MPhys Physics with Professional Experience

UCAS code F304
Duration 4 Years
Typical offer A*AA-AAB; IB: 38-34; BTEC: D*DD-DDD
Discipline Physics and Astronomy
Location Taught in Exeter Streatham (Exeter)


The MPhys Physics with Professional Experience degree programme allows you to spend your third year in a research environment in a professional laboratory away from the department. We help you through the process of applying for placements, and you will be paid a salary for this year, but you will remain registered as an undergraduate student at Exeter. The research project you undertake will be assessed by your local supervisor along with academics from Exeter. You will return to Exeter to present your findings, and also to take examinations in the two modules you will study via distance learning. Companies that have recently participated in this programme include Renishaw, the Home Office and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratories. Your final year will be back in Exeter, and will include further modules and a research project in one of our research groups.

Key information about your Professional Experience year 

  • The placement year requires you to balance workplace demands with the need to learn, through independent study, the core physics that is a pre-requisite for year 4 of the programme
  • Your Professional Experience year counts towards your final degree mark, with the same weighting as other MPhys programmes
  • You will undertake a research project, which contributes 75% of the credits for your third year. It is assessed by dissertation, viva and presentations in a similar manner to Exeter-run research projects. You will be required to return to Exeter for some assessments
  • There are two independent study modules: PHY3054 Electromagnetism II (Semester 1) and PHYM002 Quantum Mechanics II (Semester 2) that together count 25% towards your third year mark. See the Structure tab for all module details. 
  • You will receive support and feedback from the module leaders in the form of problem sheets, lecture notes and online videos of the lectures
  • You will return to Exeter to take the exams
  • You are allocated an academic tutor whose responsibilities include visiting you and providing pastoral guidance by keeping in regular communication by phone/email.
  • It is your responsibility to find a placement, but the Professional Experience Coordinator provides advice and guidance
  • You should aim to start work on 1 August and work 35-37 hours per week for the employer, take normal public and bank holidays plus 4-5 weeks of holidays. Exam and revision time has to come out of these holidays
  • During the year you will have to write the background report for the final year MPhys project
  • The fees for the third year are charged at 20% of the full fee, i.e. £1,800 in 2016 (£9000 normally)
  • Typically salary paid by the employer is ~ £17,000

Note: progression to the third year of this programme is dependent on satisfactory performance (currently this is 59.5% in year 2, and at least 50% in the modules PHY2021 (EM-I) and PHY2022 (QM-I)). Those who do not meet the required criteria at the end of year 2 will be transferred to an alternative BSc or MPhys programme for which they are qualified, and will no longer receive the fee reduction in year 3.

See the full programme specification for more information.

For me, Exeter brought three main things to the table: a beautiful scenic city and campus; a warm and intelligent set of academics; and a key research element within my undergraduate degree.

As someone doing a subject which can involve high stress levels at points, it was important to me to be able to step outside of the work physically and mentally. The nice views and close proximity to the beach (about 30 minutes on the train) made me feel that I would be able to relax easily here.

The community here is very good, and I believe it is highly important to have a friendly atmosphere to learn in. The lecturers are highly approachable, and I definitely felt this when I visited the University before choosing to come here.

The research project is perhaps something that is more specific to my degree.  The four-year integrated Masters degrees require the student to work on a Masters project for roughly one year. In other institutions this normally results in an extremely project heavy fourth year, something I wasn’t attracted to. However, here at Exeter, the Masters project is spread over two years. This allows students to study relevant and applicable modules alongside the project, with the added freedom allowing the project to function almost as a mini-PhD. This was a massive draw for me.

Benjamin Woods, MPhys Physics.

Programme structure

The modules we outline here provide examples of what you can expect to learn on this degree course based on recent academic teaching. The precise modules available to you in future years may vary depending on staff availability and research interests, new topics of study, timetabling and student demand.

Year 1

In Year 1 you will develop your understanding of physics and become familiar with a variety of basic mathematical tools. The concepts and phenomena you will meet are many and varied, but are united by the underlying principles of physics. In a typical week you will spend 15 hours in a formal teaching environment, and be expected to spend a further 20 hours in independent study. You will have four hours of lectures in physics, two in mathematics, one tutorial, six hours in the teaching laboratories and two hours in problem-solving classes.

