Information for Students

Physics is the basis of most of the sciences. Many techniques developed by physicists are used in all the sciences, e.g. Nuclear Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy, Radio-Carbon Dating, Medical Resonance Imaging, Nuclear Medicine, Atomic Absorption Spectroscopy and Electron Microscopy.

A degree with a strong component of Physics opens the door to a variety of careers – because the skills you gain are valuable in so many jobs. These skills include:

  • problem solving;
  • information handling;
  • critical reasoning and logical thought;
  • clear communication; and
  • computer skills.

How to become a physicist

"Imagination is more important than knowledge" - Albert Einstein.

The heart of physics is problem-solving. The tools to do this are mathematics, and critical reasoning, so to become a physicist you must find them both enjoyable.

We strongly recommend you study mathematics and physics at high school and gaining some computer skills is always a good idea. The ability to communicate is also extremely valuable as a scientist, so high marks in English are also strongly encouraged.

Undergraduate Education

In Australia, an undergraduate Bachelor degree in Science is composed of three years full-time study. However, this can be part of a larger study plan such as a combined degree with another discipline such as Arts or Engineering.

In your first year of a science degree you will study physics and maths, and other subjects of your choosing.

Second year (Intermediate) and third year (Senior) your physics study becomes more specialised with topics such as quantum physics, special relativity, condensed matter physics, astrophysics, nuclear and particle physics, plasma physics, modern optics and photonics.

All of these years of study are accompanied by laboratory classes to hone your skills in experimentation, problem solving and to support the material taught in lectures.

If you continue with physics at Intermediate and Senior levels, you can choose either to graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree (BSc) after three years, or do further physics study involving your own research project. In physics at Sydney, as in most Australian universities, this involves an extra Honours year, after which you can graduate with a Bachelor’s Degree with Honours (BSc Hons) in Physics.

After obtaining a BSc, you can work as a physicist in private sector (science and engineering), public sector (science and engineering), IT computing, the defence force, financial maths or patent law. Alternatively, you might take your skills into a wide range of other fields where your physics training will serve you well.

Postgraduate Education

If researching a topic of your own choosing appeals, then you can go on to study at postgraduate level.

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) : Comprehensive degree focused on the generation of original research. Research degrees are offered in a wide range of experimental, observational and theoretical research areas. The degree culminates in the student thesis, an original work of scholarly research, competitive on an international level.

Master of Science (MSc) [Research]: A research and thesis-based degree involving the production of original research, but of a more restricted scope than the PhD.

Masters/ Graduate Diploma [Coursework]: Intensive, targeted coursework-only programs in specific areas of interest to practicing researchers and scientists such as Medical and Radiation Physics (MMedPhys/GradDipMedPhys), Applied Nuclear Science (MAppNucSci/GradDipApplNucSci), and Photonics and Optical Science (MPhotOptSci/GradDipPhotOptSci).

And after all this?

Now that you have a degree, the world is your oyster.

Some people choose to do further study in areas such as meteorology, law, medicine or teaching. Some move straight into industry, and others continue in the research line to become academics.

For a more in-depth discussion on employment read our page on employment facts.


Without physics we wouldn't have

  • grocery laser scanners;
  • space rockets;
  • light bulbs;
  • digital cameras;
  • cars;
  • mobile phones;
  • aeroplanes;
  • fibre optics;
  • DVD players;
  • computers;
  • MP3 players; or
  • flatscreen TVs.