University subject profile: physics
What you’ll learn
Physics is the study of the fundamental forces that govern our universe. You’ll learn about physical phenomena from the largest to the smallest scales, from galaxies to quarks and beyond. You’ll also delve into particle physics (the basic building blocks that make up the world around us), and classical and special relativity (how objects act under the effects of forces, and how this changes under extreme conditions).
It’s a subject that requires good maths knowledge, as you’ll be expected to be able to explain the physical world in mathematical terms. You will also get the chance to enhance your computing skills.
Universities offer three- and four-year undergraduate courses. Your course should cover the fundamentals: electromagnetism, quantum
and classical mechanics, statistical physics and thermodynamics, and the properties of matter. You could then choose specialist topics, such as astronomy, space science, or applied physics.
By the time you leave university, you will understand key physical laws and principles and be able to solve problems – or at least have an idea of how
to. You will be able to plan and carry out experiments, and know how to analyse and interpret your findings.
You will also know how to produce clear and accurate scientific reports and present complex information concisely.
How you’ll learn
You’ll learn through a combination of lectures, lab sessions and tutorials. Most courses will require you to complete a research project during your fourth year, probably with a research group. Some courses will encourage you to complete work placements.
Many universities will want top grades, though not all. Many courses are accredited by the Institute of Physics – the professional body for physicists. You will probably need to have studied maths and physics at A-level (or equivalent). Further maths, chemistry and computing or computer science are helpful.
What job can you get?
Many physics graduates go on to further study and pursue careers in research. Those who leave academia often become data scientists or work in computing or engineering.
The skills you learn in problem-solving and computing will be highly prized by employers in a range of fields. Physics graduates can also be found in the public sector, business and teaching.
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