Subject Guide


Emily Hanson  · Nov 23rd 2022

Your learning will be embedded in the discoveries of leading thinkers and famous astrophysics, and you will have the opportunity to develop an understanding of complex scientific theories and concepts.


Astrophysics degrees explore the inner workings of the universe. You will study all things space from planets to black holes, stars and beyond, applying physics concepts to astrological matter.


What is Astrophysics?

Astrophysics applies what we know about physical laws to the bodies and phenomena existing in space. You will learn about all manner of planets and other non planetary bodies, as well as events and occurrences in our solar system and beyond.

What are the modules for this course?

Modules at the beginning of your astrophysics degree will cover key physical concepts and knowledge. This will give you the key information you need to specialise in particular phenomena or theories later on in your degree. The modules offered vary depending on where you study, so it is a good idea to do your research about the universities you are interested in, to be sure that any particular areas you are keen to learn about or specialise in are included.

Astrophysics degree entry requirements vary. Typically entry requirements are high due to the complexity of the subject matter.

First year modules could include:

  • Core Physics
  • Introductory Maths
  • Physical Mechanics
  • Theoretical Physics

On completion of your first year, you will usually have an opportunity to focus your learning on your interests. In second year you will combine a mixture of compulsory and self selected modules. Final year includes a few mandatory modules, then mainly self selected modules alongside a final year project.

Second year modules could include:

  • Advanced Mathematics
  • Advanced Physical Mechanics
  • Computational Physics
  • Cosmology
  • Higher Maths
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Quantum Physics

Final year modules could include:

  • Biophysics
  • Environmental Physics
  • Nanophysics
  • Particle Physics
  • Philosophy for Physics
  • Stellar Evolution
  • Stellar Structures
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Relativity
  • Thermodynamics

Second and final year modules could be interchangeable depending on where you study as the depth of study can vary. Some universities will combine particular elements of astrophysics courses into core modules too. It’s a good idea, because of this, to look into what core modules such as ‘Introductory Maths’ actually include to ensure you are happy with the course content in different astrophysics degree programs.

Astrophysics degree

What are the entry requirements?

Astrophysics degree entry requirements vary. Typically entry requirements are high due to the complexity of the subject matter. As a rough gauge, the higher ranked the university and department is nationally, the higher their grade requirements.

Most astrophysics courses will require a minimum of 120-168 UCAS points. Typically universities require the higher end of this spectrum. This range of UCAS points roughly translates to:

  • A Levels: A*A*A*-BBB
  • BTECs: D*D*D-DDM
  • Scottish Highers: AAAA-ABB (some universities focus their acceptance on advanced highers at AAA)
  • International Baccalaureate: 38-30 points

Some universities will expect you to be studying physics and maths at post-16 level, or have already completed this study. They may expect this to be at an A or A* grade, depending on the institution. You will also be expected to have achieved a minimum of 5 GCSEs or equivalents with passing grades in English and maths. Some universities may expect more GCSEs than this with set grades - so do your research to be sure.

How do I write my personal statement for this subject?

An astrophysics personal statement should express your fascination for the subject and dedication to the program. You should discuss your current or previous studies, why you are keen to study astrophysics, any relevant work or volunteer experience, and your wider interests that make you a well rounded candidate.

Many universities will expect you to have studied maths, physics, or both in order to apply for astrophysics. With this in mind it is a good idea to break down what you particularly enjoyed about your studies at earlier levels, particularly any areas connected to astrophysics and astronomy. You can share what you found challenging and interesting, and what areas you are keen to learn more about that your studies touched on, but didn’t go into depth with.

Every university assesses differently. Typically assessments include examinations, coursework, and assessed research projects.

Alongside talking about your previous studies, it is key to share why astrophysics is the right choice for you. What areas of the discipline fascinate you? When did you first become interested in astronomy? Are there any particular modules you are excited to delve into? With this in mind, it is a good idea to ensure that any particular area you are keen to learn about is covered in all your university choices so that you are not caught short when sharing these interests with several different universities.

If you have any relevant hobbies or work experience, it is a good idea to cover this too. Are you engaged in a local astronomy club or stargazing society? Do you have your own telescope and follow the stars, perhaps? Or do you engage in free research or magazines connected to astronomy? Here the key is to show that you are actively engaged in the field at a beginner level already. This doesn’t have to mean expensive subscriptions or advanced knowledge at this stage, but instead that you are actively interested in learning.

Alongside discussing all things astrophysics related, it is a good idea to share your wider interests. Universities are looking for engaged students who are likely to get involved with the wider university community, so any interests or skills you have that are unrelated to astrophysics are also worth a mention.

What books or equipment do I need?

You will typically receive a reading list in advance of starting your course. This usually includes textbooks, articles and further information. You will also receive further reading lists on enrolling that connect to each module you take. All books and online articles should be accessible via your university’s library and online portal.

When studying astrophysics you will also use specialist equipment, such as telescopes and observatories. These will usually be based in an on campus laboratory with access included in your tuition fees. You may also need access to specialised computer software, which again should be covered by your university.

Astrophysics masters degree

How will I be assessed?

Every university assesses differently. Typically assessments include examinations, coursework, and assessed research projects. It’s a good idea to look into which methods of assessments your prospective universities use, as this could help you decide where you want to apply if you have a preferred assessment method.

Many universities will have a heavily weighted research project in the final year of the degree. You can usually choose what the topic of this will be based on your own interests. In astrophysics this will likely cover practical or theoretical study with a written project or report to summarise your findings and research.

What are the career prospects?

Astrophysics graduates go on to work in various fields within the scientific sector. You could go into research, education, or pursue further academic study. Many undergraduate students in astrophysics aim to go on to PhD(/advice/postgraduate/phd/) study to specialise their knowledge and prepare for a research based career.

What jobs can I get with this degree?

Astrophysics jobs are largely research, academic or education based. You could work in a variety of academic or commercial sectors, as a degree in astrophysics is complex and has a level of expertise that many companies are keen to invest in. Examples of jobs in astrophysics include:

How does astrophysics change at a postgraduate level?

Students hoping to pursue an academic career or one in high level research typically go on to postgraduate study. An astrophysics masters degree allows for more detailed study of a particular area of astrophysics as well as teaching further research skills and methods. At PhD level, students typically are conducting original, complex research on a particular topic within the astrophysics academic community.

Astrophysics applies what we know about physical laws to the bodies and phenomena existing in space.

As with most levels of education, the further along you get, the more independent the study. At masters and postgraduate level, you will receive supervision and teaching for experts, but the key is about conducting independent research. This would prepare you well for working towards lecturing or high level research positions.

What is the average grad salary in this area?

The average astrophysics salary for graduates depends on the career path you take. If you continue to PhD study, you are likely to have access to more senior research positions on graduation.

Typically, senior research positions within universities and large companies attract higher salaries. The average astrophysicist salary in the UK reaches £50,000[1] and beyond, while generalised research scientists could earn around £40,000[2].


  • [1] Average Astrophysicist Salary in United Kingdom — Retrieved 23 November 2022.
  • [2] Research Scientist Salaries in United Kingdom — Retrieved 23 November 2022.

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