If you’re a student who is considering getting a master’s degree in physics, make sure that you understand how that degree will serve you after graduation. What can you do with a master’s degree in physics? We explore the topic in depth.
Physics is a foundational natural science. As a physics master, you’ll study force, energy and motion and how these properties interact with matter, space and time.
Physics promotes a better understanding of the world and universe around us. Because physics is a complex and challenging field, a great deal of emphasis is placed on meaningful educational experience. This underscores the value of a master’s degree in physics, which can enhance your knowledge, expand your skills, and heighten your qualifications in an area of specialization.
A master’s degree in physics can significantly improve your eligibility for advanced and specialized roles such as medical scientist, biophysicist, computer scientist, and more.
Physics is a notoriously difficult field with many challenging branches, including quantum physics, mathematical physics, biophysics, astrophysics, and much more. But physics is also tremendously rewarding for those who put in the time and study.
Earning a masters in this field will make you a more competitive candidate for research and leadership opportunities , and can provide you with highly valued skills in a specific area of specialization, whether you’re interested in contributing to the development of self-driving cars, innovations around renewable energy, heightened safety in public transportation, or any number of other exciting achievements that depend on our knowledge of the physical world.
Just getting started in the field? Check out our look at the physics major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in physics.
If you’re ready to earn your graduate degree at one of the most prestigious schools in the world, get started with a look at the Most Influential Schools in Physics.
Or read on to find out what you can expect as a physics master.
Jocelyn Bell Burnell is a Visiting Professor of Astrophysics at the University of Oxford and a top influencer in the field of astrophysics. She is highly noted in the field both for her pioneering role as a woman in a male-dominated field and for her groundbreaking discovery of pulsars.
We had the chance to speak with her, and she offered some eye-opening stories about her time in the field. In addition to shedding some light on the struggle that women have endured to gain recognition in STEM fields, she also speaks to the excitement of being part of a dynamic academic community.
“Even today,” she tells us, “I am no longer actively researching myself, but I’m watching what goes on in the field, and being in Oxford University is fantastic for that because we have a lot of astrophysicists, a lot of talks, a lot of visitors, news and gossip going through the place. It’s very lively, it’s great.”
Check out our full interview with Dr. Joceyln Bell Burnell.
Dr. Burnell’s experience highlights the core elements of experimentation and discovery that make physics such an exciting field. Earning a master’s degree in physics could put you on track to contribute to a field brimming with innovation.
Learn more about Jocelyn Bell Burnell and other top experts in physics today!
Without a doubt, physics stands apart from the other sciences in a special way. In keeping with the discipline’s position as the fulcrum of science, the Nobel Prize in Physics is given out first. Theoretically, it approaches pure mathematics, data analysis, scientific research, and and even philosophy as great minds consider universes that exist beyond our current space-time continuum and between dimensions.
Departments of physics acquire a staggering amount of funding and resources, which attracts more and more students. But the problem most students worry about is financing a graduate degree.
The average cost of tuition and required fees for in-state graduate students, according to NCES’ recent data, is $12,410 for public institutions and $26,597 for private institutions. Out-of-state cost of master’s programs vary in different academic institutions, but typically, non-resident students pay higher. Tuition and fees can be heavy for many aspiring physics students. Luckily, all graduate students pursuing degrees are eligible to apply for federal student funding.
Students are required to complete the FAFSA. Any degree can be paid for with federal and state financial aid, even an online master’s degree in physics. Before applying for admission, research the school’s tuition rates. But remember, many colleges offer a ton of financial aid, which can help offset the base tuition figures.
Scholarships are frequently awarded based on either academic performance or financial need, or both. Grants are frequently given out based on financial need.
Graduate students in physics have abundant internship opportunities from institutions, the government, and private institutions. The most famous source for internship and fellowship opportunities for physics students is the American Physical Society (APS).
The APS is the biggest nonprofit membership organization for professionals and students in physics. It provides ample resources, such as physics conferences, scientific meetings, research journals, outreach programs, international activities, and many more.
In addition to private organizations, students can also explore the Graduate Research Assistant Program. This educational program aims to provide physics graduates with practical experience in their chosen field of study to supplement their academic training. Students occasionally have the option to perform their master’s or doctoral thesis research at the lab. Both technical and professional positions are available for those who attended graduate school.
Physics masters’s degree holders snag the best jobs, including in the areas of aerospace engineering, postsecondary instruction or teaching in academe, chemical engineering, nuclear science, medical science, biochemistry, biophysics, information research, and astronomy! They also qualify for tech positions such as computer programmers.
In the U.S., there is no standard, mandatory entrance exam for gaining admission into a Physics master’s program, though some programs may require you to complete a Graduate Record Examination (GRE). If the GRE is needed, your program may either require a general exam, or a GRE specific to the subject of physics. Some programs may require you to meet a certain scoring threshold while others may merely require that you complete the exam. These requirements will vary from one physics master’s program to the next.
If no GRE is required, the primary requirement for gaining eligibility into a physics master’s program is completion of a bachelor’s degree from a properly accredited undergraduate school. While programmatic accreditation is not specifically required in this field, most regionally-accredited graduate schools will require that your bachelor’s degree be granted by a regionally-accredited college or university. It’s also worth noting that if you plan to parlay your physics master’s degree into a career as a Professional Engineer (PE), your undergraduate and graduate degree must have been earned from a program which has been accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET).
Some colleges may offer bundled bachelor’s and master’s degree programs, where you could earn your advanced degree in one continuous five-year program. This option could save you time and money if you already know that you’ll be pursuing your advanced degree. However, the accelerated pace of such a program may make this a challenging way to earn both degrees. Find out if your school offers this bundling option and ask about eligibility requirements. But be sure you’re up to the added challenge!
For any additional questions about eligibility, refer to your intended program and learn more about application requirements and any additional requirements such as work experience, academic performance thresholds, and referrals.
If you’re still working on building your qualifications, check out our look at the criminal justice major to find out how you can get an undergraduate degree in physics.Back to Top
As with most disciplines, the exact name of your physics master’s degree program may vary from one school to another. At the master’s level, variations include the traditional distinction between master of science (MS) programs and master of arts (MA) programs, with the latter adding humanities and philosophy courses to the core and specialization programs which typically comprise the former. Applied sciences degrees are also commonplace in physics, and heighten the focus on practical and professional skills.
Physics master’s degrees come in a wide range of specializations. You will likely already have honed in on a concentration as part of your undergraduate studies, and perhaps you’ve accumulated some professional experience in the field. Your concentration as a master of physics will depend largely on your professional goals. Top physics specializations include:
Your specialization will determine many of the courses you’ll take as a Physics major. Likewise, you will be required to take a number of requisite courses on foundational topics such as mechanics and laboratory research. Other common courses may include:
Professionals with advanced degrees in physics are in high demand for a wide range of well-paying jobs. Many roles in the field are extremely specialized, which means that you could be on track for strong earning potential after completing a master’s degree in physics program. According to the BLS, a master’s degree in physics could put you on pace to become a Computer and Information Research Scientist (Median Pay, 2019-$122,840), Mathematician/Statistician(Median Pay, 2019-$92,030), or Physicist (Median Pay, 2019-$122,220).Back to Top
Mastering in physics opens up a diverse array of exciting and well-paying careers in science, technology and medicine. Your physics major can lead to a wide range of professional opportunities, including these top jobs:
Now that you know how to earn your master’s degree, check out The Most Influential Schools in Physics:
Check out the full list here and get started on your path to a physics master’s degree.
And if you’re still shopping for the right college, be sure to bookmark our Resources on critical issues like Accreditation, Scholarships, Financial Aid, and more!