Best Liberal Arts Colleges for Physics Degrees

The best physics liberal arts colleges are those with rich histories of influence, proven through the work produced by the program’s faculty and alumni. Beyond demonstrating scholarly impact in the field, the best physics degree programs maximize your opportunities to interact with outstanding physics faculty.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges for Physics Degrees

A bachelor’s degree in physics is an excellent starting point for a career in engineering, alternative energy, space exploration, and a host of other exciting and rapidly innovating fields. As a physics major, you’ll study subjects such as calculus, mechanics, and thermodynamics. Your degree will incorporate a variety of branches within math and physics, including astrophysics, biophysics, and quantum physics. The best schools for physics are those which are regionally accredited, which offer a full array of physics concentrations, and which give you the chance to work with the best and most influential professors and classmates.

Frequently Asked Questions About Physics Bachelor’s Degrees

Earning a bachelor’s degree in physics can open numerous professional doors, particularly in the field of engineering. A physics degree can help prepare you for work as an engineering technician, data scientist, or geologist. It’s also a great starting point if you plan to eventually pursue a license to be a professional engineer (PE), or if you intend to continue into an advanced degree program and become a research scientist, physicist, or astronomer. The best schools for physics will put you in a position to become an innovator and a leader in this exciting and challenging field.

Today, top influencers in physics are breaking new ground in Mathematical Physics, Quantum Field Theory, Theoretical Physics, and much more.

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Physics is a great major because it can serve as the starting point for a number of well-paying careers. For instance, physicists and astronomers earned a median of $122,220 per year in 2019; geoscientists earned a median salary of $92,040; and industrial engineers saw a median of $88,020 in the same year. A bachelor’s degree in physics gives you the chance to choose between these and a wide range of other pathways where salaries and the rate of job growth are much higher than the average for all professions.

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Once you’ve declared your major in physics, you will likely be required to complete a set of core courses in a number of STEM-related subject areas. While your concentration will give you a chance to choose from a wide range of highly-specialized physics electives, there are several common courses that most physics majors will be required to take, including:

  • Classical Mechanics
  • Modern Physics
  • Calculus
  • Mathematical Physics
  • Thermodynamics
  • Differential Equations
  • Electricity and Magnetism
  • Waves and Optics
  • Statistical Physics
  • Quantum Mechanics
  • Atomic Physics

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Earning a degree in physics can qualify you for a number of well-paying jobs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of jobs for physicists and astronomers is expected to grow at a rate of 5% by 2029, which is faster than the average for all occupations. For industrial engineers, that rate is even higher, at 10%. Depending on your concentration, a degree in physics could help you make the jump into one of these high-growth sectors. The following are among the most popular jobs for physics majors:

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Best Liberal Arts Colleges for Physics Degree Programs

Frequently Asked Questions About Research Universities, Liberal Arts Colleges, Online Colleges

In pursuing a bachelor’s degree, you will need to choose between three kinds of schools: research universities, liberal arts colleges, and online colleges.

Research universities are colleges and universities whose faculty are active in research and publishing. These schools offer a wide array of doctoral programs, especially in the sciences. They tend to be big, with tens of thousands of students.

Do you prefer a larger university setting, such as largest public university in your state? Research universities are typically big, offering degrees in many different disciplines. Is a big high-powered research environment the thing for you. If not, you should think about a liberal arts college. In deciding on an undergraduate institution, ask yourself what sort of environment will best help you to be happy and excel.

  • Consider whether you are self motivated enough to be a face in the crowd for some classes and largely unknown on campus at a large university. Of course you can find clubs and friends at a large university, but often liberal arts colleges have a more personal quality to them. If you want the community feel, a research university may not fit you well.
  • Are you interested in STEM fields? Research universities have that name for a reason – real research is happening there. This can create an exciting atmosphere for students interested in STEM. Attending a research university can give you a better chance of getting into better programs for graduate degrees, although a lot of that depends on your performance.
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Often referred to as “teaching colleges” liberal arts colleges put a premium on undergraduate studies and offers a broad range of subjects for students to study. A college of liberal arts typically provides smaller class sizes, more direct engagement with professors, and, most importantly, the opportunity to sample a wide range of subject areas on the way to a bachelor’s degree.

