Physics deals with the workings of the universe, from the particles that make up your lunch to the forces that make the Earth revolve around the sun. This branch of science is an incredibly complex one that aims to reach the bottom of how things work. A huge number of scientific and technological developments are rooted in the science of physics.
Degrees in physics and astronomy develop individuals’ understanding of the relationship between the physical laws of the universe, and how these laws apply across different scales of time and space.
Cosmology is the study of the evolution, origin and fate of the universe, and astrophysics is focused on the stars that fill the universe, whereas space science is concerned with the Earth’s planetary neighbourhood.
Astronomy is the study of space, celestial objects and the physical universe as a whole.
The majority of courses will ask for A-level subjects in physics and maths, and the exact grades differ from each institution. Some universities will ask for at least 280 UCAS Tariff points, while others will require BBB in A-level grades.
Students are advised to check with their chosen institutions to ensure they understand what they need to gain admission to the course.
Most physics and astronomy degrees are three years in length. However, some universities offer a Master’s of Physics (MPhys) degree but as an integrated course which lasts four years, and includes a Masters qualification within the undergraduate degree. Furthermore, other physics courses will offer individuals the opportunity of working a year in industry during their time studying, which then increases the final study time to four years. Students will spend a year working in the industry, at a placement and gaining valuable experience that they can then use to secure employment after graduating (Learn more – What if my course has a placement).
Candidates will study modules that form a solid basis for the course, and allow the individual to progress and develop with each academic year. Students will study core maths principles, motion and relativity, physics and the solar system. Although each degree course will feature a range of modules, students will have a chance to learn similar areas of study.
Additionally, universities may offer joint degree courses that allow individuals to study two similar areas, such as astronomy, engineering or mathematics. There is an extensive range of degrees available for individuals to study, including a Bachelors of Science (BSc), Masters of Physics (MPhys) and Masters of Science (MSc) degrees. Examples of degrees are as follows; astronomy, space science and astrophysics, environmental physics, natural sciences, observational astronomy, physics, physical sciences, chemistry, medical physics, nanoscience, nanotechnology, nuclear technology with physics, planetary and space physics, cosmology, photonics, quantum technologies, satellite technology, theoretical astrophysics and applied mathematics. All of the above degree options can be paired with physics.
Students will spend their time analysing data from satellites, using maths to prove theories and find themselves working on problems within astrophysics, physics laboratories and vector calculus, as well as, classical mechanics, optics, waves, electromagnetic fields, thermodynamics and relativity.
Throughout the course, the subject-specific aspect of the degree will increase as time passes, allowing students to specialise and tailor the qualification to their needs. Also, there will be a research project to complete in the final year of study.
Individuals will be assessed by a mixture of examinations and coursework, from project work, written reports, oral presentations, seminars, and practical laboratory experimental sessions, this will vary from each institution so it’s important for students to choose the right university and course, this can be done by visiting university open days and to use our online comparison tool to compare UK universities.
Students will gain skills specific to the course, such as problem-solving, numeracy, logical thinking and computer literacy.
Individuals who choose to go to university will gain a number of transferable skills from organisation and time-management from working on deadlines to social skills by working in groups and performing presentations.
Physics and astronomy are ideal for students who have a passion of figuring out how the world works, and in cooperation with other forces around it. It also will satisfy those that wish to study a branch of science, but unsure what branch to take, as it can be paired with many similar subjects and interests.
There are decent job prospects for physics graduates, as the branch of science is so broad and allow students to tailor their qualification in several directions.
Physics also works well with other subjects, from technology, research, finance and computing roles.
Physics is an exciting branch of science that is fundamental to the development of modern society and its understanding of the world as well as its technology. A degree in physics or astronomy will open up a wide range of rewarding careers, in technological development, scientific research as well as a range of other professions.
Some graduates choose to study for a postgraduate qualification; others enter employment or research roles. Particular job areas include; finance, consulting, computer programming, managerial and administrative positions or accountancy.
For those individuals wishing to continue with their studies can obtain a Master’s of Science (MSc), Masters of Philosophy (MPhil) and a Masters of Research (MRes) in physics, astronomy, astrophysics, nanoscience and many other areas.
Dara O’Briain, a British comedian, studied mathematics and theoretical physics at University College Dublin. O’Briain still shares his love for science by fronting scientific programmes such as School of Hard Sums, and Stargazing Live. Also, Brian May, guitarist from one of Britain’s greatest rock bands, Queen, studied a BSc in Physics and gained a PhD in astrophysics from Imperial College London. May began his PhD in 1970, but the success of the band got in the way, and finished his Doctorate in 2007 – 37 years later!
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