Take your studies abroad to benefit from some of the most advanced resources available in the world. The United States, United Kingdom, France, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Canada and Australia all have universities that regularly feature in the Times Higher Education top 100 university rankings for physical sciences, and institutions in countries such as Sweden, China, Russia and Hong Kong are now joining these established institutes at the top of the list.
Choosing a university abroad that has a competitive resources allocated for science subjects ensures that you will benefit from the best teaching methods, the latest research and the best possible start to a career in physical sciences.
Science subjects can be studied both full and part time at all higher education levels, from diploma and bachelors to masters level. Distance learning science courses are also available from certain institutions at undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
Undergraduate science degrees typically take three to four years of full time study to complete, whereas postgraduate science courses can take between one and three years of full time study.
Be aware that some undergraduate courses in the UK can lead to both BSc (undergraduate) or MChem (postgraduate) award types. To achieve the MChem award often involves an additional year of study.
Courses in physical sciences can often span several areas in science (especially at undergraduate level). The areas that you choose to study are down to your own personal preferences and ambitions. If you don’t already know which areas of science excite you the most or that you would like to work in, now is the time to start considering what you would like to pursue.
The subjects available to study can vary by institute, but most science degrees focus on one area of science, with the option of focussing your studies on particular topics within that area.
These main areas of science include:
- Acoustics (a branch of physics largely focused on the properties of sound)
- Anatomy (the study of the internal structure of humans and other living organisms)
- Astronomy & Astrophysics (the observation and study of space and the physics of space)
- Biology (the study of life and living organisms, including botany, evolution, cell science, physiology and zoology)
- Biochemistry (combining chemistry and biology, biochemistry looks into the chemical processes inherent in life and living organisms)
- Biomedicine (applying biology to medical science to develop modern health care techniques)
- Biosciences (also known as life sciences, the study of living things including human beings, animals, plants and smaller living organisms)
- Chemistry (studying the make-up of matter, chemistry can include organic chemistry which focuses on organic matter and inorganic chemistry which focuses on synthetic matter)
- Crystallography (similar in a sense to chemistry, crystallography involves the study of atoms in solids, lending itself to the burgeoning field of material engineering)
- Earth Sciences (everything to do with the planet Earth, including its geography, geology, ecology, hydrology and soil science)
- Ecology (studying how organisms interact with their environment)
- Material Science (also known as material engineering, you will study matter with a focus on developing materials that possess qualities desired by industry)
- Mathematics & Statistics (in a simple sense, the study of quantity and the analysis of data)
- Meteorology & Atmospheric Sciences (the study of the atmosphere and weather systems)
- Nanotechnology (manipulating matter on a tiny scale)
- Neuroscience (studying the nervous system in humans and animals)
- Physics (the study of matter, space, time and energy, an area of physics with many sub-branches)
- Optics (the behaviour of light, often with regards to sight but also with regards to the detection and behaviour of light)
- Polymer Science (a branch of material science involving the study of polymers such as plastics)
Biology, chemistry and physics are often referred to as pure sciences. Applied science degrees such as environmental science or forensics science often offer practical or vocational education. They also usually include work placements in industry or research as part of their program.
With such an exciting array of subjects available to study, if you are planning to study at an undergraduate level, the choice can seem daunting. Our course search tool at the top of this page allows you to start finding courses in science whether you know what area you wish to focus on or not. If you need some inspiration, take a look at the most popular science course searches.
The level at which you can study science depends on your current level of education. To study a science course at an undergraduate level in the UK you are generally required to have studied to an A-Level standard, although access and foundation courses do exist at many institutions to get you up to the required level to begin your undergraduate studies.
For admission to undergraduate science degrees in the USA, you must be a high-school graduate and usually must have completed the required SAT tests for your subject. International applicants can be required to have completed the same tests, even if they have completed A-levels, International Baccalaureate or similar.
For access to undergraduate science degrees in Australia, domestic students are usually required to have achieved a suitable ATAR rank, VCE (or equivalent outside of Victoria) and any other course specific academic requirements. As an international applicant, you will be expected to have achieved suitable senior secondary qualifications, though there may be foundation or access courses available to raise your academic levels to the required standards.
In all cases as an international student where you will be taught in English, you will be required to show you meet english language requirements. TOEFL and IELTS are the two major english language test systems, though TOEFL is no longer accepted as part of the UK student visa requirements.
To study science at a postgraduate level, you will generally be expected to have completed your undergraduate studies in a suitable area of science.
To make a choice on which specialisation of science you would like to study, consider which topics give you the greatest satisfaction and the careers that are available in these areas. Be aware that the level of mathematical understanding required for science courses will differ dramatically depending on whether the main scope of the course falls within the Physics, Chemistry or Biology fields.
You may need to read individual course information when you are searching for courses to be completely sure which career paths the courses you find can lead towards. Some example careers that degrees in science can lead to include:
- You could go on to a career as an Environmental consultant if you study Geography – working for private companies or governmental agencies to assess the environmental impact of industry or human activity.
- A degree in Physics and Astronomy could lead to a career in academia as a research scientist (think Big Bang theory), but could also lead to other interesting careers such as computing, nuclear power or telecommunications.
- If you study a subject such as Biological Sciences, you could work in commercial sectors such as the pharmaceutical industry, or the food or water industries.
- A career that all types of science degrees can lead to is teaching, which is a great career option if you want to inspire future generations of scientists.
As previously mentioned, there are universities that rank well for teaching science in countries right around the world, from the UK, USA and Australia, to other countries in Europe and Asia. If you have an idea of which science subject you would like to study, we recommend looking at our destination directories for more information about studying in the country of your choice.
If you know which science degree you would like to study and where you want to study, the next step is to apply for your chosen course. Read the following information to help you prepare to apply for your chosen course.
Many study destinations teach courses in English and you must be able to prove your proficiency at the English language to meet admission requirements in these destinations.
English levels from IELTS 6 or TOEFL 550 (paper) 213 (computer) – are required to study science courses, depending on the subject, level and institution. Read more in our English language study advice page.
You must meet the required academic standards for admission onto your chosen course, and these may vary depending on your choice of course. Many science degrees demand A-Levels or SAT test results in areas of science related to your degree course such as physics or chemistry. Be sure to check the course information thoroughly on your chosen institution’s website to check that you satisfy the criteria or if you need further clarification, speak to an international officer at the institution.
If you have chosen to study science abroad, you may need to secure a student visa as part of the application process for your course. For more information on student visas read our student visa advice page.
The application process for a science degree abroad can vary depending on level, be it either undergraduate or postgraduate. Most universities have an online application process to make your application straightforward. Be sure to follow all the instructions given by their online process and have relevant documentation to hand to support your application.
Some universities allow you to apply for their courses using education agents or representatives in your country. Make sure your agent is approved by your chosen university if you choose to apply for your chosen course in this way.