly 7 years ago, I'm still in contact with many of the people I met there who still continue to be not only wonderful friends, but have given me great advice and support throughout my PhD and postdoc."

Jessica May Hislop
Physics with Astrophysics MPhys (Reseach Placement)

Daniel on his career as a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Helsinki

Alumni Daniel Cutting“I started working in my field of research during my Masters project at Sussex. In my work I study some of the most energetic events in the early Universe, cosmological phase transitions. In a cosmological phase transition, the Universe changes state through the formation of bubbles, similar to when water boils. When these bubbles collide, they can leave an imprint in gravitational waves that might be detected at future space based gravitational wave observatories. I enjoyed my Masters project so much that I chose to do a PhD on the subject and I now work as a researcher at the University of Helsinki in Finland.

"I really enjoyed my time as an undergraduate at Sussex, so much so that I stayed and did my PhD within the department. The lecturers are all experts in their own field of research and there are plenty of opportunities to get involved as an undergraduate in research or outreach projects. Brighton is an excellent place to live, and the Falmer campus is in a beautiful location in the South Downs National Park. What made studying at Sussex so special was the real sense of community among the students, both within the department and also the wider student body. Many of my happiest memories are from my undergraduate days at Sussex.”

Dr Daniel Cutting
Theoretical Physics MPhys and Physics PhD

Will on doing a PhD in Computational Astrophysics at Sussex

PhD student William Roper"Before undertaking my degree I worked in several settings including retail, catering, music and teaching music. Eventually, I decided I needed a change and (embarrassingly) I was watching a lot of documentaries on astrophysics at the time so decided, somewhat on a whim, to do a physics degree. There was one issue with this though: my A-levels were entirely unrelated. This meant I had to not only do a foundation degree but also an access to higher education course to get onto the degree.

"I did the access course, managed to get my place on the foundation year and then spent the next 5 years at Sussex working towards my undergraduate degree with an integrated masters in Astrophysics. The foundation year was brilliant. Despite having been out of education for many years, the teaching was fantastic and prepared me for the main degree far better than having the correct A-levels possibly could have done. In the first year of my degree, I had my son. I’d be lying if I said this didn’t present its challenges but without a doubt, it motivated me to work as hard as I possibly could. I then went on to complete my degree at Sussex, having a lot of fun along the way, before deciding to continue onto a PhD in Computational Astrophysics at Sussex.

"I am now in the 2nd year of my PhD, still enjoying every second, and have had a daughter, helped write and develop the year 1 Python module taught as part of the physics degree at Sussex, taken on a role as an Outreach Development Officer and become the organiser of the Sussex Universe Lecture Series, a series of outreach lectures presenting Sussex research to the general public and something I had been involved in as an undergraduate."

What are you researching and what does it involve?

"My research focuses on the formation and evolution of the first galaxies to form in the Universe. What do they look like? How does their environment affect their properties? What will we see when we launch the next generation of space telescopes and probe the depths of the Universe?

"To do this I use cosmological simulations, these are run on cutting edge supercomputers (high-performance computing clusters) utilising public simulations codes like GADGET and SWIFT to reproduce volumes of the Universe. My work involves lots of coding, mainly using Python. This coding is used to produce analytics to describe the galaxies we simulate and to create tools for the simulations themselves."

Did your degree help you with your current career?

"Without a doubt it did. I hadn’t considered that my current work was a career path before my degree and not only did it show me the myriad paths I could take but it prepared me very well for those numerous paths. I use many different aspects from the modules I studied during my degree daily.

"Beyond the imparted knowledge, my degree offered me a variety of opportunities to get involved with research. During two summers of my degree, I took part in the Junior Research Associate (JRA) scheme. These not only showed me what working as a researcher was like but also gave me a head start on developing skills vital to being a PhD student. When it came to PhD interviews this experience came into its own allowing me to articulate mature research, when most only had recently started final year projects to discuss. One of these projects has led directly into my PhD topic with multiple papers on the horizon using code and experience I gained in that project; the other project has already led to a paper published in Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society with lots of future work planned.

"I would honestly be nowhere near where I am today without these opportunities and consider myself very lucky to have been able to take advantage of them."

How does being a PhD student compare to being an undergraduate student or a working professional?

"As previously mentioned, I worked in various settings before eventually deciding to do a degree. One of the things that always irked me in these workplaces was the lack of variety and long term goals. This was all rectified in my undergraduate degree by having a clear progression towards a goal and the variety I desired. This satisfaction continued into my PhD; being in control of my own time and balancing a varied workload that constantly works towards varied goals is hugely rewarding.

"Being a PhD student is clearly different from being an undergraduate, with an increased level of autonomy, and the lack of assignments and constant lectures. However, there is actually a considerable amount of cross over. Especially since I focused on research possibilities during my degree. The assignment deadlines are now deadlines to produce papers or research contributions (although are considerably less numerous than undergraduate assignments), and the lectures are now seminars and journal clubs detailing cutting edge work in various fields."

Would you recommend Physics at Sussex to someone else?

"Absolutely, it’s a wonderful department, full of wonderful people. I really enjoyed my time here, as should be clear by my decision to stay on at Sussex after 5 years for 3.5 more years as a PhD student."

Would you recommend your line of work to someone else?

"This is a harder question. I would absolutely recommend research to anyone. It’s hugely rewarding and all the more so when you get the chance to make an impact on something you care about, but only if you’re the sort of person that relishes expanding your knowledge regardless of any obstacles you meet in that pursuit. It’s not for everyone but I wouldn’t be doing anything else and I’m sure the naturally curious would feel exactly the same as I do!"

William Roper
Astrophysics MPhys graduate and currently doing a PhD in Computational Astrophysics at Sussex.

Hear from our students

Careers support

As a student, you can access a range of services through our Careers and Employability Centre. You can get individual career support or attend employer events and career talks specifically for Physics students, including:

  • Careers Fair: We organise an annual fair giving you the opportunity to meet and find out more about employers that are particularly interested in physics graduates as well as other mini careers fairs throughout the year.
  • our Career development course: we offer second year students a course on the fundamentals of successful career development.
  • in-house careers events: we organise numerous events throughout the year giving you the opportunity to hear from Sussex and non-Sussex graduates and employers about careers and job prospects.
  • advice and support from our in-house Employability advisor/SEPnet Employer Liaison Officer who has developed links with local employers and gives support in securing placements and internships. They also run events such as 'Meet the Employer' giving you the chance to network and build relationships with local employers, apply for placements and jobs. Other typical activities include competitions, mock webcam interviews and feedback, webinars and visits from local employers giving extracurricular presentations.

MPS careers fair 2018   Careers Fair 2019 7

Other opportunities:

  • our MPhys students can complete a research placement with Sussex researchers during the summer vacation, which provides a unique opportunity to learn about research methods and practices at the same time as developing your knowledge and understanding of Physics and/or Astrophysics.
  • extra-Curricular Activities. You can get involved in all the Student Union activity clubs and societies, and develop a range of skills that employers value.
  • career-related vacation work will enhance your future employment prospects. In addition, it offers other advantages such as finding out whether you really like a particular kind of work or company before you graduate. Work experience helps you get more out of your degree. It gives you a chance to see how your courses are relevant to the world of work, and can motivate the work you do at University.

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Physics and Astronomy