Theoretical Physics


UCAS code: F344
Typical offer:
Three years

BSc + Year in Industry

UCAS code: F345
Typical offer:
Four years

MPhys + Study Abroad

UCAS code: F304
Typical offer:
Four years


UCAS code: F321
Typical offer: AAA
Four years

MPhys + Year in Industry

UCAS code: F322
Typical offer:
Five years

Don't meet our entry requirements?
International students: Pathway programme
UK students: OpenPlus entry with the Open University

How to apply for this course

Other physics and astronomy degrees:

About the course

Theoretical Physicists study the conceptual and mathematical structure of the theories that describe nature. This understanding allows us to construct theories that explain natural phenomena and propose experiments that other scientists can perform in the lab. This course is based on our strengths in theoretical physics and the research projects our lecturers are working on, including:

  • Professor Simon Goodwin, who studies star formation
  • Dr Rhoda Hawkins, who specialises in the way cells move
  • Dr Pieter Kok, who works in quantum computing
  • Professor David Whittaker, who is a quantum light expert
  • Professor Nigel Clarke, who researches polymers and gels

We also work closely with Professor Carsten van de Bruck and Professor Elizabeth Winstanley in the University of Sheffield's School of Mathematics and Statistics, who study cosmology and black holes. This means our Theoretical Physics course puts an emphasis on developing your mathematical skills. All students on this course learn computer programming, and can take extra maths modules. In third year, you'll also have the opportunity to complete an extended project in our Quantum Information Laboratory, exploring the possibilities of quantum cryptography and quantum computing.

My degree prepared me for my career by developing my abilities in critical thinking and by helping me understand the fundamentals of how the world works. The ability to logically process and understand difficult concepts, which was incubated during my time at the University of Sheffield, has proven invaluable.

Christopher Anderson, MPhys Theoretical Physics READ MORE

Our degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics, which means that we cover all of the topics and training that you need to graduate into a professional physics career. You'll start by developing your essential physics knowledge, with subjects including mechanics, waves, optics, relativity, electromagnetism, thermodynamics and quantum physics, before studying these areas at a more advanced level in second year. You'll also be able to pick from a range of optional modules throughout your degree, with a huge range of topics to choose from in third year. These are set out in the 'Course structure' tab, and include everything from galaxies and dark matter to sustainable energy and the physics of music.

You can learn computer programming using professional software such as LabVIEW and Python, and develop other practical skills during regular sessions in our teaching laboratories. Throughout your first and second year, you'll be trained in how to use essential scientific instrumentation in physics experiments, and how to use specialist computer software for collecting and analysing scientific data.


You'll tie all of your skills and knowledge together in third year, where you can choose to do a physics research project or an extended project. This gives you the chance to work in one of our state-of-the-art research laboratories, work on solving a problem for one of our partners in industry, or gain experience of teaching physics in local schools. If you do one of our research-intensive MPhys degrees, you'll get to do an even bigger research project in and choose from even more optional modules in fourth year.

Research projects

Through our network of global partners, our students also have opportunities to visit leading institutions like ATLAS project at CERN, the Newton Group of Telescopes in the Canary Islands and the dark matter research facility at Boulby Underground Laboratory. This gives you the chance to experience the workings of a major research centre first-hand – talking to physicists at work or using state-of-the-art equipment.

Field trips

Course structure

Below are some examples of topics covered in this degree from the current academic year. There may be some changes before you start your course.

First year

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

Second year

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

Third year

Except for Study Abroad and MPhys Year in Industry students

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

Fourth year

MPhys students only

Compulsory modules:

Optional modules:

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it's up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research; funding changes; professional accreditation requirements; student or employer feedback; outcomes of reviews; and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption.

Theoretical Physics with a Year in Industry

If you do one of our Year in Industry courses, you’ll spend 12 months before the final year of your degree on a work placement in the physics industry. This makes your degree a year longer, as you’ll still cover the same content as students on the standard BSc and MPhys degrees.

During your placement year, you’ll work full-time, potentially earning a graduate-level salary. You’ll pay reduced fees for the year you spend on placement but still have access to all the support you need from the University.

Placements aren't guaranteed – it's your responsibility to secure one but we'll do everything we can to help. You can meet many employers who offer placements at our annual physics careers fair. You’ll also get support from our careers staff, to help you find the placement that’s right for you.

Niall, pictured, spent a year of his degree working at Sellafield Ltd, the company responsible for decommissioning the UK's nuclear legacy.

Niall Taylor

Being placed within the group gave me a real life experience of full-time employment in a technically challenging industry.

Niall Taylor, BSc Physics and AStrophysics with Employment Experience  READ MORE

Theoretical Physics with Study Abroad

If you take a Study Abroad course, you'll spend your third year studying physics at another top university in the USA, Canada, New Zealand or Australia. It's a great way to get an even bigger range of perspectives on the subject and experience life in another part of the world. You'll pay reduced fees for the year you're abroad. Your place at another university isn't guaranteed – it's your responsibility to secure one but we’ll do everything we can to help.

My third year was spent studying at the Australian National University... I was able to observe at a world-class site, operate a particle accelerator, be taught by a Nobel Prize winner in cosmology, as well as meet directors from NASA who were visiting Canberra's deep space communication complex.

Emily Rickman, MPhys Physics and Astrophysics with a Year Abroad  READ MORE


Emily Rickman