Things to think about when choosing a degree

Entry requirements
It is important to compare your predicted grades to the entry requirements to ensure you’re making realistic choices. It is also important to have a back-up, with lower entry requirements than your first choice, so that you have a something to fall back on. You can search for courses by UCAS points/A-level grades in Find a Course.

Subject combinations
Before choosing a course you should consider whether you want to study “straight” physics or combine physics with other sciences. If the mathematical side of physics interests you most, perhaps you would prefer a theoretical physics course or a physics and mathematics course. You may want a course with an industry placement or a year abroad. Once you’ve decided you can narrow down courses using the subject combinations filter in Find a Course.

Costs
The costs of studying at university are not limited to tuition fees. If you plan to live away from home, accommodation, food, utility bills and other day-to-day costs also need to be budgeted for. If you plan to live at home and commute, how far are you willing to travel and how much will it cost? You can search for courses near you using the postcode filter in Find a Course. Universities also offer bursaries and scholarships, however, each university has its own scheme so you will need to investigate carefully. To help you start, direct links to bursaries and scholarships are available in the information tab under Choose a Uni.

You can also find some useful advice on student finance on the Which? University website.

Commonly asked questions

What is accredited or recognised degree?
An accredited degree (indicated by acc in the degree listings) is one that has been rigorously checked by the Institute of Physics and offers the best possible start to a career in physics. Choosing an accredited degree will make you eligible for schemes such as the IOP undergraduate research bursary and make it easier to obtain professional awards such as chartered physicist later in your career. A recognised degree (indicated by rec in the degree listings) is one that does not meet all the requirements of accreditation but has been deemed to contain enough physics for graduates to obtain membership of the Institute of Physics. You can find out more about accreditation and recognition on the Institute of Physics website.

What is the difference between BSc and MPhys/MSci degrees?
MPhys and MSci courses last a year longer than a BSc and are designed to prepare you for direct entry into professional practice or for progression to further study and provide more opportunity to develop expertise such as presentation and communication skills. There is no difference between the status of an MPhys and MSci qualifications; these simply have different names at different universities. If you're unsure which to choose, don't worry, most universities allow transfers between BSc/BA and MPhys/MSci courses up to the end of your second year.

What is the difference between "Physics and..." courses, compared to "Physics with..." courses?

For degrees that combine two different subjects, the relative weighting between physics and the second subject is indicated by the degree title. "Physics with..." degrees (e.g. physics with German) are courses that have physics as the major component (around 70-80% of the degree) with the rest of the time spent on the second subject, while "physics and..." degrees (e.g. physics and mathematics) devote roughly equal amounts of time to physics and the second subject.

What can I do with a physics degree?
A degree in physics is very highly regarded by employers in all areas. You can find out more about what careers physics graduates pursue by visiting the careers section on physics.org or the main Institute of Physics website

Which university is best to study at?
Above all, you should choose a university that suits you best in terms of the courses they offer, entry requirements and location. Some people like to use university league tables when comparing courses. If you are going to do this, do bear in mind that different universities have different strengths and league tables do not reveal the full picture, as a very small difference in how a course is judged can make a big difference in the overall ranking. A long-term study by the IOP shows that the university you chose actually makes little difference to your career prospects. The class of degree (i.e. the “grade” you get) is a far more important factor.

How is physics taught at university?
Studying for a degree in physics usually involves a combination of lectures, practical sessions and tutorials. Lectures can be for anything between 50 to 300 students in large lecture theatres. Tutorials are classes with smaller numbers and practical sessions are taught in specialist laboratories. The amount of practical work is different depending on the course and university, but you should expect to spend about 15% of your time on practical work.

What is the Juno award?
The Institute of Physics has an awards scheme called Project Juno. Juno awards recognise and reward departments that can demonstrate they have taken action to address the under-representation of women in university physics and to encourage better practice for both women and men. Departments can receive three levels of award; supporter, practitioner, and champion, depending on the level of action they have taken in supporting both female and male students and employees within their departments. If a university has a Juno award, you can see the level of the award in the information tab for a particular university. You can find out more about the Juno award levels on the Institute of Physics website.