Compulsory modules

Title Code
Introduction to Astrophysics  PHY1022


PHY1025 and PHY1026

Practical Physics  PHY1027
Properties of Matter  PHY1024
Vector Mechanics  PHY1021
Waves and Optics  PHY1023

Optional modules



IT & Astrophysics Skills  PHY1029
IT & Electronics PHY1028

Year 2

Year 2 provides a firm foundation of physics, and the principles that constitute the framework of the subject. The use of mathematics gives these principles a precise form and provides physicists with the ability to make detailed quantitative predictions. This year focuses on four main cornerstones of physics: condensed matter, quantum mechanics, electromagnetism and thermodynamics. These provide the core of most of physics and of our understanding of the evolution of our universe. The other modules in your second and subsequent years draw in part on your knowledge of this core.

Compulsory modules



Condensed Matter I   PHY2024
Electromagnetism I PHY2021

Maths with Physical Applications


Practical Physics II  PHY2026
Quantum Mechanics I   PHY2022
Thermal Physics  PHY2023

Optional modules



Analytical & Chaotic Mechanics PHY2032
Lasers, Materials and Nanoscale Probes for Quantum Applications  PHY2034
Observing the Universe  PHY2030
Scientific Programming in C  PHY2027
The Physics of Living Systems  PHY2029

* An ‘elective’ is an unspecified module that allows the student to broaden their education by taking a module from another discipline e.g., philosophy, or a foreign language.


Years 3 and 4

Years 3 and 4 of the programme allow you to apply the core principles in a broad range of important areas, such as Nuclear and High-Energy Particle Physics and Statistical Physics, plus advanced electromagnetism, quantum physics and condensed matter physics.  There are numerous options in theoretical physics for you to choose such as Quantum Many Body Theory, and Relativity and Cosmology. You can also choose to study technologically-important areas such as Quantum Optics and Photonics, and Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine, and active research areas such as Galaxies and High Energy Astrophysics, and Nanostructures and Graphene Science. (Options are dependent on the programme of study). 

The final years of the programme also involve substantial project work. On the BSc programmes you will undertake extended experiments utilising a suite of equipment that includes an atomic force microscope, an infra-red spectrometer, and our own observatory and radio telescope.  You also have the opportunity to undertake team-based work tackling a real-world problem proposed by local business or industry. As part of the MPhys programme, you will be ‘adopted’ into one of our research groups, working in a small group (typically three or four, but with individual roles), to undertake a project for at least one academic year. You will select your preferred project from a list of short research proposals freshly written by the academics each year. The projects are original and open-ended, i.e., they each focus on a previously unstudied piece of physics.  You will meet with your supervisor (a professor or lecturer) once a week to discuss progress and future work. You are also encouraged to attend research seminars from visiting speakers, attend the weekly group meetings, and integrate and socialise with the PhD students and researchers.

Year 3: compulsory modules



Professional Experience  PHY3306
Background Report for Project  PHY3205 or PHY3307

PHY3122 (MPhys); PHY3138 

or PHY3147 (BSc)

Electromagnetism II  PHY3051

Quantum Mechanics II 


Year 4: compulsory modules



Condensed Matter II  PHYM003
Project  PHYM009 or PHYM010
Statistical Physics  PHYM001
Nuclear and High Energy Particle Physics  PHY3052

Year 4: optional modules



Computational Physics and Modelling  PHYM004
Independent Study  PHYM005
Physical Methods in Biology and Medicine  PHYM008
Quantum Many-Body Theory  PHYM013
Quantum Optics & Photonics  PHYM015
Solar and Extra-Solar Planets and Their Atmospheres  PHYM012

Entry requirements 2019

Typical offer


Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not participate in an interview.

Required subjects

At least one grade A and a grade B in GCE AL Maths and Physics or at least one HL6 and one HL5 in IB Maths and Physics are required for all programmes.

GCE AL Maths, Pure Maths or Further Maths are all acceptable Maths subjects, and applicants may offer Physics, Maths and Further Maths towards their offer.  

