Degrees in Physics

Accredited Physics Programs

Physics degree programs at an accredited university train students how to understand the relationship between energy, matter and the laws of nature. Physics degree programs are available at the bachelor's, masters and doctoral degree levels, and provide both classroom and hands-on lab training. Students study everything from atomic structures to planetary physics. Those who wish to pursue a career as a research scientist or astronomer need to get a PhD in physics and may have the opportunity to complete an internship during their educational career.

Attending a Physics College

A physics college or university provides students with several program options and courses to complete their education. Students who wish to become physicists or astronomers can complete their education online or offline, and are required to complete several intensive courses that include lab work, simulations and classroom study.

The college may have a dedicated physics laboratory and research center for its students, and some schools host workshops, educational workshops and other events for students who want to round out their educational experience. Most colleges and universities that offer physics course programs offer bachelors, masters and doctoral degree programs. A number of top-ranking colleges and universities cater to the needs of students who want to complete a PhD in physics or related field.

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Physics Course Programs

Different physics course programs offer specialized training and knowledge in various fields. Some programs focus on mechanics and optics, while others focus more on biological science and medical physics. Students who want to attend graduate school for a physics degree typically take several specialized courses in a variety of fields.

Common specializations and advanced areas of study include:

  • Particle Physics
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Condensed Matter Physics
  • Optics and Atomic Physics
  • Molecular Physics
  • Relativity and Astrophysics
  • Mechanics, Electromagnetism and Applied Mathematics
  • Biological and Medical Physics
  • Earth and Planetary Physics
  • Laboratory Course in Contemporary Physics

Students who wish to specialize in astronomy may be required to complete a physics course program in earth and planetary physics, general astronomy and related fields. Still, most astronomy majors do attend a physics college to complete their education.

Getting a PhD in Physics

Individuals who want to study physics towards an advanced degree program can work on getting a PhD or other advanced physics degree. In order to get a PhD, students need to complete an accredited bachelor's physics degree program and take several types of specialized courses. Many students also complete an internship to work as a research assistant during their undergraduate years. Students can then pursue graduate studies in physics and apply for a doctoral degree in the field.

An admissions essay, standardized test and interview are often required to apply for a doctoral program. PhD programs typically include extensive classroom study, lab training, and require students to complete a dissertation.

Types of Physics Degree Courses

Most bachelor's, masters and doctoral degree programs include the following types of courses:

  • Basic and Advanced Quantum Mechanics
  • Basic and Advanced Electromagnetism
  • Modern Optics
  • Quantum Electronics
  • Statistical Physics
  • Relativistic Quantum Mechanics
  • Quantum Field Theory
  • Particle Physics
  • String Theory
  • Fracture Mechanics
  • Quantum Theory of Solids
  • Condensed Matter Physics

Taking Online Physics Classes

Students who want to complete their physics education from a distance may be able to enroll in online courses. An online physics degree program offers a similar curriculum as a program taken at a brick-and-mortar college or university, but students are required to log in a certain amount of time on discussion boards, watch lectures online, and complete quizzes, tests and simulations over the web. Taking online physics courses gives students more flexibility with their schedule and they may find an online format is better suited to their learning style.

Career Options with a Physics Education

Individuals who successfully complete their education can explore a career as physicist or astronomer. According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Federal Government employs over half of all physicist and astronomers, but many work for private scientific research and development service firms. Most jobs in the field require a PhD, and competition for entry-level and basic positions is strong because of limited funding.

Employment of physicists and astronomers is expected to grow about 16 percent through 2018. Median annual wages of physicists were $102,890 in May 2008, and the average annual salary for a physicist employed by the Federal Government was $118,971 in March 2009.