Physics degrees - photo of the Milky Way

Physics degrees are highly respected by employers and offer ample career opportunities. The workload can be quite heavy and the hours are long, but if you’re enthusiastic about unravelling the secrets of the universe, it’s a great choice. The degree involves a mixture of theoretical mathematics and practical experimentation, and most universities offer a wide range of optional modules to keep things interesting.

Physics degree requirements

  • Most universities will ask that you have an A level in physics and an A level in maths.
  • Those studying in Scotland will need Highers in physics and maths, and may need Advanced Highers in one or both of these subjects.
  • There are a small number of universities that will accept you if you have only studied either physics or maths, but if you want to have your pick of the universities, it’s best to have both under your belt.

Straight physics degree or theoretical physics degree?

Physics degrees most commonly exist in two forms: straight physics and theoretical physics. These degrees include much of the same course material, with the key difference being that straight physics degrees normally involve more practical laboratory work, while theoretical physics focuses more on mathematical content. How much the course content differs depends on the university you are applying for – for example, at some universities there is no difference between physics and theoretical physics until the third year, at which point physicists continue their laboratory sessions while theoretical physicists switch out their labs for theoretical modules.

Bear in mind though that straight physics degrees still contain a lot of mathematical content, so if you were hoping to avoid complex mathematics, this route offers no escape. There is just a more even balance between maths and practical experimentation on a straight physics degree, whereas a theoretical physics degree is more heavily weighted towards mathematical content.

当决定程度是否适合你,in mind where your strengths lie. George Kileff, a third-year student at the University of York, is studying theoretical physics. He explains: ‘In my degree I have found my maths A level to be of more use than my physics A level, so if you’re enjoying your physics lessons but not your maths, I would advise against choosing theoretical physics.’ The choice is ultimately up to you, however, so before making a decision you should spend some time researching the differences between degrees.


Regardless of whether you choose theoretical physics or straight physics, you will have to study a similar selection of core modules in your first year. These modules often include:

  • electromagnetism and optics
  • computational physics
  • Newtonian and relativistic mechanics
  • 实验室物理学
  • mathematical techniques
  • 物质的性质。


  • 核天体物理学
  • cosmology and galaxy formation
  • 医学影像
  • 流体动力学
  • spacetime and gravity
  • radiation detectors
  • advanced quantum mechanics.

What methods are used to teach physics at university?

Physics degrees typically include the following teaching methods:

  • lectures – learning by listening and taking notes
  • problem classes –working through physics problems individually under the supervision of a tutor
  • computing classes – learning to write computer programmes that can run simulations
  • laboratory sessions – practical sessions in which you will be physically carrying out experiments
  • 教程 - 少数其他学生会面,并通过困难的物理问题工作。

Generally, a straight physics degree will contain more laboratory sessions than a theoretical degree, while a theoretical degree will include more computing classes.

How many contact hours will I have on a physics university course?

Physics students tend to have a high number of contact hours. The average student will normally have around 20 hours of contact time a week, although this varies depending on the university you are attending and the modules you are taking. Additionally, you will have reading to do outside of these hours, and at many universities you will be set weekly work to be done at home in preparation for tutorials.

What jobs could studying physics at university lead to?

As a physics graduate you will be eligible for a wide variety of job opportunities, both within the field of physics and outside of it. If you don’t want to become a scientist you could use your maths skills in an area such as finance or IT, or put your logical brain to good use in a business or law career.

Careers in physics

There are many career opportunities available for budding physicists. Options include:

  • aerospace engineering – researching and developing aircraft and spacecraft
  • climate forecasting – working with the technology that predicts future weather events
  • medical technology – designing and developing the medical devices and information technology that is used to diagnose, monitor and treat medical conditions
  • robotics and artificial intelligence – designing and creating the machinery of the future
  • scientific journalism
  • teaching or lecturing.

From mars robots to medical physics – Manchester graduates’ careers

Leo Huckvale于2010年毕业于曼彻斯特大学,具有天体物理学的学位,现在是牛津纳多沃尔科技的软件开发商,该公司是一家正在利用新技术探索DNA测序的公司。他解释道:“我的几个课程伙伴仍留在学术界:一个是一个宇宙学家,与世界各地的几个大物理合作合作;另一个是在火星上编程机器人并建立火星氛围。我所在工业的所有课程伙伴也陷入了非常有趣和不同的职业生涯。我有朋友是主要癌症治疗中心的医学物理学家,使用机器学习算法预测交通的数据科学家,以及为国防承包商工作的电子工程师。



Careers outside of physics

如果你决定在体育事业sics isn’t for you there are many alternatives. A large number of sectors welcome graduates from all degree discipline. These sectors include:

有关可能的职业选项的更多信息,请查看我们的文章what you can do with a physics degreeon our graduate careers website TARGETjobs.

Physics degree skills you can use in your career

A degree in physics will leave you with a range of transferable and physics-specific skills, for example:

  • computational and data-processing abilities
  • problem solving skills
  • 一个分析和evaluative way of thinking
  • the ability to identify and predict trends and patterns.

在寻求求职时,物理学位是一种巨大的资产 - 埃德摩尔,约克毕业

These are skills that are highly valued by employers, as is a physics degree in general. Ed Moore graduated from the University of York in 2001 with a degree in physics, and has previously worked as a physicist for a company developing industrial gas flow monitoring equipment and as a consultant for a CE marking company, which assisted manufacturers to confirm their products met European safety Directives. He is currently a software developer at GTI Media.

ED解释:“我学历中学到的过程,方法和技能非常有用,让我非常有用。物理学位肯定是求职时的巨大资产 - 在我的经验中,我发现学位非常受到高度尊重,并在所有职业中令人印象深刻。

What other degrees could I consider?

If you’re thinking of doing a physics degree you could also consider:

  • an engineering degree
  • 化学物理学位
  • a maths degree
  • 天体物理学位
  • a computer science degree
  • 化学学位
  • a medical physics degree or physics with medical applications degree.


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