Applicants studying a BTEC Extended Diploma will also require at least one grade A and a grade B in GCE AL Maths and Physics.

Applicants offering non-standard qualifications (for example the Access to Higher Education Diploma or Open University credits) may need to pass an AL-style mathematics test to demonstrate ability. This test will be undertaken as part of an interview.


International students

International students should check details of our English language requirements and may be interested in our Foundation programmes.

Further information

Please read the important information about our Typical offer.

For full and up-to-date information on applying to Exeter and entry requirements, including requirements for other types of qualification, please see the Applying section.

Physics and Astronomy interview days

All shortlisted applicants will be invited to visit the department between November and March. The interview will include tours and presentations relating to our research activity and a short period for discussion with a member of staff, during which details of programmes can be explained and any queries answered. All applications are considered on an individual basis and offers will be made shortly after an interview has taken place. Places are not normally offered to applicants who do not attend an interview. However, if visiting the campus is difficult for you please contact us when you receive your invitation letter to discuss alternative arrangements.

Learning and teaching

We believe that every student benefits from being part of a culture that is inspired by research and being taught by experts. Not only do we teach you about our pioneering research, we teach you how to undertake the research yourself.  Experimental skills are acquired in the laboratories and astronomical observatory, and here you are introduced to a wide range of apparatus and techniques. Training in theoretical techniques are provided by our methods and computational modules.  By the time you reach the start of their extended project work, you will have received the necessary preparation to undertake it with confidence in either experimental or theoretical topics, and these projects are tackled with great enthusiasm and energy.

We will fully support you as a student in a friendly environment: you will receive individual attention and feedback throughout your programme. Weekly tutorials form the core of our academic support, complementing all the modules and project work that you are taking. You will meet with your tutor (a professor or lecturer) in a small group with four or five others for one hour during every teaching week of your programme. These sessions are your opportunity to discuss any element of your academic studies. Assignments will also be set, discussed and marked – sometimes these will be on unfamiliar topics: we wish to encourage active discourse in physics as this is a good way of understanding the more subtle concepts and gaining confidence in your intuition. You will also have the opportunity to practice your oral presentation skills, and gain support with your professional development. In the final year of the MPhys programmes, your research-project supervisor is your tutor.  Throughout your time in Exeter, your tutor will also be your first point of call for pastoral support and will advise about the availability of University services including wellbeing, disability and financial help.

Teaching is undertaken in a variety of ways, with lecturing the primary method. There are also weekly problem-solving classes in the first two years for both mathematics and physics modules. Physics at the University of Exeter is also actively engaged in introducing new methods of learning and teaching, including increasing use of interactive computer-based approaches to learning through our virtual learning environment where the details of all modules are stored in an easily navigable website. Students can access detailed information about modules and learning outcomes, as well as sets of lecture slides/notes, example and problem-sheets, videos, and interact through activities such as the discussion forums. Video recordings of lectures are normally made available whenever possible to aid your revision.

There are also a number of services on campus where you can get advice and information, including the Students’ Guild Advice Unit. You can find further information about all the services in the University’s undergraduate prospectus or via the undergraduate home page.

Assessment in the first two years is a combination of continuous assessment and exams. About 65 per cent of the assessment in each of these years is by written examinations and short mid-term tests; the rest involves work for projects, laboratories, problems classes, and more. You must obtain a pass mark for your first year in order to proceed but your performance at this stage does not count towards your final degree classification. 

I chose the University of Exeter because the staff I met always seemed to value me as an individual. They made a noticeable effort to remember me and to fit things around my interests and what I wanted.

The department have been really encouraging and helpful - they provide loads of opportunities to develop you as a person and not just a physicist. Some of the lecturers are really outstanding and have given me an interest into fields I’d have never thought I’d have enjoyed as much before I came to university.

Bethan Cornell, MPhys Physics with Professional Experience.


Employability fairs

Employability skills are an integral part of the physics curriculum. The flexibility and adaptability of a well-trained physicist is appreciated by employers: they acknowledge the benefits of excellent problem solving skills, an educated scientific intuition, and the confidence to be able to grasp new concepts quickly. 

