Physical sciences

This area covers all the natural sciences linked to the study of inanimate objects, forces, and properties of the universe.
Relevant to

Forensic science and analysis

Forensic science and analysis | Institute of Physics
This video describes how forensic science expert, Dr Melanie Bailey, uses forensic physics principles and forensic analysis on gunshot residue to help catch the bad guys. Video provided by the Institute of Physics.
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Solar energy with Jess Adams

Solar energy in research and industry | Institute of Physics
Accompanying Jess Adams, a PhD student from Imperial College London, as her research into photovoltaic cells takes her to Hawaii and back. Video provided by the Institute of Physics.
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Francesca di Guiseppe – Physics in Meteorology

Physics in meteorology | Institute of Physics
Francesca di Guiseppe is a scientific consultant at the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecast. Video provided by the Institute of Physics.
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Human Geography at Lancaster University

Human Geography | Lancaster University
Find out more about the Human Geography programme at Lancaster University. Video provided by Lancaster University.
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Samantha Trinquet, BSc Hons Forensic Science - Undergraduate internship opportunities

Forensic science – undergrad internship opportunities | University of Derby
2016 graduate, Samantha Trinquet, speaks about the opportunities on offer for students wishing to partake in active research alongside the University of Derby's academic teaching team. Video provided by the University of Derby.
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Key stats

73,885 students were studying this subject in 2014/15.

  • 91% UK
  • 9% international
  • 90% full-time
  • 10% part-time
63.6% of graduates went directly into employment.

Top five graduate destinations:

  1. Professional, scientific, and technical
  2. Wholesale and retail trade
  3. Education
  4. Manufacturing
  5. Accommodation and food service

What courses are available?

Universities and colleges in the UK are offering courses in the following subject areas:

There are a broad range of degree courses available, with many options to combine different subjects together. While many degrees with the same subject title will offer similar modules with a choice of topics, it is important to be aware that there is no national curriculum at this level, so courses can vary significantly.

‘Before you decide to study any subject, you should find out what the course will involve by reading university prospectuses, contacting admissions tutors or speaking to someone already doing a similar course. You can then make an informed decision about whether that course is right for you. Even courses with the same or similar titles can vary a lot between different universities, so make sure you find out about each individual course.’
Royal Society Chemistry

 Subject combinations and available course options include:

  • single, joint, and multiple subject combinations
  • full-time, part-time and flexible study options as well as courses with a placement (sandwich courses)
  • qualifications ranging from BA/BSc (Hons) and MSci degrees through to HND, HNC and Foundation Certificates

If you are considering taking a joint or combined degree, it would be advisable to consider any potential impact such a choice may have on any career goals. For example:

‘Many jobs within the chemical and pharmaceutical industries will only be available to graduates who have spent a considerable amount of time in teaching laboratories developing their practical skills.’
Royal Society of Chemistry

A number of universities offer four year undergraduate or integrated masters degrees in subjects such as geology (MGEOL/MSci)/, physics (MPhys /MSci) and chemistry (MChem/ MSci). The course content is likely to be the same for the first two years of a BSc at the same university and then beyond will have a broader range of taught units and a larger piece of research.


Apprenticeships

Apprenticeships are available in the following areas:

Higher apprenticeships:

  • Life sciences and chemical science professionals – e.g. materials scientist, plant research technician
  • Laboratory scientist

Find out more about apprenticeships


Entry requirements

A levels – To get on to a physics related degree, you will usually require at least two A levels including physics and maths.

‘Although further mathematics A level is not a requirement, it is looked on favourably by admission tutors at the more competitive universities.'
Institute of Physics

For chemistry degrees, you will need chemistry A level, with some universities preferring a second science subject.

‘Maths is an extremely important part of nearly all chemistry degree courses. Although an A level (or equivalent) in maths is not always an entry requirement, you will find some aspects of the course more difficult if you have not studied maths to this level.’
Royal Society of Chemistry 

Geography related degrees generally require A level geography, though some will accept a related subject (for example, sociology, world development, geology, environmental science). Some geology degrees require two science related A levels.

In addition to the different A level requirements above, you will also need five GCSEs (A-C) including science, English, and maths.

Selection

A few course providers may use additional methods to support selection, for example, you may be asked to complete an online test to assess your numerical skills and how you apply your knowledge to chemical problems.


Personal statement

Universities are looking for:

  • evidence that you are well informed about the subject and have strong interest/motivation, which could be demonstrated by:
    • relevant work experience/shadowing or voluntary work (although it is recognised this is more difficult for some subject areas such as physics)
    • additional reading and research of particular topics
    • membership of related societies/clubs
  • a range of interests outside of academic study
  • a well written statement that demonstrates your ability to write persuasive statements
  • the ability to work individually and in teams

How to write your personal statement



Where can I find out more?

Visit the websites of the following professional bodies to find out more about courses and careers in physical sciences.