Open days, career prospects and sub-atomic particles

12 February 2013

A wide range of factors play a part in guiding students’ choice to study physics at university and a survey published today, Tuesday 12 February, suggests that open days, great career prospects and a desire to understand how the world works are top among them.


The Institute of Physics (IOP) in Scotland undertakes a yearly survey of first year physics students in universities across Scotland to identify important contributing factors to students’ choice.

The 252 students surveyed this year reflect the wide range of motivations for further study in physics but with 86% citing career prospects as a good reason to study physics, students appear to have life after university in mind

The survey assessed the influence of events such as university open days, workshops and lectures outside school, and work experience placements, while also querying more personal factors, such as the students’ ability in maths and their excitement from the quest to answer fundamental questions.

Alison McLure, the IOP’s National Officer in Scotland, says, “It’s unsurprising that there’s not one single factor which influences students’ choice to study physics but some clear patterns have emerged.

“Along with indicative data on students’ thinking around job prospects, it was also interesting to see that almost a third of the students cited particle and quantum physics as the topic which sparked their interest for further study, and almost half predict that studying physics will lead them into a career in research. 

“It’s possible, of course, that all of the excitement around CERN and the discovery of the Higgs boson played a part in this.

“We hope our findings help schools and universities tailor their approach to ensure students are getting the best possible taste of physics during their school years so that students can make informed choices for their future.”

The full survey results: Institute of Physics in Scotland Survey of First Year Physics Students 2013 (PDF, 334 KB)

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