Free Online Lectures and Courses for Physics

Physics deals with matter as it relates to space and time, particularly while in motion. This major has applications in many professional fields, particularly tech-driven industries and lab sciences like biology, chemistry and geology. Degree programs in physics are offered at virtually every accredited college and university in the United States; most undergraduate programs emphasize the fundamentals of physics, while master’s and Ph.D. programs often allow students to choose a specialization.

In addition to professional physicists, other careers linked to this field include research and development, product development, computer science, engineering and higher education. Some physics professionals will spend the majority of their time in the field, while others will stick to lab work. Regardless of their career specifics, these individuals must have a keen understanding of the relationship between various objects and the physical forces that guide them.

Sample Courses

Many universities offer dual physics course sequences, one for students who plan to major in physics and another for students who are majoring in another scientific field and must complete physics courses in order to satisfy their degree requirements. Although the key concepts remain the same, courses for the former tend to be more advanced than the latter; at schools with competitive science programs, prospective physics majors may be required to take a placement exam. In addition to physics courses, these majors will also be required to take courses in calculus, trigonometry, geometry and other advanced mathematical subjects.

Possible Specializations

In the field of physics, academic specializationsare often categorized by the nature of materials or objects the student hopes to someday work with in a professional capacity; applied physics concentrations may include solid state objects, organic materials and tools physicists use to achieve results (such as lasers). Other specializations will be concentrated in sub-fields like biophysics, astrophysics and geophysics.

Degree Types

Along with their specialization, students must research their prospective career to determine which degree level will be sufficient for receiving the job they want. Here is a rundown of the four major degree types in the field of physics:

Associate

On their own, associate degree programs will not yield many employment options for graduates. However, they do introduce some fundamental concepts and allow students to decide whether to pursue physics as a career. Additionally, many undergraduate physics degree programs require incoming students to take an entry exam; for this reason, prior knowledge of key physics concepts can be quite valuable.

Bachelor’s

Students who earn a Bachelor of Science Degree in Physics may be able to secure entry-level employment in a laboratory or corporate research and development office. However, without the specialization earned during a master’s or doctoral program, students will not earn nearly as much as their counterparts and may find it difficult to advance without higher credentials.

Master’s

This degree will enable physicists to competitively apply for jobs that match their specialization. However, physicists who want to serve in lab leadership positions or teach physics at the university level are encouraged to continue their education and earn a doctoral degree.

Ph.D.

Most doctoral physics programs will include extensive lab-based courses, for which students can apply the rules and laws they have learned to everyday objects. Ph.D. students also write dissertations, complete capstone projects and/or complete internships related to their specialization. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists the Ph.D. as the most common academic credential among professional physicists.

In addition to the four degrees listed above, some schools offer professional degrees designed to assist physicists in specific occupations such as an applied physics program geared toward professional engineers.

Ideal Candidates for Physics

The field of physics requires scientific-minded individuals who are analytical and meticulous when it comes to data collection, analysis and interpretation. Physics also involves a lot of complex mathematics, so students who shy away from math are urged to look elsewhere when choosing a college major. And since lab work often requires major collaboration, strong interpersonal and communication skills are two assets that serve physicists well in the workplace.

Career Pathways

According to the BLS, the number of professional physicists is expected to grow 10% between 2012 and 2022; this rate is on par with the average expected growth for all occupations. Individuals who earn a doctoral or professional degree in physics stand to earn a median annual income of $106,360.

The BLS also notes that “competition for permanent research appointments” for physicists at higher learning institutions is considerable, and even students who have earned a Ph.D. will likely have to complete several postdoctoral appointments before securing a long-term position. There is also a high rate of competition for research proposal grants, which may limit job availability at certain institutions.

Aspiring physicists can learn more about this job pathway by obtaining membership with a professional organization, speaking with a career counselor at their college or university and networking with fellow physics majors at events and conferences.

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Physics Journals & Trade Magazines

  • Journals

    • American Journal of Physics

      This journal is aimed at college and university physics professors and students and provides high-level research papers.

    • Annals of Physics

      This journal "presents original work in all areas of basic physics research" and publishes papers related to theory, methodology, and applications.

    • Physical Review Letters

      This journal is a collection of letters from all branches of physics in order to provide scientists with new and significant research.

    • Physics in Medicine and Biology

      IOP Science publishes this journal, which covers biomedical physics and applications of this science in health fields.

    • Reviews of Modern Physics

      This journal "brings the broad fundamental physics literature in established topical areas together and places it within the context of current trends in research and application."

  • Trade Magazines

    • Astronomy Magazine

      Touted as the world's best-selling astronomy magazine, it offers color photography, information on sky-events, observing tips, and physics reporting.

