Career Path


Physics is the study of the laws of the Universe. Everything from the formation of stars to the structure of the atoms in your body.

Physics is the study of the laws of the Universe, and the topics it covers are broad. Obvious examples of physics fields related to space are astrophysics and space plasma physics, but there are many areas that are indirectly related.

Fundamental Physics in Space

Space offers a unique environment for many physicists to carry out fundamental physics experiments that complement those done on Earth. An example of this is in particle physics, where the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer mounted on the International Space Station is being used to investigate the possible existence of dark matter, which is predicted by cosmologists, but could have significant consequences for the standard model of physics.

Solar Physics

Investigating the activity of Sun and it's relationship with Earth is interesting from a scientific standpoint, since it had a major influence on the development of the Solar System to date, but it is also important to investigate this with respect to discovering. Solar physics sits at an intersection of many physics disciplines, including electromagnetism, fluid dynamics and high energy physics. Find out more about solar physics in the UK.


Astrophysics is the study of the physics behind the characteristics of the heavenly bodies, such as stars, galaxies and black holes. Astrophysicists work on both the acquisition of data about these bodies and trying to understand their physics and origins. Find out more about astrophysics.

Other Physicists

There are many other areas of space technology and science where physicists work, such as the creation of new detectors and communications equipment used across the space sector.

Course Content

Most physics courses will teach general maths and physics in the first couple of years of the degree, usually with some experimental modules as well. In the subsequent years you will be able to specialise in learning about the areas of physics that you are interested in. Quite often the topics available will depend on the special focus of the university you are at, so make sure to check these out before! Some topics that are generally studied are:

Core Mathematics - Introduction to basic mathematical techniques commonly used in physics, including algebra, complex numbers, differential equations, vectors and vector calculus and statistics.

Core Physics - Introduction to a range of basic physics courses, including dynamics, electromagnetism, waves, condensed matter, fluids, and quantum mechanics.

Laboratory Experiment - Introductions to a range of experimental and laboratory techniques, including experimental analysis. It is usually related directly to the physics taught in other modules. 

Speciality Physics - Much more specific courses designed to allow you to specialise your degree. Examples include, quantum mechanics, quantum field theory, radiation, space instrumentation, planetary science, astrophysics and medical physics. These can be further detail on topics you've already studied, or completely new ones all together. You should check the course brochure of the universities you are interested in to see which topics are available to you.

Computational Skills - Computational tools are very important in modern physics, so you will be introduced to a arrange of techniques. This will include general programming languages such as C or Python, or more specific science languages like IDL, Maple, Mathematica or R.

Group and Individual Projects - You will have to complete several projects over the course. Some of these might be in groups. In your first few years, these will tend to be very defined projects, but as you progress you will probably have more control over the topic. Some universities run these in association with companies or other organisations.

External Resources

Physics at university: your essential guide - The IOP (Institute of Physics) published this really useful guide on studying physics at university.

MyPhysicsCourse - A useful tool created by the IOP to search for physics degree courses across the UK. It has the option to search for Physics with Space Science courses.


Rob Garner

Rob is a PhD Student at the University of Strathclyde and Vice Chair of UKSEDS. He studied Physics with Space Science and Technology at the University of Leicester.

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