Highly diverse and rewarding career opportunities are available in photonics at all levels in organisations around the UK and world from the newest start-ups to the biggest multinationals.
Career impact & demand
Light is leveraged in such a wide huge range of products and applications that working in photonics means you can have impact in almost any market and sector, from farming & healthcare to manufacturing and consumer tech. Working in photonics is a choice to have impact through light. Where and how you have impact is almost infinitely flexible.
The Photonics industry has grown much faster than the average industry for more than two decades and is forecast to continue to do so into the distant future. This relentless rise creates an every growing demand for those familiar with working with light and how to harness its power in ever more diverse ways. From photovoltaics and LED lighting, to the use of lasers in manufacturing and optical communications carrying ever more data, photonics will also be key to delivering Net Zero and vital for the future.
The skills needed and jobs available are equally diverse as the applications. As a £15 billion UK industry (£550 billion globally) employing more than 76,700 people in the UK, photonics employers seek skills in finance, HR, marketing sales, computing, chemistry & physics as well as all engineering disciplines. The case studies provided by the PLG are just a small illustration of some of the careers paths individuals have taken and will continue to develop in the future.
The value of additional study and higher level degrees (masters, PHD, MBA) is a frequent concern for many. As the career case studies illustrate, people have built successful rewarding photonics careers following a huge diversity of paths, from apprentices starting straight from school to those obtaining the PhD’s and MBA’s. There are opportunities for all. How far you go depends on your passion, adaptability, empathy and a host of personal attributes as much as academic prowess. We encourage individuals to pursue the options that are right for them. Photonics employers are often flexible about the path people have taken, focusing on the value you can add to their organisation.
Salaries in photonics range hugely due to the variety of positions on offer. Averaged over all roles, the PLG calculates the average Photonics salary in the UK to be ~£56,000. This is confirmed by SPIE’s global photonics salary survey. Caution is advised in interpreting this figure as there is rarely an average job in photonics and the salary distribution is broad, covering everyone from experienced managing directors to those just starting their careers.
Starting salaries and employment packages for technician, graduate, apprentice and higher degree positions vary widely and change rapidly. The rapid career progression available in photonics, and the many options to diversify your experience with different roles, also means starting packages are less linked to future earnings than in many other industries. In Photonics it may be less about what you start on, and more about where you can go as you demonstrate added value to your employer.
An increasingly wide range of career case studies are being made available by the PLG with the support of the community to illustrate the range of career options and paths available in photonics.
The PLG is extremely grateful to those that have agreed to be listed as career case studies. If you have an personal story that would add value and diversity to the careers case study please contact the PLG.
Those interested in photonics careers are encouraged to explore the UK Photonics Directory, with over 1200 UK organisations listed, and check with individual organisations on their job openings and employment options.
The following photonics focused jobs boards and recruiters also provide access to a selection of opportunities.
- Careers Development resources (SPIE)
- Optics.org Jobs Board
- Jobs in Photonics (EPIC)
- Optica Careers Lab
- if you would like to be listed on the photonics careers resource list above please contact the PLG
The PLG does not endorse any of the listed organisations and external links above others (if you would like to be listed on the photonics careers resource list above please contact the PLG). Currently the PLG is unable to post individual Job openings
As one of the most essential transformative enabling technologies of the 21st century, working in photonics provides endless extremely fulfilling career opportunities and is highly recommended by the Photonics Leadership Group – we look forward to seeing you in photonics community.