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What do science graduates do?

January 2023

Robert Bowles, careers and professional development adviser at the Royal Society of Chemistry, sets out the key outcomes data for those 2019/20 graduates who studied science subjects

Science graduates entered a wide range of well-paying jobs. They are in demand in sectors that seek to solve some of the biggest challenges that we face, such as human healthcare and environmental degradation, as we seek a sustainable future. Most graduates of science subjects entered graduate-level jobs. Physics graduates had the highest level of employment in graduate jobs (85%), while the lowest was still an impressive 60%, for sports science graduates.

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What do graduates do? 2023

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Chemistry graduates had the highest levels of full-time employment (55%), although this was comparable for all science subjects. Physics had the lowest figure for full-time employment (47%), but this is partially explained by higher numbers of them going into full-time study (25%).

Full-time further study was lowest in sports science graduates (11%), although graduates of this subject did have higher levels of further study while working (14%), which is often undertaken in fields such as sports physiotherapy or sports psychology. A fifth of chemistry and biology graduates went into further study, consisting of a Masters science degree to achieve further specialisation in a chosen field, or a PhD, for those keen to pursue either academic or applied research.


Physics graduates commanded the highest salaries for science graduates (£28,116), followed closely behind by chemistry graduates (£25,593). Sports science graduates had the lowest average starting salary of (£20,274). Biology graduates’ average salary 15 months after graduation was £23,631, which is comparable with those of physical and geographical sciences (£23,745).

SubjectAverage salary
Physical and geographical sciences £23,745
Sports science £20,274


IT jobs were the destination for 29% of physics graduates. Another 22% went into roles classified as business, HR and finance, which is also a popular destination for physical and geographical science graduates (21%). Physics graduates are also in demand across critical industries, such as engineering, construction, manufacturing, energy and transport, as well as in business and finance, digital, teaching, health, and the public sectors. This reflects the numeracy and technical skills that this group gain from studying physics and explains their overall higher average salary, as these sectors often attract higher salaries.1

Chemistry graduates had the highest percentage going into science-based jobs, 33%, reflecting the diversity of scientific organisations and sectors that value chemistry as a first degree. The chemical sciences contribute an average of £83billion in economic output per year2 and many of these roles are in manufacturing and research and development roles, which can command higher salaries. Biology graduates also had a high percentage (30%) going into scientific roles, where they can use the scientific knowledge gained during their degree. This is likely to reflect the strength of the life sciences sector in the UK, which generates a wide range of products, from pharmaceuticals to medical devices and testing through to consumer health.3


  1. Change the world: jobs that make a difference, Institute of Physics, 2022.
  2. Chemistry's Contribution: workforce trends and economic impact, Royal Society of Chemistry, 2020.
  3. Life sciences: industrial strategy, GOV.UK, 2017.

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