How do I get a Physics Degree? (with picture)

D. Jeffress
D. Jeffress
Students in a college physics class.
Students in a college physics class.

To begin a career in physics, a person must first complete an accredited degree program from a college or university. Obtaining a physics degree can be very challenging, expensive, and time-consuming. Graduates of physics degree programs, however, are rewarded with numerous attractive career possibilities.

High school students who plan on entering a physics degree program in college can prepare by enrolling in certain courses. Many high schools offer advanced courses in mathematics, physics, and biological sciences, which familiarize students with physical properties and laboratory work. Advanced placement programs allow some high school students to earn college credit by passing difficult courses and standardized proficiency exams.

Bachelor's degree programs in physics are offered by many colleges and universities. Several online schools offer physics degree programs as well, though prospective online students should make sure the program is fully accredited by the appropriate authorities. Bachelor's degree programs entail extensive coursework in physics and mathematics. Physics students are often required to supplement classroom time with laboratory courses, which teach scientific methods and experimentation practices. Although most schools only offer bachelor's degrees in general physics, many undergraduate students choose to concentrate their studies in specific areas of physics, such as thermodynamics, optics, motion, or quantum mechanics.

After completing a bachelor's degree program, physics students usually choose to pursue a master's degree or PhD in physics. Master's degree programs are not widely offered by universities, as doctoral degrees are the standard for practicing physicists. To obtain a master's degree, a student must find an accredited school, complete about two years of classroom and laboratory work, and fulfill specific requirements such as writing a thesis.

Many esteemed research universities offer doctorate degrees in physics, which take around three years to complete. Competition for placement in PhD physics programs can be fierce, as a large number of bachelor's degree holders often apply for relatively few positions in doctoral programs. Students with the strongest academic backgrounds, experience, and references are usually granted admission. Doctoral students usually undergo rigorous classroom and practical training in specialized sciences, such as astronomy or quantum mechanics, in the pursuit of a physics degree.

Receiving a degree in physics presents many opportunities in the professional world. Bachelor's degree holders often find work as physicist assistants, laboratory technicians, research and development specialists, and science teachers at secondary schools. Graduates of master's degree programs may become researchers for private firms or instructors at high schools and community colleges. PhD holders may find work as independent researchers, university professors, or research and development supervisors, among several other scientific occupations.

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    • Students in a college physics class.
      Students in a college physics class.