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As an expert in physics, you could work in many areas, from astronomy to healthcare to energy. Use our guide to learn more about physics masters, doctorates and other postgraduate qualifications.
Physics is the study of natural science and matter. It seeks to better understand some of the big questions of the world, in topics like:
A physics masters will let you study the subject to a more specialised level than an undergraduate course. You’ll learn all about theoretical and experimental physics and how to apply them to current challenges in research.
Depending on the course you choose, you could be involved in activities like undertaking lab or field work, discussing ethical physics or conducting important research.
During a physics degree, you’ll be able to tailor your studies to your specific interests. Programmes are led by specialist academics, and you often have opportunities to collaborate with other scientists from around the world.
Many courses are designed to prepare you to respond to our society's challenges on a local, national and international scale. You’ll gain a high level of expertise that will make you suitable for various skilled careers, and employers usually see physics as a very flexible and desirable degree.
As well as specific theoretical, practical and research skills, you’ll develop transferable skills like:
Qualification options include masters, doctorates, certificates and diplomas in physics. Each has a slightly different focus and style of teaching.
Masters in physics
Master of Science (MSc) in physics is usually a taught course informed by research. You choose from various module topics, attend lectures and seminars, apply your knowledge in a lab and complete a dissertation or research project. You gain many workplace skills and prepare for industry or public service work.
Research in physics
During a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree in physics, you’ll undertake a large, independent research project. It’s mostly independent work, but you receive support from supervisors, academics and other researchers. A shorter option is the Master of Philosophy (MPhil).
Certificates and diplomas in physics
Postgraduate certificates (PGCert) and postgraduate diplomas (PGDip) are shorter versions of the master’s qualification. They can be useful for deepening your knowledge if you’re already working in a related career.
What are postgraduate degrees
You’ll have many career options to choose from. Physics graduates go into fields like biophysics, research and development, information technology, engineering, finance, medicine, photonics and nanotechnology.
Possible job roles include:
Many students continue in academia or research, either pursuing a doctorate degree or working for a research institution.
To qualify for a master’s course, you’ll usually need:
MSc – bachelor’s degree (or equivalent) with second-class honours in a relevant subject such as physics, engineering, mathematics, computer science or a physical science
Depending on the course and university, you might be admitted if you have significant professional experience relevant to the area, along with a demonstrated strong interest and knowledge of physics and enthusiasm for education.
For other postgraduate courses, you’ll usually need:
Examples of postgraduate physics degrees you can study in the UK:
Module themes and research topics could include:
Taught physics courses (MSc/PGCert/PGDip) are usually led through a mixture of lectures, seminars, group work, tutorials and practical and lab-based activities. You could be assessed through coursework, exams, essays, literature surveys, presentations and a dissertation.
On a research degree (MPhil/PhD), you’ll work with supervisors and a research team, but your project will be largely independent. You’ll be assessed on a written thesis and viva exam.
It depends on your chosen course. Usually, full-time physics courses last:
Part-time courses can be twice as long.
How to fund your postgraduate degree
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