Overview of Physics Program as a College Major

What do you imagine when you think of an amusement park? Do you envision roller coasters, Ferris wheels and a dozen other rides? Well, you should think of physics as well. The concepts demonstrated at the park – acceleration, momentum, gravitational potential energy and weightlessness – are all a part of physics.

Scientifically speaking, physics is the study of matter, energy, force and motion, and the way they all relate to each other. That means physics is part of everything around you – from the stars that shine at night to your mobile device technology.

According to the American Institute of Physics, the number of Bachelor degrees in physics awarded in the U.S. has risen for nine consecutive years, reflecting an increase of 58% since 1999. Physics is an important part of our everyday life.

Physics Program Curriculum                  

What’s great about entering a college physics program is that you have so many choices – a wide range of education levels, areas of specialty and career options. Plus physics is one of those science degrees that can be found on many college campuses. So even though specific course titles may vary, the subject matter will likely include topics like:

  • Applied physics
  • Calculus
  • Electrodynamics
  • Quantum mechanics and theory
  • Mathematical physics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Electricity and magnetism
  • Modern optics
  • Astrophysics
  • Nanotechnology
  • Condensed matter theory
  • Renewable energy

Education Levels Available for a Physics Degree

Physics degrees are available at all education levels within the university and college system, whether you want to start with an Associate degree or jump right into a Bachelor’s program. In addition, you can even choose to have a minor in physics or get a certificate of accomplishment in physics.

And should you decide to continue your education by pursuing a Master’s degree and/or Doctorate degree program (which is highly recommended, by the way), you can then focus your professional research career on a subfield such as materials science, astrophysics, nuclear physics or statistical physics.

Skills Developed through Physics Degree Program

Getting an education is about more than just studying a particular discipline. Part of your educational process should be about developing important skills and traits that employers look for in new employees. For physics majors the skills you will need to be successful include:

  • Analytical thinking and logic
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • An inquisitive mind and imagination
  • Working knowledge of computers and a variety of computer programs
  • Ability to present ideas both in writing and orally
  • Desire and ability to explore and identify basic principles and laws governing the motion, energy, structure, and interactions of matter
  • Ability to use sophisticated equipment such as lasers, particle accelerators, electron microscopes and mass spectrometer
Where to Obtain a Physics Degree

If you’re considering a career as a physicist, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) indicates that employment growth will likely be faster than in other occupations – somewhere around 16% over the next few years.

While you may be thinking of attending a traditional brick-and-mortar college or university, there are physics programs available from colleges online through distance-learning programs such as the BS in physics from Atlantic International University (AIU) or the MS in medical physics from the Georgia Institute of Technology (GIT).

Career Opportunities for Physics Majors

For the most part there are four major employment categories for physics majors: research, development & design, teaching and management & industry (i.e. computer technology, food processing, metallurgy).

While a large percentage of physicists work in scientific research and development or for the federal government (more than 50%), you can also find them working in education, industry and health care.

Keep in mind as you choose your physics degree program that most jobs in basic research usually require a Doctoral degree. And while a Master’s degree may land you a job in applied research and development, typically an undergraduate degree will only qualify you for a research assistant or technician position.

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