The search for jobs - a physical possibility


IN COMMON with most sciences, about half of the graduates of physics courses may expect to continue their studies to masters level before they enter the employment market. However, applied courses are something of an exception to this rule.

One hundred per cent of the graduates of the certificate, diploma and degree courses in applied physics and instrumentation in Cork RTC in 1994 and 1995, who sought work found relevant employment, according to Dr Eamonn Cashell, head of the department of applied physics and instrumentation.

Of these, 38 per cent went into instrumentation, 17 per cent into electronics, 13 per cent into computing, 13 per cent into chemical industries, eight per cent into research and development and 11 per cent into other areas. Ninety four per cent of these graduates found work in Ireland with the remainder going abroad. Seventy nine per cent are employed in the Cork region.

Overall, 65 per cent of cert, diploma and degree graduates went into employment and 35 per cent went on to further study. However, only five per cent of the degree graduates went on to further study so the progression was mainly from certificate to diploma to degree rather than into postgraduate programmes.

He says the success rate in the employment market is a direct result of the applied nature of the courses. "These people can go into industry and do a job," he comments. The increasing importance of safety, environmental protection and quality assurance validation are boosting job opportunities also.

"We are about to introduce a new subject into third year - quality management systems - and this should give an added dimension to the course," adds Cashell.

DCU and UL also offer degrees in applied physics. This is the first year that there will be graduates from UL's course and Mary Sweeney, careers officer, expects that graduates will be able to avail of a lot of opportunities also open to electronic and computer engineering people.

DCU has three courses in the applied physics. The courses combining applied physics with languages are new and there will be no graduates for another two years. Thirty five per cent of the graduates of the applied physics course in 1994 went directly into employment while between 45 and 50 per cent went on to further study. Muireann Ni Dhuigneain, careers and appointments officer with DCU, says that it quite normal for a large percentage of students in the science area to go on to postgraduate programmes.

Of those who were employed directly, most went into the wafer fabrication, information technology and hardware industries. They are generally termed engineers rather than physicists, notes Ni Dhuigneain.

A number of colleges offer physics through a common entry science degree rather than a denominated degree. For instance, students of science in Maynooth choose four subjects in first year from maths, biology, chemistry, computer science, experimental physics and mathematical physics. To date, physics must be taken as one of two subjects in a joint honours degree however experimental physics may be offered as a single honours in the future.

Dr Michael Cawley of Maynooth University explains that all science students take three subjects in second year and if they do sufficiently well at the end of the year they can move into the honours stream. Graduates of the course have gone into computer hardware and software, telecommunications and the meterological service.

If students do not get into the honours stream, they take a general degree. This is a three-year degree with three subjects taken in the final year. "These people are ideally equipped to go into teaching because they have a broad range of subjects at a sufficiently high level," comments Cawley.