Physics Schools Colleges & Universities

Physicists work to better understand how the universe behaves through detailed anlaysis of matter and motion, and how force and energy can affect molecules as well. Physics colleges and schools can lead to interesting careers learning about what makes the world go 'round.

Degrees in Physics: Take a Quantum Leap: Physicists and astronomers conduct extensive research into the nature of the universe, the laws and principles that underlie our understanding, and the development of practical tools that assist in their exploration. By nature, they are inquisitive, tireless, and devoted to research and the development of fresh ideas and/or the development of advanced materials used across the sciences with applications in everyday life. They may help develop aerospace technology, medical devices, energy research tools, or biotechnical gear.

Subfields and specialties may include:

  • • particle physics
  • • nuclear physics
  • • atomic and molecular physics
  • • condensed matter physics
  • • optics or acoustics
  • • space or plasma physics

Degrees in Physics: Students of the profession attend physics colleges and universities where they begin work at the undergraduate level in mathematics, physics, or astronomy. For most physicists, however, the basic college degree is the master's degree, while those who want to perform research in industry or at universities must complete a Ph.D. degree program.

Some 190 physics colleges and schools in the country offer Ph.D. degrees in physics, while another 60 colleges only offer a master's degree. Typically, Ph.D. recipients begin their research careers through postdoctoral programs with universities, independent laboratories and organizations, or with the Federal government.

Entry requirements for undergraduate and graduate degrees in physics vary by institution and degree. For example, a student applying to Boston University's bachelor's degree in physics must complete prerequisites in enriched calculus, principles of physics, and methods of theoretical physics. At Stanford University, candidates for the master's degree program in physics must complete basic courses in advanced mechanics and mathematical physics, electrodynamics, quantum mechanics.

Students seeking degrees in physics, and graduates, can receive more professional support or career networking through the American Institute of Physics and The National Academy of Sciences, Board on Physics and Astronomy.

After Graduation: Physics Job Projections and Salaries: The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports a 2009 median annual wage of $106,390 for physicists and astronomers, with a high-end earning level of $165,750. The BLS predicts that astronomer and physicist jobs will rise by 16 percent from 2008 through 2018. Jobs in the private sector will not rise as much as positions in government and government-funded organizations.

Recruiters will favor those who have earned a Ph.D. from physics schools, with master's degree holders coming up second. Those with a bachelor degree may have to take jobs in engineering, mathematics, and computer science. If you plan to work for government agencies, you may need to obtain security clearances and pass background checks.

Growing Your Physics Career: Physicists are by nature inquisitive and love challenges. Many scientists return to school for courses in emerging technology or research methodologies. Some decide to take their talents into the classroom. If you've earned your Ph.D., you may qualify to teach on a faculty at a college or university. Those with a bachelor's degree will need to earn teaching credentials for their state or local school districts.

No matter your calling, you'll find schools and colleges offering degrees in physics that map to your career aspirations.

The writer Woodrow Aames has written articles and profiles for Yahoo, Microsoft Network, Microsoft Encarta, and other websites and print magazines around the world. He holds an MFA degree and has taught English abroad.


Find a school near you