  • Do you want your professors to know you? Liberal arts colleges strive to cultivate campus cultures that encourage tight bonds between professors and students. Professors at these schools will typically conduct original research. Yet the best of these schools offer their faculty reduced teaching loads so that they can both be productive researchers and still have plenty of time for students (both in and outside the classroom).
  • Do you want to feel like you know everybody? One of the most enticing features of a liberal arts college is that in very little time, you can feel like you know who’s who, which can create strong friendships, but also more pleasurable walks across campus. While your sports teams may never be on ESPN, it’s more likely that you’ll know the athletes as your peers. Beyond student and faculty relationships, it’s not unusual for the school president and other administrators to learn who you are. When faced with problems with your student account or the need to switch classes, this can be comforting during a stressful moment.
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Online colleges are typically the same colleges and universities you could attend in-person, but for certain degree programs the college or unviersity has made the degree programs available to be completed online. For over 5 million students, online degree programs allow students to earn their degrees in the most flexible format available. Online degrees are as respected as the on-campus degress you could earn from the same schools. There’s usually no disctinction between the two degrees, and your degree and transcript will not say that the degree was earned online. Online degree programs are offered by a vast majority of colleges and universities, and the number of offering continues to grow. Whehter you are searching for an associate, bachelor’s, master’s, or doctorate, there’s a good chance you can earn your degree online from a respectable online college.

  • Are you a self-driven student? Perhaps the hardest aspect of obtaining an online degree is whether you will be disciplined enough to manage your time and course demands. Many online students report that online college made them more disciplined in all areas of their lives, but the flexible, self-paced learning that makes online colleges attractive can often be the same qualities that make it difficult. If you tend to be a procrastinator, you need to be honest with yourself. You can change your habits and propensities, or you can throw money down the drain.
  • Do you need the flexibility of an online degree program? Most online students study online because of time demands balancing work and life, or becuase the online colleges afford them the chance to attend a better school without moving. If you are serious about earning your degree for career advancement, online colleges make it possible. The most flexible options among online degrees are those that are aynchronous, meaning you don’t have scheduled times to meet with your class online. However, many students seek synchronous online degree programs so that they have some structure – set meeting times, scheduled exams, etc.
  • The good news is that attending an online college doesn’t mean you will miss out on getting to know your professors and classmates. In fact, many online students who have experienced both online and on-campus courses report having easier access to their professors. Since most communication with your professor is expected to be in text – via email or your class learning management system – it makes asking your questions easier. The same students also report that they got to better know the thoughts of their classmates. While in-person course conversations can be dominated by a few extroverts, online courses that require online discussions make it so that you see all of your classmates’ thoughts and questions.

If you interested in an online bachelor’s degree, check out what the best online colleges offer, or search our online degrees for the exact program that interests you. In either case, you will find well respected colleges and universities that offer online degrees.

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If you think a research university may be a better fit for you, see our ranking of the best research universities for a bachelor’s in physics.

How do we determine the best physics liberal arts colleges?

Methodology

The people affiliated with a school are ultimately what make it great. This is why we rank the best colleges and universities based on what we call “Influence”.

The influence of a college or university is based on the schools’ top academic influencers related to the discipline in this ranking. We track the influence of faculty and alumni affialiate with these school counting not only the publicaitons and citations of the school’s affiliated people, but we also consider the overall web presense of the faculty and alumni. The greater the citations, authority of web links, web searches, and pageviews, the greater the individuals’ influence. Those combined make up the departments’ influence in the field of study. We believe tracking the academic influence of the people affiliated with a school is the best indicator of academic excellence.

If you are serious about finding the best colleges and universities, you should be asking where the most influential professors are teaching, and whether their graduates themselves are advancing the school’s reputation for academic excellence. Most ranking sites rely on an opaque combination of reputation surveys and misuesed performance metrics. Influence, as measured by our InfluenceRanking engine, provides a ranking that is more insulated from manipulation, and more reflective of real-world educational outcomes.

