What kind of physics degrees are there?
There are a number of undergraduate physics degrees available, with options varying between universities. Undergraduate physics degrees can be roughly split into four main types:
- Physics BSc
- Physics alongside another subject
- Physics with an integrated master’s
- Physics with a placement year/year abroad
Physics alongside another subject
This degree is a great option if you’re interested in a different subject other than physics, and are torn between studying both at university. Note that there’s a difference between ‘physics with’, and ‘physics and’ degrees. ‘Physics with XYZ’ means the course content is 70% physics, while ‘physics and XYZ’ means the course content is split 50:50.
Having skills in another subject will show you’re well-rounded, thus making you more attractive to employers. It will also open you up to a wider range of career options and postgraduate study opportunities. Physics is offered alongside a range of subjects, such as physics with business studies and physics with astrophysics. However, one disadvantage of this course is that you may not go as in-depth as you would with a standalone physics degree.
Physics with an integrated master’s
This is a four year undergraduate course that combines an undergraduate degree in physics with a master’s in physics. If you know that you want to study physics at postgraduate level, this is an excellent option for you. You’ll avoid the hassle of master’s applications, and will continue your studies alongside your peers and professors.
Although this option provides many benefits, you may decide later down the road that you’re not interested in a physics master’s, and would instead like to pursue something more specialised. Thus, it’s important to make sure that you’re committed to doing a master’s in physics.
Physics alongside a placement year or year abroad
A placement year and a year abroad are similar, in the sense that you’ll spend the third year of your degree somewhere else. In your fourth and final year, you’ll return to finish your studies. A placement year allows you to gain a year of work experience, while a year abroad allows you to study abroad at a different university. Many universities offer semester abroad programmes, which are shorter versions of a year abroad.
Completing a placement year allows you to gain valuable work experience, and learn more about the physics industry. You’ll get to speak to industry professionals about how they got their jobs, and overcome work-based difficulties such as prioritising your workload.
Many companies offer full-time jobs to their employees who completed a placement year, but even if you don’t, your work experience will give your CV a boost. Meanwhile, a year abroad allows you to experience a different culture, study exciting new modules and develop skills like resilience.
One thing to note is that when you come back from a placement year or year abroad, your friends will have graduated, which might make it difficult to adjust.