    • Physics Today

      This magazine is published by the American Institute of Physics and provides extensive news coverage, information on technological advances, and original ...

    • Physics World

      Published by the Institute of Physics, this magazine publishes features, opinions, and interviews from leading physicists, as well as book reviews.

    • Sky & Telescope

      The organization's magazine gives readers information on astronomical discoveries and tips for seeing sky events themselves.

    • Symmetry

      This magazine deals with particle physics, making it complex, but it includes articles for both academic and public consumption.

Physics Grants & Scholarships

  • Grants

    • AAPM/RSNA Imaging Physics Residency Grant

      Deadline: December 6

      Award Amount: $35,000 per year

      This grant from the American Association of Physicists in Medicine is meant to support 50 percent of a scientist's salary at imaging physics residencies not currently CAMPEP accredited.

    • E. Leonard Jossem International Education Fund

      Deadline: TBD

      Award Amount: Maximum

      This grant is available to members of the American Association of Physics Teachers who have proposals for physics education collaboration between U.S. and developing countries or international ...

    • High School Physics Teacher Grant

      Deadline: December 1

      Award Amount: $100-$500

      This grant from the American Association of Physics Teachers gives this award to high school teachers in order to help them improve their teaching practices.

    • NSF Accelerator Science Grant

      Deadline: November 28

      Award Amount: Varies

      This grant is for physics researchers with proposals in the area of particle acceleration; the National Science Foundation wants to "seed and support fundamental accelerator science at universities."

    • NSF Experimental Nuclear Physics

      Deadline: October 29

      Award Amount: N/A

      This grant is for nuclear physicists with proposals that push the boundaries of the discipline and need funds to continue university level research.

  • Scholarships

    • American Physical Society Minority Scholarship

      Deadline: December 7

      Award Amount: Percentage of tuition; varies

      This scholarship aims to increase the number of minorities getting degrees in physics and is available to high school seniors and college freshmen or sophomore ...

    • Barbara Lotze Scholarships for Future Teachers

      Deadline: December 1

      Award Amount: Maximum $2,000

      This scholarship is from the American Association of Physics Teachers and is given to undergraduates or high school seniors enrolled or planning to enroll in ...

    • National Society of Black Physicists

      Deadline: Varies

      Award Amount: Varies

      The NSBP offers three scholarships to students, both undergraduate and graduate, who are pursuing a degree in physics and need funds to supplement their ...

    • Robert Noyce Teacher Scholarship Program

      Deadline: February 20

      Award Amount: Tuition as NSF Fellow

      This scholarship is for undergraduates majoring in science or mathematics who are pursuing teaching in those fields, providing funds to enroll them as a ...

    • Society of Physics Students Scholarships

      Deadline: February 15

      Award Amount: $2,000-$5,000

      SPS offers five scholarships for undergraduates studying physics who have demonstrated academic excellence; some scholarships include the invitation to a ...

Physics Internships

  • APL Advanced Application Scholars Program

    Deadline: December 31

    For Johns Hopkins students majoring in physics, as well as graduate students, this summer internship provides the opportunity for professional development and partner with a staff mentor.

  • Applied Physics Laboratory Technology Leadership Scholars

    Deadline: December 31

    This internship from The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab is for undergraduates who have completed at least two years of school and want to better prepare themselves for a technical career.

  • APS/IBM Research Internship for Undergraduate Women

    Deadline: February 1

    This internship, sponsored by IBM and the American Physical Society, provides salaried positions for women in physics to research at one of IBM's nationwide facilities.

  • Bucknell Summer Research Program

    Deadline: February 9

    Undergraduate interns spend the summer on Bucknell's campus working with physics faculty in various research areas, such as pattern formation and chaos or solar energy.

  • Cornell Center for Materials Research Summer Internship

    Deadline: Until positions are filled

    Undergraduate students can participate in this internship, which connects interns with Cornell science faculty in order to conduct interdisciplinary materials research.

  • Fermilab Summer Internships for Physics Majors

    Deadline: February 9

    This internship is a 10-week program for undergraduate physics majors; it allows interns to work with physicists at the U.S. Department of Energy and give a final research presentation.

  • Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory Summer Internship

    Deadline: February 16 and 28

    Graduate students and upper division undergraduates can apply for either the nuclear forensics summer or computational chemistry and materials science internship, culminating in research ...

  • National GEM Consortium Summer Internship

    Deadline: November 15

    This internship is the beginning phase of a full fellowship at GEM and pairs each intern with a summer employer, who helps that student complete a research assignment in physics or engineering.

  • Society of Physics Students Summer Internships

    Deadline: February 14

    SPS offers numerous internships to its undergraduate members who have completed two years of college and want to complete research in Washington D.C.

Physics Student & Professional Organizations