Physicists are in demand. Around 40% of employers prefer graduates with qualifications in science, technology, engineering and maths – but many struggle to recruit people with the skills they need.
That desire for scientific nous isn’t confined to research or technical roles either. People with physics qualifications are well regarded all across the working world for their problem-solving skills, analytical minds, and ability to grasp complex ideas quickly.
The road to gaining these highly valued qualifications starts in schools – but too few people choose to study physics after the age of 16. That’s why the Institute of Physics is working hard to increase uptake.
The decision on whether to continue with physics often depends on students’ experiences of it in schools, and having a good teacher is essential to ensuring that those experiences are good ones. Initiatives like our Stimulating Physics Network contribute to this by helping to shore up teachers’ specialist subject knowledge and their skills in the classroom. Schools taking part in Institute-run projects have shown better uptake of and attainment in physics.
To help make sure that schools have all the physics teachers they need, we’re marketing physics teaching to physics undergraduates and graduates, and also to engineers, and we run scholarships funded by the Department for Education to attract the best people into teaching.
Getting more people into physics also means encouraging students from diverse backgrounds to study the subject. Girls are particularly underrepresented – only a fifth of physics A-level students are girls even though they do just as well as boys at GCSE. The IOP has researched why this is, and found that the culture of a school is an important factor, and runs several projects to get more girls into the subject.
Those who do choose to continue with physics will find many career doors unlocked for them. Publications like our Expand leaflet show where former physics students have ended up. From designing visual effects for blockbuster films to studying exploding stars, or from treating cancer patients to unlocking the nature of reality, there’s a world of opportunity for physics students – and we’re here to make sure more people grasp that chance.