Careers rarely develop the way we plan them. Our career path often takes many twists and turns, with particular events, choices and people influencing our direction.

We asked Colm Lyons from Forestry Careers Ireland to give some advice for people considering this job:

Colm Lyons

Forest Technician

Forestry Careers Ireland

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Colm Lyons
Work hard and always strive to achieve good things. It is very important to keep the eye on the ball and keep a focus on the bigger picture. Days in college/school may be laborious and mind-numbing but keep at it, believe me, there is an end.

Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.

Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
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Explore career opportunities focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

Explore career opportunities focused on Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths

Career Opportunities... header image
What are the main occupations in this sector?

Physical & Mathematical Sciences is a broad sector, with many potential career paths for those with qualifications and suitable skillsets, including medical work, engineering, teaching, finance and technology.

Sample occupations include,

  • Research scientist - in universities or research establishment, working in the many fields of physics and in cross discipline fields such as nanotechnology, biophysics and materials
  • Medical physicists - working in medical imaging, radiation treatment, lasers
  • Engineer/scientist - telecommunications, photonics, nuclear physicists.
  • Space scientist - e.g. working in satellite and telescope design, theoretical modelling within astrophysics and cosmology
  • Environmental science - e.g. weather, climate analysis, pollution control, oceanography, geophysics, renewable energy sector
  • Software engineering - e.g. computer game development, animation, ballistics, Aeronautics

For more examples click here


What types of employment contracts are there?

Research contracts in universities are typically around 3 years as they depend on individual research grants for specific projects.

Scientists often move between research establishments gaining valuable experience. Permanent positions arise for posts such as lecturers in universities.

In industry, employment tends to be offered on a permanent basis.


What are the typical earnings of these occupations?

Academic salaries are good – higher than in many other parts of the world, with a scale extending from €40,000 to €100,000 and beyond for senior staff.

In industry, salaries are dependent on initial qualification, with starting salaries for graduates at around €22,000. However, this can quickly rise with experience e.g. studies by Forfás show that software engineering salaries can rise by around 40% after 2-4 years employment.


Education and Training... header image
What qualifications are required?

The most usual route is through taking a degree at a third level college, often following this with a post graduate qualification.

Some courses offer work placements during the programme which is particularly beneficial in obtaining employment after completing the degree.

Higher certificate courses (level 6) and ordinary degree programmes (level 7) are also available often in areas such as instrumentation. These can lead to good jobs as lab technicians with many opportunities for further progression in companies who support additional learning.

For more information about the qualifications that are required click here


What are the typical routes into this sector?

It helps to have taken physics at Leaving Certificate level. However, it is not essential as many third level courses will cover this material in the first year of study.

Employment opportunities are available following all types of qualification levels, certificate, ordinary degree, honours degree, postgraduate.


Advice... header image
What advice do you have for school leavers?

If science excites you, studying physics at third level gives you an enormous range of options. You won’t be tied to a specific career but rather can take the time to develop your specific interests.

Your numerical, analytical and team working skills will increase significantly – all areas which are in high demand from employers. Take a look at the Institute of Physics in Ireland web site for more details on careers in this area.

You will also find a wide variety of science career videos and interviews with people working in STEM careers on Smart Futures.


What advice do you have for graduates?

There are good opportunities for graduates in areas such as electronics, computer hardware manufacturing and software design.

Employers range from large multinationals such as Intel, Hewlett Packard and Medtronics to small companies often in a start up phase in areas such as medical devices, telecommunications or computer animation/gaming.

Consider taking a postgraduate degree. This can significantly increase your earning power. This can be done immediately after your first degree or you can work for a few years and then come back to your studies. Some companies will fund or facilitate additional learning.


What advice do you have for career changers?

Evaluate your own strengths. Consider whether or not you need a short course in some area of technology which interests you?

Members of the Institute of Physics can get one-to-one advice from trained careers counsellors with expertise on the physics sector.


What advice do you have for non-Irish nationals?

If you are working in a physics, mathematics or chemistry related area consider joining the professional body for your subject:

in order to avail of the professional supports available such as assistance with career development, seminars & conferences, lectures, professional journals and becoming chartered e.g. Chartered Physicist CPhys.


What advice do you have for those wishing to go back to work?

Consider taking short courses to bring your skills up-to-date, particularly in relation to computing and communications.


