Step 1: Preparation
Preparation is the key: do your homework. It’s never too early to start preparing for your career. Finding your first job is a lot of work, but everything in life worth having requires work. The process described here will help improve your chances of success. It pays to develop your network early: we have a LinkedIN account to help you do that. Networking is easier than you might think. Talk to people about your education and career plans. They may know someone who knows someone whom you could talk to about your plans, and maybe they'll know about job openings before they are posted.
You probably have some idea what kind of career you are interested in pursuing. But it doesn't hurt to explore your options early in your degree so that you be confident about your choice. Resources like the Canadian Association for Physicsists careers page are great for providing an over-view of the fields to consider. The American Physical Society publishes a guidebook that you would do well to read.
Beginning early in your time at university allows you the flexibility of completing an academic program that will get you noticed. Physics is a great choice of the skills you learn are highly valued and broadly applicable. Imagine you have found an ad for the perfect job. Because it is the perfect job there will be lots of other people, just like you, sending in applications for this perfect job. How are you going to make yourself stand out from all these other people? You can help yourself stand out by completing an honours program or adding an appropriate minor (see our page on complementary minors). We have information on all of our academic programs. The other way to make sure that you stand out is by gaining experience.
Have you considered Co-op? Co-op work experience is great in terms of giving you relevant work experience that you can mention on your resume and in an interview. You can find information on Physics Co-op. Co-op is also great in that it gives you exposure to different work environments and this will help you narrow your job search by helping you determine what you want in your career. Are you looking for a 9-to-5 job or something with more responsibility? Are you the sort of person whose job defines their identity? Are you an entrepreneur or are you looking to contribute to a not-for-profit organization? What is important to you: money, prestige, job satisfaction?
You might also consider finding a part-time or summer job that takes advantage of your physics skills or which provides experience that you can include on your resume. Students who have an NSERC Undergraduate Summer Research award on their resume stand out from their peers.
A degree in physics is great preparation for a satisfying and rewarding career. Studying physics is exciting and intellectually stimulating and so are the jobs that you can get with a physics degree. There are lots of different areas where a physics student can get a job (for examples see our careers page and Career Services' What Can I do With a Degree in Physics?). A physics degree tells a prospective employer that you have the background, knowledge and drive to succeed in scientific, technical and nontechnical fields. These pages are about how to make the connection between your qualifications and the job you want.