What Happens After Your Diploma in Physics: A Statistical Exploration of #LifeAfterPhysics

With Graduate Tracking, the public universities of Austria commission Statistics Austria to conduct an analysis of career entry, employment, and income opportunities for graduates. What does the data tell us about our bachelor’s and master’s degrees graduates lives in the job market?

The first note to this article is: we are few. The data used in these studies tracks 95 masters program graduates and 32 from the bachelor’s from the Faculty for Physics at the University of Vienna. This makes the evaluation quite difficult, due to the lack of representativity of the samples. Moreover, being PhDs considered part of the education, the master graduates who continue with their PhD-studies are not considered. However, we can also use more general information from physics graduates from all over Austria, to observe some trends. 

A Master’s Degree is an Investment

It might not come as a surprise, but a master’s degree in physics and the hard work it involves pays off (at least in the bank account). The difference is around 400 EUR from gross monthly income six months after graduation. This gap maintains itself, even increasing slightly five years after graduation. Most likely, it has to do with the extra expertise and skills many of our students can put on practice during their postgraduate time, which gives them a competitive advantage to colleagues who only obtained their bachelor’s degree. However, the median salary of the graduates with a bachelor in physics is still higher than that of the average bachelor graduate in Austria. 

Auf Wiederschauen Austria!

Almost a third of the graduates in a Master’s Degree in physics are not living in Austria after five years of their graduation. This can be the result of two factors: the high number of students who come from other countries to study in Austria and the international competition for highly specialized labor. The more experience these professionals gather, the more likely is that foreign companies make offers to attract them. This makes the perspectives from Austrian graduated physicists very positive: their skills are solicited worldwide.

Between Lab and Office

Now we know that physicists earn good and are wanted by possible employers. Where do they actually work? As the Austrian Employment Service (AMS in German) points out, the skills of physicists are very desirable: what is learned during the studies –such as scientific reasoning, use of specialized tools or programming– is highly valuable for the labor market. 

As expected, many physicists work non-university research. Research and development occupies the first position for master students (not enough data for bachelors in this case) with around a fourth of all graduates working in Austria having such a position. This indicates that many hard-skills learned during their studies are transferable to the labor market. 

The other sectors are more unclear. On second place  we find “Computer programming, consultancy and related activities” (18%) and third place is with an 11% for “Activities of head offices; management consultancy activities”. This is proof of another reality mentioned by the AMS: skills such as analytic thinking or mathematical aptitude are highly valuable in a wide range of sectors.  

Some Reflections for Current Students from the Data

What can a student learn from the data? These are some points, that might be helpful:

  • Studying physics pays off: both salary and how attractive physicists are for prospective employers seem to be above the average in Austria. 
  • Soft or hard? Both!: using your studies to learn soft skills seems to be important, as there is a big chance that you do not end up working in a lab. However, learning and mastering scientific techniques can be your ticket to a great position in private R&D. 
  • Focus to deal with variety: there is no clear next stage for graduating physicists. Therefore, it might be worth starting to discover what you want to do next during your studies. With this, one can learn more about the desired sector, do internships or learn skills that are highly looked for in your dream job.

Data and sources:

Graduate-Tracking of the University of Vienna:

Bachelors Degree in Physics Fact-Sheet:

Maters Degree in Physics Fact-Sheet: 


AMS-Beruflexikon “PhysikerIn”: https://www.berufslexikon.at/berufe/2606-PhysikerIn/