Meet our People...
"The coolest thing of all is to hear that the device has worked and that the quality of life of patients has improved."
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Sinead Kenny
"I was awarded a scholarship from Intel to pursue a career in science so I chose applied physics in Dublin City University"
Dr Arlene O'Neill
"I work with data from the magnetometer on the Cassini spacecraft which is in orbit around the planet Saturn"
Planetary Scientist
Caitriona Jackman
"Engineers are the same all over the world. There are technical problems to solve, and we love to solve them!!!"
Electronic Engineer
Shane Callanan

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Global Opportunities... header image
Are there overseas opportunities available?

Research opportunities are available globally with many scientists spending part of their careers at international facilities before settling into a permanent position. The higher levels of jobs in industry will also, in most cases, have an international dimension.


Are there opportunities in this sector for non-Irish nationals?

Yes. Ireland has seen an increasing number of overseas workers coming to Ireland to work in areas such as research and development.


About this Sector... header image
Please give an overview of your sector?

Physicists want to understand how the world works, in every detail and at the deepest level. This includes everything from elementary particles, to nuclei, atoms, molecules, macromolecules, living cells, solids, liquids, gases, plasmas, living organisms, the brain, complex systems, supercomputers, the atmosphere, planets, stars, galaxies and the universe itself.

In addition to the pursuit of knowledge, physicists study questions facing today’s science and technology and they seek solutions for instrumentation, measurement techniques and innovations in areas as diverse as lasers and optics, medicine, space science, environmental sciences, electricity and magnetism and nuclear science.


What is the size and scope of the sector?

Given the breadth of the subject, physicists can find jobs both within physics itself and far beyond in areas which require good analytical skills. The Institute of Physics estimates that around 160,000 people in Ireland are employed in physics-based industries, though not all of these jobs require a degree in the subject. Many of these jobs are in manufacturing, particularly medical devices, telecommunications and IT equipment.

Around 200 students graduate each year in Ireland with a degree in physics. Typically, graduates find employment in areas such as the manufacture of medical devices, electronics, computing, communications, laser technology, teaching and finance.

Around two-thirds of physics graduates continue with their studies taking MSc and PhD degrees which are required to pursue careers in more specialist areas such as meteorology, medical physics, environmental physicist, nuclear physics, financial analysis, nanotechnology, alternative energy and astronomy.

Postgraduate qualifications often lead into careers in research at the highest level which includes international collaborations or into senior positions in industry, e.g. project manager in manufacturing.


What are the current issues affecting this sector?

The manufacturing environment has seen some recent pressures, particularly in relation to global competition with some multi-national companies looking to move to a lower cost environment.

Ireland has been responding by providing a strong research base in order to create an innovative and entrepreneurial environment where products are continually being improved and new products developed. This is leading to a substantial improvement in the physics research base in Ireland with more openings arising in this area.


What changes are anticipated over the next 5 years

There will be a decrease in traditional manufacturing but an increase in high value jobs which seek to develop innovation. Also likely to be a significant increase in jobs in the renewable energy sectors. In addition, expect to see an increase in small spin-off companies arising from cutting edge research in the third level sector.


Do you have any statistics relevant to the sector?

The Institute of Physics estimates that around 160,000 people in Ireland are employed in physics-based industries, this represents 8.6 of the national workforce.

Salaries in the physics based sector are approximately two thirds higher than the national average.

More statistics relating to the strength of the economy in this area can be found here


Are there any areas in your sector currently experiencing skills shortages?

Many companies have reported difficulties in finding employees with good mathematical and analytical skills. Physics graduates typically have these skills in abundance.


About Us... header image

SmartFutures Logo Smart Futures is a government-industry programme providing science, technology, engineering andmaths (STEM) careers information to second-level students, parents, teachers and careers guidance counsellors in Ireland.

Check out the numerous resources on the Smart Futures website such as:

  • Career videos with people working in areas such as food and sports science, cybersecurity, engineering, energy, app development, biotechnology, medical devices and lots more.
  • Read career interviews profiling people working in STEM in our blog series ‘Career Stories’ or simply
  • Look up a career by entering a keyword (e.g chemistry) in the search box.

Smart Futures is coordinated and managed by Science Foundation Ireland, in partnership with the Engineers Ireland STEPS programme. It is supported by 50+ organisations such as Novartis, SAP, IBM and Zurich, as well as bodies like BioPharma Ireland, the Royal Society of Chemistry, ICT Ireland, the Irish Medical Devices Association (IMDA) and The Institute of Physics