Physics Degree Information
General Information About Physics Degree Programs
Students interested in an education in physics traditionally start with a four year baccalaureate program and then proceed to graduate work. Some entry-level jobs are available to those with a physics B.S., but most students will choose to pursue a doctorate in physics or will opt for a master's degree or doctoral degree in a related field such as engineering.
A typical undergraduate curriculum in physics contains courses in various disciplines of physics as well as advanced mathematics courses and other related science courses. These programs are generally completed in four years and the Bachelor of Science degree is conferred on the student upon completion. Students can then pursue a master's degree in physics, engineering or another scientific field of study, or may attempt to earn a doctoral degree.
While there are some positions that are available to physics B.S.s, to advance in the field of physics most students will need to earn the doctorate. Graduate physics will usually necessitate a specialization in one area of physics such as nuclear physics, astrophysics or biophysics. To be a successful engineer, students will usually need at least a master's in engineering and professional certification.
Master Of Science
Master's students in physics will usually be looking to this degree as a springboard to a doctoral program. Master's students will use these programs to specialize in a sub field of physics such as particle physics or quantum mechanics. They will then go on to do further research in this sub field for their doctoral work.
Doctorate In Physics
Physics doctoral students will become experts in their particular sub field of physics. Most areas of physics are extremely complicated and students should prepare for tremendously challenging work. These degrees usually take four or five years to complete, but can take longer depending upon the depth and complexity of the studentís dissertation research.
Choosing A Degree
Students with an affinity for mathematics and the sciences may wish to consider a degree in physics. Physicists can go on to do groundbreaking work in a variety of areas including space travel, robotics and a variety of government applications.
Individuals with a bachelor's degree in physics can obtain employment mostly as research assistants or in jobs that require basic technical skills. Students who earn a doctorate in physics will usually go on to teach or to obtain work in research and development in any of a number of industries.
Physics Ph.D.s can command considerable sums. The average salary for a physicist in 2006 was $94,240. The middle 50 percent of physicists earned between $72,910 and $117,080 per year. The average salary for a government physicist was $111,769 in 2007.
Getting Your Degree Online
Students looking to resume their education in physics through a continuing education program may wish to start online. There are accredited online universities that offer Bachelor of Science and Master of Science degrees in physics. Such a degree from a top accredited online university qualifies the student for a number of physics related careers. Doctoral programs in physics are also available online although the number of physics sub fields a student can pursue through a distance learning education program may be limited.
Getting Your Degree Offline
A physics degree from a top college or university, particularly one that is science-based, can lead to an extremely lucrative career. There is a great deal of complex research involved with physics, so students who have the opportunity to attend brick-and-mortar universities with top-notch physics laboratories will have a tremendous advantage. Students attending courses at a traditional university can also take advantage of the opportunity to meet with different expert professors in various fields of physics who can help them narrow down their own field of physics study. The right doctoral program from a top brick-and-mortar university can lead to almost unlimited career options in one of the many areas of physics, from theoretical quantum research to applied space science.
Physics Degree FAQs
Do I Need a Degree to Work in Physics?
You will most undoubtedly need the minimum of a bachelor's degree to work in any field related to physics. Master's and doctoral degrees are preferred and often required for higher-level research positions. For the most part, you will want to attend school beyond the four years it takes to get a bachelor's in order to advance your career in physics.
What Are the Requirements for Acceptance into a Physics Degree Program?
Like any other major, getting into a physics degree program requires a high school diploma or equivalency degree. Applicants should also try to emphasize their interest in science, particularly physics, and cite examples of projects or research they have already completed before studying the subject formally. Browse the website or call the admissions office of the college or university you are interested in to find out more information.
What Topics Are Covered in Physics Degree Programs?
Physics involves reviewing many basic concepts of the subject first, such as physical science, computer science, technical physics, materials physics, astronomy, electronics, cosmology, aerodynamics, mechanics, biological physics, astrophysics, electromagnetic theory and more. You will also be taking a large number of other science classes, such as chemistry and biology, and mathematics to complement a physics background.
What Careers Are Available in Physics?
Although studying physics often leads to a career as a physicist, there are plenty of other opportunities for jobs with a physics degree. Aside from teaching at any level of education, you can choose a specialty within the field of physics, such as astronomy, or in a related area of study. Engineers, geoscientists, atmospheric scientists, computer programmers, mathematicians and environmental scientists often have backgrounds in physics.
What Is Required of Someone Who Works in Physics?
As one of the hard sciences, physics requires a very solid understanding of advance mathematical theories and computer programming. You should also have great communication skills, as many physicists collaborate with others on various research projects.
What Salary Can I Expect from a Career in Physics?
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the median annual earnings for physicists are approximately $94,000. Since physics is such a specific field, physicists and astronomers earn particularly high wages for scientists.
Physics Student Guide
Physics is the study of how matter and energy move through the universe. It deals with what matter is from large-scale forms to the subatomic level, and of the effects of bodies of matter and wave of energy on each other. Much of our understanding of how the universe works and our ability to create new technologies is based in some form or another of physics.
Textbooks that comprehensively cover the ideas in basic physics are a crucial element to a student's physics education. Each course's professor will probably have their own ideas about which books you will study from, but some good basic physics texts include Fundamentals of Physics, Extended by David Halliday, Robert Resnick and Jearl Walker, Six Easy Pieces: Essentials of Physics Explained by Its Most Brilliant Teacher by Richard P. Feynman and University Physics: Extended Version with Modern Physics by Hugh D. Young. Links to information about these books and others can be found at PhysicsBooks.org.
Successful physics study requires a great deal of research, which means knowledge of the properties of matter and energy. Many of these properties have been already recorded for you to use in your research and calculations. A good source for physics data is the NIST Scientific and Technical Physics Databases (NIST.gov.srd.physics.htm), which contains data on atomic and molecular physics, fluids, crystal structure, thermophysical and thermochemical properties and more.
Online Physics Journals
Much of physics research information will come from the articles found inside physics journals. These journals present both established and cutting edge research in the various disciplines of physics. A convenient source of physics journals can be found online at the American Institute of Physics website at Journals.alp.org. Some of the journals they offer include Applied Physics Letter, the Journal of Applied Physics, the Journal of Mathematical Physics, Physics of Fluids and Applied Physics Reviews.
Other Physics Research Tools
The American Institute of Physics (Aip.org) has more than just journal information. This comprehensive website features physics news, a physics career center, information about physics awards and prizes, statistical research information and more.