Best Liberal Arts Colleges for Physics Degrees

  1. #1

    Swarthmore College

    Swarthmore , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $56K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    97%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    What is Swarthmore College known for?

    Swarthmore College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology
    • Physics
    • Computer Science
    • Mathematics
    • Anthropology
    • Literature

    Most Influential Alumni

    Swarthmore College Physics Majors

    • Major and Minor Physics

    Source

    REQUEST INFO
  2. #2

    Williams College

    Williamstown , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    15%

    Graduation

    96%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1480/33

    What is Williams College known for?

    Williams College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • Chemistry
    • Religious Studies
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Williams College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Astrophysics

    Source

  3. #3

    Amherst College

    Amherst , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    12%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is Amherst College known for?

    Amherst College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Economics
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    Amherst College Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  4. #4

    Wellesley College

    Wellesley , MA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is Wellesley College known for?

    Wellesley College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Political Science
    • Sociology
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • History
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Anthropology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Wellesley College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Interdisciplinary Option
    • Astrophysics
    • Chemical Physics

    Source

  5. #5

    Pomona College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $57K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1465/33

    What is Pomona College known for?

    Pomona College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Religious Studies
    • Communications
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Computer Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Pomona College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Physics – Astronomy
    • Physics – Astrophysics

    Source

  6. #6

    Wesleyan University

    Middletown , CT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    4K

    What is Wesleyan University known for?

    Wesleyan University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Psychology
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Religious Studies
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Wesleyan University Physics Major Tracks

    • Astrophysics
    • Biophysics
    • Chemical Physics
    • Econophysics
    • General Physics
    • Geophysics
    • Mathematical Physics

    Source

  7. #7

    Harvey Mudd College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1530/34

    What is Harvey Mudd College known for?

    Harvey Mudd College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Engineering
    • Physics
    • Chemistry
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Harvey Mudd College Physics Majors Options

    • Standard
    • Applied Physics
    • Astrophysics
    • Biophysics
    • Chemical Physics
    • Education
    • Geophysics
    • Mathematical Physics
    • Physics and Computers
    • Joint Mathematics-Physics Dual Degree

    Source

  8. #8

    Bowdoin College

    Brunswick , ME
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    95%

    Student body

    2K

    What is Bowdoin College known for?

    Bowdoin College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Education
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Physics
    • Religious Studies
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    Bowdoin College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Education Interdisciplinary Major

    Source

  9. #9

    Middlebury College

    Middlebury , VT
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    22%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/33

    What is Middlebury College known for?

    Middlebury College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • History
    • Economics
    • Anthropology
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Mathematics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Middlebury College Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  10. #10

    Barnard College

    New York , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    14%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1430/32

    What is Barnard College known for?

    Barnard College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Philosophy
    • History
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Barnard College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Astronomy
    • Astrophysics
    • Interdisciplinary Major options

    Source

  11. #11

    Claremont McKenna College

    Claremont , CA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $58K

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    92%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1435/32

    What is Claremont McKenna College known for?

    Claremont McKenna College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Business
    • Economics
    • Political Science
    • Law
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • History
    • Religious Studies
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    Claremont McKenna College Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics – emphasis on computational and numerical techniques

    Source

  12. #12

    United States Naval Academy

    Annapolis , MD
    Other Rankings

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    90%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1350/29

    What is United States Naval Academy known for?

    United States Naval Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Earth Sciences
    • Literature
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Computer Science
    • Chemistry
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    United States Naval Academy Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  13. #13

    United States Military Academy

    West Point , NY
    Other Rankings

    Acceptance

    9%

    Graduation

    85%

    Student body

    6K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1270/27

    What is United States Military Academy known for?

    United States Military Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Literature
    • Law
    • Business
    • History
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Chemistry
    • Biology
    • Computer Science

    Most Influential Alumni

    United States Military Academy Physics Majors

    • Advanced Physics
    • Nuclear Engineering
    • Space Science

    Source

  14. #14

    Colgate University

    Hamilton , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $62K

    Acceptance

    27%

    Graduation

    91%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1415/32

    What is Colgate University known for?