Our programmes include:

  • A two-day employability and graduate development workshop in year one
  • A two-day communication skills course in year one
  • Annual personal development planning exercises
  • Training in the formulation and solution of problems
  • Substantial amounts of practical and project work, the results of which must be presented and defended in various formats (written reports, posters, oral presentations)
  • Working with others in projects and problem-solving classes
  • IT skills training
  • Mathematical skills training
  • An opportunity to take a commercial and industrial experience module

In addition, the purpose of the extended project work in both the BSc and MPhys programmes is for you to develop research skills. You will learn to present and scientifically defend your work and ideas in a variety of ways. The experience and skills developed not only form a valuable basis for a research career, but are also known to be highly valued by employers. 

The most academically-able graduates are normally strongly encouraged to apply for a fully-funded PhD studentship in physics or astrophysics. Visit the Physics postgraduate research degrees page for details, including of our Centre for Doctoral Training in Metamaterials.

The largest proportion of our graduates enter science-based industries in positions involving research and development, production and management. Other careers include scientific work in government establishments (e.g., QinetiQ or Harwell Laboratories), hospital physics in the NHS, and technical management in broadcasting and the communications sector. Some work in high-tech start-up companies.

For further information about what the careers service at Exeter offers, please see the Career Zone website.

Examples of the destinations of our recent graduates:


  • Met Office
  • NHS
  • British Gas
  • Novia Financial PLC
  • DSTL
  • Randall & Payne LLP
  • Reddie & Grose LLP
  • Rolls Royce
  • BMI
  • Frazer-Nash Consultancy
  • IMS Research
  • Morgan Stanley
  • Science and Technology Facilities Research Council
  • Renshaw Plc
  • AWE
  • Thales
  • IBM
  • KPMG
  • First Great Western
  • QinetiQ


  • Geophysicist
  • Medical Physicist
  • Air Quality Scientist
  • IT Security Officer
  • Field Support Engineer
  • Financial Modeller/Analyst
  • Technical Consultant
  • Commercial Analyst
  • Complex Energy Products Analyst
  • IT Consultant
  • Trainee Chartered Accountant
  • Data Analyst
  • Trainee Patent Attorney
  • Software Developer

Examples of further study and research followed by our graduates are:

  • PhD Physics
  • PhD Biophysics Analysis
  • PGCE Secondary Science
  • MA Terrorism, Security and Society
  • MSc Water and Environmental Management
  • MSc Materials for Nuclear Fusion
  • MA Marine Engineering
  • MSc Machine Learning
  • MSc Theoretical Physics
  • MA Astrophysics
  • MSc Petroleum Engineering

Physics is such a desirable subject for employers; you have the pick of any career you want to go into – which makes deciding on one very difficult!

I love the subject though, and really want to keep learning about it. I’ve been considering teaching, but I’m thinking of a PhD after my degree as I’ve really enjoyed the research module so far (where you carry out research in a small team as part of a research group, over the final two years of your Masters degree), I love the ethos of academia (where the researchers aren’t driven by money, they’re motivated by a desire to learn and solve problems!) and I love being part of the University.

I worked in a company for a few years before this degree, and the world of academia is so refreshingly unique in comparison to ‘the real world’; you have the opportunity to immerse yourself in a subject, to be surrounded by a huge variety of interesting people, and take part in so many societies and activities, I don’t want to lose that!

Natalie Whitehead, MPhys Physics

Contact us

We invite potential applicants to visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy at any time.  Please contact us in advance of your trip so that we an organise for the admissions tutor, or another meber of staff and a student to meet you.  When planning your trip, please be aware that in-year applicants are normally required to visit us to participate in an Interview Day (details below)

You can also register your interest now for upcoming Open Days.

Streatham Campus, Exeter

WebEnquire online
Phone: +44 (0)1392 725349


Follow us on Twitter for the latest updates on our research and events: @UoE_Physics

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Meet our ambassadors

Undergraduate and Postgraduate Student Ambassadors deliver talks and presentations at Open Days and Offer-Holder Visit Days on campus.

All our MPhys and Single Honours BSc degrees are accredited by the Institute of Physics. Accredited MPhys degrees fully satisfy the educational requirements of the Chartered Physicist (CPhys) professional qualification.

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