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PHYSICS - The Fundamental Science
Options for Study in Physics
Career Options with PHYSICS

Further information

PHYSICS - The Fundamental Science

Physics is the study of the laws of nature that govern the behaviour of the universe, from the very smallest scales of sub-atomic particles to the very largest in cosmology. It applies these laws to the solution of practical problems and to the development of new technologies. Physicists engage a broad range of skills to undertake this work. A physicist might be a theorist puzzling over fundamental laws, a numerical modeller developing sophisticated computer algorithms to calculate how systems behave, an experimentalist developing new techniques to measure properties of nature or an engineer combining those theories and techniques into new technologies. Physics is becoming increasingly interdisciplinary, as physicists work with mathematicians, engineers, chemists and biologists in order to understand and solve a wide range of problems confronting society.

Physics is a challenging and rewarding subject. Its study instructs a person in the art of critical thinking, how to pose questions and how to solve problems. Physics is at the heart of almost every facet of modern life.


The School of Physics is one of the largest and most prominent Schools in the university. It is also among the largest Schools of Physics in any Australian university. The School conducts leading edge research in a wide variety of fields. It is well equipped with student computing facilities, teaching laboratories, workshops and its own astronomical observatory.

The School of Physics has built up a number of major teaching and research facilities which students will use during the course of their studies. These include the recently upgraded first year teaching laboratories; separate second and third year Physics laboratories; an electronics and a micro-computer laboratory and teaching telescopes.

Research facilities students may use include: the Automated Patrol Telescope; the 'Mopra' Millimetre Wave Observatory; the 'Automated Astrophysical Site Testing Observatory' at the South Pole; the National Pulsed Magnet Laboratory; the Protein Crystallography Facility; the Semiconductor Nanofabrication Facility; and the UNESCO Centre for Membrane Science and Technology.

Options for Study in Physics

3/4 years full time
UAC Code: 429000

In all Physics programs you study Physics and Mathematics courses in your first year, puls a variety of courses in other fields. In later years, in addition to core Physics and Mathematics courses, you also have the opportunity to follow your interests and choose elective courses such as astrophysics, optoelectronics or nuclear science.

Physics Physics may be studied as a major or minor within the 3-year Bachelor of Science. This degree is extremely flexible and the wide variety of courses available to choose from allows you to tailor your degree to fit your interests and career aspirations. For instance, you may decide to combine your physics studies with courses from another science discipline such as Mathematics or Biotechnology, or you may include courses from other faculties of the university such as Arts or Commerce. In all Science degrees you may choose to complete a research-oriented honours year, with a fourth year of study. Research projects conducted with individual academics form an integral part of this.

Advanced Science
3/4 years full time
UAC Code 429013

The School of Physics offers five different study plans within the Advanced Science program. These study plans are designed for particularly able students. Some areas of study, such as Medical Physics, are only available through Advanced Science.

Physics With a wide variety of elective courses and the opportunity to pursue individual research projects from early in your degree, this is an ideal course of study, whatever area of Physics you are interested in.

Medical Physics Not available to students starting in 2006. Graduates of this study plan fill an increasing demand for physicists in hospitals. It combines studies in Physics with study in areas such as Medical Physics, Biophysics, Biology, Biochemistry and Physiology.

Physics and Astronomy The astrophysics department at UNSW is one of the most active research groups in Australia. This study plan includes Astronomy courses in each year of your degree, and you can conduct research projects with international telescopes in your Honours year.

Engineering Physics Not available to students starting in 2006. This study plan combines Physics with elements of engineering practice and management. It is ideal for people who are interested in Physics, but attracted more towards applications and the solution of practical problems.

Physics with Computer Science This study plan combines Physics with approximately 25% Computer Science courses. It is ideal training for those interested in information technology.

Combined Degrees

Physics can be taken at UNSW as a major component of several combined degrees. These degrees enable students to match Science or Advanced Science with another field of study, opening up an even broader spectrum of career opportunities. Students who perform well have the option of completing an extra Honours year. The following attractive combinations are available:

4 years full time, UAC Code: 424000

5 years full time, UAC Code: 426001

4 years full time, UAC Code: 429001

4 years full time, UAC Code: 429002

5 years full time, UAC Code: 425021

Research Areas

The School of Physics conducts leading edge research in many different fields. These include astrophysics, biophysics, environmental physics, theoretical physics, nanotechnology and semiconductor physics. Each year, researchers in the School of Physics receive several million dollars in research funds, putting it at the forefront of Physics departments in Australia.

Students in the school have the opportunity to conduct their own research including completing two major research projects with individual lecturers as part of an Honours year.

Some of the projects students are currently involved in include building an observatory at the South Pole, developing the world's first practical "quantum computer", a machine that promises an extraordinary leap forward in computing power, and studying the acoustics of musical instruments such as flutes and guitars.

Career Options with PHYSICS

Many Physics graduates follow careers in research, and in areas such as telecommunications and photonics there is a high demand for qualified physicists. As Physics teaches you how to solve problems and equips you with mathematical and information technology skills, a vast range of other career options are available. Some of these include scientific sales and management; teaching at schools, TAFE and universities; and the Commonwealth and State Public Service. UNSW Physics graduates have also made successful careers in industries such as manufacturing, communications, computing, electronics, finance, and biomedical technology.

It is now common for people to have several very different careers during their life. A university degree should not just train you for your first job, but teach you skills that you will use for the next forty years. A Physics degree teaches you how to analyse and solve problems, to work in a team with others and to think critically and creatively; all valuable skills that you will use in every career you follow.

Like to know more?

Read about the career paths chosen by some of our students

Download our Special Careers Report in full colour.

Also See the UNSW Science Handbook or UAC Guide

Contact Science@UNSW

Contact the School of Physics directly

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