Types of Physics Degree

  • Helena Kudiabor
  • Nov 09 2023

If you’re interested in studying physics at university, you might be surprised to learn there are so many different types of physics degrees on offer. While exact degree options vary between universities, you’re likely to find something that suits your unique interests. This article will go over the most common physics undergraduate degrees in the UK, and answer questions like why Physics and Philosophy is so popular, to the benefits of doing an integrated master’s degree.


Physics BSc

A Physics BSc is the most common physics undergraduate degree, due to its generality. It’s a good choice for someone who enjoys physics, but doesn’t have a specific area of interest. This course covers the fundamentals of physics: topics like quantum mechanics, particles, condensed matter physics and the application of maths to physics theories. In addition to these core modules, you’ll get the opportunity to choose optional modules in areas of physics that interest you, such as biophysics and nanotechnology. During your final year, you’ll practise your research skills with an extended project. 

Some universities offer a study abroad programme or placement year. A study abroad programme allows you to attend university abroad for a semester or a year, while a placement year gives you the chance to gain paid work experience as part of your degree. 

Physics MSci

Very similar to the Physics BSc, the Physics MSci is a longer course. However, this means that after four years (or five years if you study in Scotland) you’ll receive not just a physics undergraduate degree, but a master’s in physics. In your final year you’ll conduct an in-depth research project, and get the chance to choose a range of optional modules based on your interests.

Completing a Physics MSci allows you to complete a master’s at the cost of another year of undergraduate, with the peers and faculty you’ve been working with since day one. It also avoids the stress of searching for and applying to master’s programmes, and getting used to a new school.

However, this option is only advised if you’re certain about your career path. If you later decide you’d like to pursue a career in finance, for instance, that additional year won’t be as valuable. 

Physics and Philosophy

While physics and philosophy may seem like an unusual combination, the two subjects work well together. This is a joint honours degree, meaning your course content will be 50% physics and 50% philosophy. In addition to learning about the fundamentals of physics, you’ll take philosophy modules requiring you to think critically about the world around you and our understanding of it. You’ll also complete modules discussing the philosophy of different aspects of physics, such as nuclear and quantum mechanics. The numerical reasoning and analytical skills such a degree provides you will make you stand out to employers. 

Physics with Astrophysics

With this degree, you’ll spend 70% of your time studying general physics and 30% focusing on astrophysics. You’ll discuss topics like the physics of planets and stars and what exactly dark matter is, with the opportunity to delve deeper into specific topics in your final years. You’ll also be able to carry out an extensive astrophysics research project to put the theory you’ve learned into practice. Many universities even have their own rooftop observatory and telescope for students to use.

Physics with Theoretical Physics

Theoretical physicists design and test complex mathematical equations to help us better understand the universe. If this sounds like something you’d be interested in, this degree option allows you to spend 70% of your time studying physics generally, and 30% specialising in theoretical physics. You’ll learn advanced maths skills to apply to the branch of theoretical physics you’re interested in (astrophysics, particle physics). The numerical reasoning skills you’ll gain will be excellent for numeracy and physics jobs, or for postgraduate study.