Physics and astronomy

If you’re fascinated by the wonders and mysteries of the universe, physics and astronomy will give you an understanding of our existence.

Studying physics and astronomy allows you to explore the fundamental principles that govern the universe, from the smallest particles to the vast expanse of space. It develops analytical and problem-solving skills crucial for a range of careers.

Aspiring physicists and astronomers dive into cutting-edge research, tackling questions about the nature of dark matter, the origins of the universe, and the intricacies of celestial bodies.

It also opens doors to industries such as aerospace, data science, engineering, and technology, where expertise in mathematical modelling, analytical thinking, and advanced problem-solving is highly sought after.

The impact you could make
  • Discover groundbreaking advancements in fields like renewable energy, space exploration, and scientific instrumentation
  • Contribute to expanding the boundaries of human knowledge and our understanding of the universe
  • Drive technological innovation, efficiency improvements, and the development of novel solutions in fields ranging from finance to manufacturing
What you could study
  • Atoms, stars, and the universe
  • Computer algebra
  • Partial differential equations
  • Physics of nano materials
  • Pure and applied geophysics
  • Quantum and statistical physics
  • Solar system science
  • Solid state physics
  • Thermal physics and the properties of matter

Study options

Options to study in this field include:

Chat to a current physics and astronomy student

Chat to a current physics and astronomy student using UniBuddy.

Some conversation starters for you:

  1. Ask which modules they really enjoyed.
  2. Find out how easy it was for them to make friends on their course.
  3. Do they have any tips on your personal statement?
  4. Did they do anything to prep for uni before they went?
  5. Are there books, podcasts or YouTube channels they would recommend?

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Example module
“The quantum physics module is proving to be challenging and eye opening to the world of the extremely small.”
First year physics with particle physics and astrophysics student at University of Sheffield
Example assignment
“I really enjoyed a computer simulation project that we did on the orbital movement of planets in the solar system! And the radioactivity experiments were really fun.”
Second year physics student at University of Edinburgh

Subjects it's useful to have studied first

Some physics and astronomy courses or apprenticeships will have requirements for previous qualifications in certain subjects.
Hard skills you'll develop
  • Mathematical modelling
  • Quantitative analysis
  • Quantum mechanics
  • Optics and the behaviour of light
Soft skills you'll develop
  • Critical thinking
  • Analytical skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Problem solving

Careers: Where it can take you

Find out more about your career prospects from studying physics and astronomy. The following information is based on a typical physical scientist role.
Available jobs
31,585 vacancies in the past year
5.62% growth over next eight years
Average salary
Up to £76,417

What is an… astrobiologist?

Do you believe there’s life beyond Earth? Well, it’s the job of an astrobiologist to find out! They have a deep understanding of astronomy, biology, chemistry, and geology, so they can dive into the mysteries of celestial bodies, looking for environments that may have conditions suitable for life.

Whether investigating the icy moons of distant planets, analysing the atmospheres of exoplanets, or exploring extreme environments on Earth they play a vital role in understanding what is really possible. 

64% of students
studying physics and astronomy would recommend the subject to others.
(UCAS subject guide survey 2023)

Getting in: Entry requirements

Find out more about what you'll need to study physics and astronomy at university or as an apprenticeship.

Average requirements for undergraduate degrees

Entry requirements differ between university and course, but this should give you a guide to what is usually expected from physics and astronomy applicants.

A Levels
Scottish Highers
Other Level 3/Level 6 qualifications (e.g. Pearson BTEC Level 3 National Extended Diploma or SQCF Level 6) may be accepted as an alternative

Let's talk about... science apprenticeships (Sponsored by Manchester Metropolitan University)

Not sure if a traditional degree is for you? Listen to our new podcast to learn more about studying degree apprenticeships in science.

Considering an apprenticeship?

Applying for an apprenticeship is just like applying for a normal job. Here’s what you need to know:
  1. Deadline

    Apprenticeships don't follow the same deadlines as applying to uni, the deadline is down to the employer.
  2. Where to apply

    You apply directly through the employer.
  3. No limits!

    You're not restricted to one apprenticeship application; you can do as many as you like.
  4. Apply to university and apprenticeships

    There's nothing stopping you applying to university through UCAS, while also applying for apprenticeship vacancies.
  5. Find out more

Explore further

Go deeper into topics around physics and astronomy with the following:
  1. Netflix – A Trip to Infinity

    This TV show includes eminent mathematicians, particle physicists, and cosmologists dive into infinity and its mind-bending implications for the universe.
  2. TED Talks

    Chanda Prescod-Weinstein plumbs the deepest corners of the universe to uncover the hiding places of dark matter -- and the secret origins of the cosmos in this TED Talk.
  3. Keep up to date with the latest news

Application advice

Whether it's personal statement tips or what to write in a cover letter for an apprenticeship application, our application advice will help you get ahead in your physics and astronomy journey.
Skills, experiences and interests to mention
  • Maths is going to be really important for physics and astronomy so be sure to mention your abilities, particularly in calculus, algebra, and geometry.
  • Mention any programming skills you have, especially in languages commonly used in physics and astronomy, such as Python, MATLAB, or C++.
  • What hands-on experience do you have? Maybe you’ve done physics experiments, astronomy observations, or been involved in science clubs. Try to illustrate your practical understanding of theoretical concepts.
  • If your interests are across different disciplines, talk about how interdisciplinary connections complement your love of physics and astronomy. This could include connections with maths, computer science, or even philosophy.
  • Showcase your problem-solving skills by sharing examples from coursework, projects, or real-world situations where you applied critical thinking to overcome challenges.

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