Best Online Degrees in: Physics
Explore a Bachelor’s Degree in Physics
An online undergraduate degree in physics will allow students to study a broad range of natural phenomena, from submicroscopic elementary matter to the galaxy at large. Students will learn about the fundamental laws of nature and study materials and particles of all sizes and kinds. They will learn about the properties of energy, temperature, distance, and time, describing all of these through mathematical equations. With an undergraduate degree in physics, students can enter the fields of astrophysics, biophysics, engineering and applied physics, geophysics, or medicine. They may also pursue opportunities for graduate study. The standard bachelor’s degree program requires students to complete approximately 120 credit hours, but this can vary based on the specific program.
As you might expect, physics students will take several science-related classes, in areas such as chemistry, quantum physics, and thermodynamics. The undergraduate curriculum will also consist of high-level mathematics courses in calculus, analytic geometry, linear algebra, and differential equations. A standard curriculum may include:
- Calculus. Physics students will take several courses in this branch of mathematics, which consists of two major branches: differential and integral calculus. Students will learn about limits, derivatives, trigonometric functions, improper integrals, infinite series, and more.
- Differential Equations. Differential equations play a prominent role in physics. Students will learn about the language in which the laws of nature are expressed. They will develop an understanding of the properties of solutions of differential equations that are fundamental to much of contemporary science.
- Quantum Mechanics. This course will cover topics including one-dimensional potentials, central potentials, angular momentum, the hydrogen atom, time-independent perturbation theory, time-dependent perturbation theory, and scattering theory. Students will take multiple classes in this area, which forms the core of our understanding of the physical world.
Aside from a range of courses, students may also be able to take advantage of research opportunities to bolster a science education. Depending on the online program, the curriculum may also incorporate lab experiments, but this is challenging in an online environment; students may be required to attend labs on a physical campus. Students will complete problem sets and examinations.
Building a Career
Many undergraduate physics majors pursue graduate education. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), students who pursue advanced degrees in physics at the master’s or Ph.D. levels may become physicists, whose median annual wages were $106,370 as of May 2010. Some physics majors pursue careers in astronomy; their median annual wages were $87,260 in May 2010, the BLS notes. Still other students move on to medical school to become doctors.
Graduates who do not pursue graduate education may teach at the secondary level if they obtain teacher certification in their state, but aside from this, opportunities for physics majors who stop at the bachelor’s degree level are limited. Individuals should note that salaries will vary based on the field physics graduates choose, as well as the level of education they attain and their level of experience.