Physics is one of the major branches of science, and it is concerned with matter and energy. It is specifically distinguished from chemistry and biology through its focus on the motion of matter through space and time and its inclusion of mechanics, heat, light, sound, electricity, magnetism and atomic structure. Some famous individuals known for their work in physics are Isaac Newton, Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Physics can cover anything from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies. As a basis of other sciences, physics is crucial to understanding the world and is considered to be the most fundamental science.
Bachelor degree programs in physics generally have classes in concepts such as mechanics, fluids, waves, quantum mechanics and modern physics. Physics curriculum’s also include significant emphasis on mathematics such as calculus, analytic geometry and more.
Students will most likely be spending their time in both lectures and laboratory classes, and assessment can be through written evaluations, such as exams, quizzes and theses, and practical evaluations such as experiments and lab work.
Aside from the core curriculum, institutions normally allow or require their students to take a specialisation during the program. Specialisations will be discussed later on in the article.
Entrance into a physics degree program varies from institution to institution and even country to country. In the US, some universities require you to take an entrance exam, while some will take into consideration national or standard exams. In the UK, A-Levels will be considered.
Applicants may be considered based on performance in previous science classes undertaken by the applicant. Evidence of skills in and understanding of mathematics is also essential.
A number of universities also take into consideration advanced placement exams, while some consider transfer credits for post-secondary students or applicants. For a complete list of requirements, you are advised to check out or contact the institution you are interested in applying to.
The accreditation of a degree usually depends on the country where the degree is awarded. In most cases, countries have their own accrediting systems for universities, students and graduates. Please check with the institution you are interested in for their accreditation details.
As for certifications or licensing, there are no universally recognised or required certification and licensing for graduates with an undergraduate degree in physics, although certain institutional bodies do confer ‘professional physicist’ or ‘chartered physicist’ titles such as the Institute of Physics and Canadian Association of Physicists.
As mentioned earlier in the article, specialisations are available in a number of institutions. This may be a required part of the degree program for physics or it may be optional, depending on the institution. Most students choose to take specialisations which fit with their choice of career or in which area they wish to perform further research. Below is a short list of common specialisations offered by universities:
An undergraduate degree in physics can typically take around three to four years of full-time study. The exact period of time would depend on the university of your choice and the country wherein it is located. Some institutions offer double majors and combined bachelor-masters, which take longer.
There are also a great number of programs for those who want to pursue a master’s degree or a doctorate in physics. A significant portion (41% in the UK) of graduates of a bachelor’s program in physics choose to pursue further studies at the graduate level in order to advance their career and/or research. Postgraduate degrees in physics are usually comprised of research, lab work and written work involving the student’s chosen specialisation, such as astrophysics and mechanical engineering.
Some graduates choose to work in directly related positions in academic institutions, government research arms and research departments of different industries. Many graduates of physics degree programs go into different fields and sectors such as telecommunications, information technology, legal, utilities, business and finance.
As with the graduates of other science programs, physics degree holders gain many transferable skills such as problem solving, logic and reasoning, data analysis and of course, numeracy.
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