    Colgate University’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • History
    • Biology
    • Earth Sciences
    • Education
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    Colgate University Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics
    • Astrofeophysics
    • Astronomy

    Source

  15. #15

    Davidson College

    Davidson , NC
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $55K

    Acceptance

    20%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1397/31

    What is Davidson College known for?

    Davidson College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • Literature
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Physics
    • Economics
    • Mathematics
    • Religious Studies
    • Psychology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Davidson College Physics Majors

    Source

  16. #16

    Haverford College

    Haverford , PA
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $61K

    Acceptance

    18%

    Graduation

    93%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1460/33

    What is Haverford College known for?

    Haverford College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Religious Studies
    • Philosophy
    • Mathematics
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Anthropology
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Haverford College Physics Majors

    • Physics
    • Astronomy and Astrophysics

    Source

    REQUEST INFO
  17. Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $10K

    Acceptance

    38%

    Graduation

    83%

    Student body

    21K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1340/29

    What is California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo known for?

    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Biology
    • Business
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Economics
    • Criminal Justice
    • Communications
    • Chemistry

    Most Influential Alumni

    California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  18. #18

    Kenyon College

    Gambier , OH
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $63K

    Acceptance

    37%

    Graduation

    89%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1365/31

    What is Kenyon College known for?

    Kenyon College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Chemistry
    • Anthropology
    • History
    • Philosophy
    • Sociology
    • Biology
    • Political Science
    • Mathematics
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Kenyon College Physics Majors

    Source

  19. #19

    Manchester University

    North Manchester , IN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $34K

    Acceptance

    70%

    Graduation

    56%

    Student body

    1K

    What is Manchester University known for?

    Manchester University ’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Chemistry
    • Physics
    • Biology
    • Sociology
    • Political Science
    • Engineering
    • Mathematics
    • Philosophy
    • Medical
    • Economics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Manchester University Physics Majors

    • Physics

    Source

  20. #20

    Reed College

    Portland , OR
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $63K

    Acceptance

    42%

    Graduation

    77%

    Student body

    1K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1422/32

    What is Reed College known for?

    Reed College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Anthropology
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • Economics
    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Sociology
    • Mathematics
    • Physics
    • History

    Most Influential Alumni

    Reed College Physics Majors

    • Physics

    Source

    REQUEST INFO
  21. #21

    United States Air Force Academy

    USAF Academy , CO
    Other Rankings

    Acceptance

    13%

    Graduation

    87%

    Student body

    5K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1335/30

    What is United States Air Force Academy known for?

    United States Air Force Academy’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Engineering
    • Computer Science
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Economics
    • Physics
    • Mathematics
    • Law
    • Chemistry
    • Philosophy

    Most Influential Alumni

    United States Air Force Academy Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  22. #22

    Vassar College

    Poughkeepsie , NY
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $63K

    Acceptance

    25%

    Graduation

    88%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1445/32

    What is Vassar College known for?

    Vassar College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Literature
    • Anthropology
    • Communications
    • Education
    • Psychology
    • Computer Science
    • History
    • Physics
    • Philosophy
    • Earth Sciences

    Most Influential Alumni

    Vassar College Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

  23. #23

    Carleton College

    Northfield , MN
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    21%

    Graduation

    94%

    Student body

    2K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1450/32

    What is Carleton College known for?

    Carleton College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Political Science
    • Economics
    • Earth Sciences
    • Sociology
    • Philosophy
    • Anthropology
    • Literature
    • History
    • Chemistry
    • Biology

    Most Influential Alumni

    Carleton College Physics Majors

    • BS in Physics

    Source

    REQUEST INFO
  24. #24

    Oberlin College

    Oberlin , OH
    Other Rankings

    Tuition + fees

    $60K

    Acceptance

    35%

    Graduation

    86%

    Student body

    3K

    Median SAT/ACT

    1380/31

    What is Oberlin College known for?

    Oberlin College’s faculty and alumni have been influential in:

    • Philosophy
    • Literature
    • Education
    • Religious Studies
    • Political Science
    • History
    • Sociology
    • Psychology
    • Economics
    • Physics

    Most Influential Alumni

    Oberlin College Physics Majors

    • Physics Major and Minor

    Source

Go to all Liberal Arts Colleges for Physics programs

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