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Studying A Masters Degree In Physics

Cardiff University Physics

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Studying for a Masters in Physics increases your earning potential and career prospects, providing students with a range of valuable skills and specialist knowledge. As well as a sense of community, universities offer a variety of learning methods, from the practical work that takes place in labs, to computing, lectures and group tutorials.

If you choose to study physics at postgraduate level, you'll get the opportunity to explore many different features of physics as a discipline and gain experiences that will be of benefit for years to come.

Studying at this level involves looking at the latest advancements in physics and its related areas. You will be taught to plan research, carry it out and then interpret the results of your work – in way that is understood by people who do not have your depth of knowledge.

Why study a postgraduate qualification in Physics?

Physics has played a vital role in our understanding of the world around us and continues to do so. From commercial to technological applications, physics has brought a raft of benefits, both economic and social. It has enabled us to comprehend our place in the universe, decode DNA and brought forth theories like quantum mechanics to explain extremely discreet phenomena. This has led many people to think physics is a career choice for geniuses, and it’s true that famous physicists include Marie Curie, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking. However, there is no need to feel intimidated by the thought of studying a Masters in Physics, because any dedicated student can make a significant contribution to the discipline. You just need a passion for the subject, a deep understanding of mathematical principles and a desire to keep up with the latest discoveries in the field.

What qualifications do you need?

The standard minimum entry requirement for a UK university to study a Physics masters is an upper second class honours, or a 2.1, in your bachelors degree – or the equivalent grade in an international qualification. This may vary amongst universities in mainland Europe, so check the website of a university for their individual entry policies. Most universities will only accept candidates who have previously studied Physics or a very closely related subject.

In the UK all the teaching elements of a course are delivered in English and you will be expected to hand in work that is also completed in English. Therefore, universities have to be convinced that your written and spoken skills are good enough to cope with the demands of a masters degree. To prove your abilities universities will accept a range of English Language certificates like TOEFL or IELTS.

Physics study modules

Physics programsAlthough study timetables vary widely from country to country, there are general topics that crop up on most physics masters degrees.

Compulsory units will cover mathematical techniques and classic physics, giving students a solid framework from which to proceed. To teach students how to incorporate their use of the laboratory equipment with analysing data and computational tools, there is often a laboratory training module which all students have to take.

Additional options will be made up of specialised lectures, seminars and practical sessions; they could include:

  • Cosmology
  • Relativity
  • Atmospherics
  • Astrophysics
  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Shock Physics

Most universities also ask students to complete a written dissertation, based on a physics-related topic. This individual project will be supported by work carried out in the university's laboratories and with research groups made up of your cohort group.

Physics student case study

The physics departments at most universities are very supportive places, with plenty of enrichment activities to participate in aside from academic work. Sam is studying an MSc Physics course at the University of Birmingham, he says: "Typically we have between 14 and 18, 50-minute lectures a week. Once a week I have a four-person tutorial which means I can go through recent material in more detail. Tonight I’m spending a couple of hours with the Computer and Video Games Society. Later I’m meeting up with some course mates for a quiz, hosted by the Poynting Physical Society”.

Physics career options

Cardiff University PhysicsAfter taking a Masters in Physics, your specialism could lead you to a role in many science-related professions including:

  • Aeronautics
  • Thermonuclear Engineering
  • Clinical Science
  • Defence
  • Astrology

Employers often regard a Masters in Physics as a particularly taxing degree to obtain and that can give graduates a competitive edge in the labour market. On this postgraduate program you will have been trained to understand the way systems work, why things happen in a particular manner and the methods used to identify problems. This is a very sought-after skills set and can easily be applied to a range of careers, or further study at a PhD level.

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