Education

Best Applied Physics Degree Programs of 2022

Learn more about the top Applied Physics programs, what to expect, job prospects, and how to choose the program that’s right for you.

Applied physics is the study of the practical applications of physics. Applied physicists work in a variety of fields, including engineering, medicine, and manufacturing. Applied physics degree programs can prepare students for a variety of careers in applied physics, including research, development, and teaching.

Applied physics degree programs offer a broad overview of physics, covering topics such as mechanics, electricity, and magnetism. Students in applied physics degree programs learn about the different theories and principles of physics, and how to apply those principles to solve real-world problems.

How to Choose the Right Applied Physics Program

When it comes to choosing the right applied physics program, there are a few key factors that prospective students need to keep in mind. The first is the cost of the program. Applied physics programs can be expensive, so it is important to research the tuition rates of the schools you are considering. You should also consider financial aid opportunities, as well as the cost of living in the school’s community.

The second factor to consider is the curriculum of the program. Applied physics programs should offer courses in physics, mathematics, and engineering. You should also make sure that the program you choose has a strong focus on research, as this will be important for your career.

The third factor to consider is the location of the school. Applied physics programs are typically located in cities with a strong research presence. This is important because it will give you access to internships and job opportunities after graduation.

Finally, you should consider the accreditation of the program. Applied physics programs should be accredited by the American Institute of Physics. This accreditation ensures that the program meets the highest standards of quality.

Best Bachelor’s in Applied Physics Programs

The best programs for Applied Physics ranking is based on key statistics and student reviews using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Some of the metrics influencing how the rankings are determined include graduation rate, average salary for graduates, accreditation, retention rate, and cost.

Rank 1
Trinity University
San Antonio, TX

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from Trinity University is a degree that allows students to tailor their coursework to their post-graduation plans. The program curriculum includes the Pathways Curriculum, which provides the foundation in the liberal arts and sciences for all the bachelor’s degrees awarded by Trinity University. Through the Pathways Curriculum, students acquire the necessary skills and disciplinary perspectives to navigate complex questions at Trinity and in their post-graduate lives.

Rank 2
Columbia University
New York, NY

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from Columbia University is designed to give students the skills and knowledge necessary to pursue careers in physics or engineering. The curriculum provides a broad base of fundamental science and mathematics, while also allowing students to specialize in areas of interest through technical electives. Students in the program also have the opportunity to minor in economics and take business-related courses. The applied physics program provides students with the opportunity to participate in research projects with faculty members, and to gain hands-on experience in advanced laboratory courses.

Rank 3
Ouachita Baptist University
Arkadelphia, AR

The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Physics from Ouachita Baptist University is geared toward students who want to study physics within the context of a liberal arts degree. This degree requires 26 hours of physics courses, and provides students with a strong foundation in the core principles of physics. Students who complete this degree will be prepared to continue their education in medical, business, or law school, or to enter the workforce in a variety of industries.

Rank 4
Texas Lutheran University
Seguin, TX

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics degree from Texas Lutheran University is a great choice for students who are curious about how the universe works. The small class sizes and dedicated faculty allow students to thrive and grow as learners. The introductory laboratories are designed to bolster both content knowledge and practical skills. Several advanced labs, including a unique computational methods course sequence, allow students to hone experimental and computational skills. Students are encouraged to participate in faculty mentored independent research early on, and all students are required to complete a senior capstone research project.

Rank 5
New York University
New York, NY

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from New York University is a unique program that allows students to study physics while working alongside engineers. This provides students with the opportunity to learn how to adapt their careers to existing opportunities. The program also encourages students to explore their interests in various fields, such as entrepreneurship, biophysics, or biomedical instrumentation.

Rank 6
Whitworth University
Spokane, WA

The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Physics degree from Whitworth University is a dual degree engineering program that will give students the broad foundation of a liberal arts education, as well as technical training to be successful in a variety of engineering disciplines.

Rank 7
Hamline University
Saint Paul, MN

The Bachelor of Arts in Applied Physics from Hamline University is a flexible program that allows students to choose an emphasis in Energy and Environmental Science, Engineering, or Materials Science. The core major requirements include courses in calculus, physics, and chemistry, as well as a Junior and Senior Seminar. Students develop quantitative and problem-solving skills through a combination of coursework and laboratory experience.

Rank 8
Georgia Institute of Technology
Atlanta, GA

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics degree from Georgia Institute of Technology is a technology-focused program that provides students with a strong foundation in the physical sciences and mathematics. The program is flexible, allowing students to tailor their degree to their individual career goals. The Atlanta location is ideal for students interested in working in the tech industry, as the city is home to many large tech companies.

Rank 9
St. Mary’s University
San Antonio, TX

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics from St. Mary’s University is a 120-hour program that prepares students for careers in physics and related fields. The program provides a solid foundation in physics principles and applications, as well as training in mathematics and computer science. Students can choose to concentrate their studies in computer science, engineering, or environmental science.

Rank 10
Indiana University-Bloomington
Bloomington, IN

The Bachelor of Science in Applied Physics at Indiana University-Bloomington provides a flexible curriculum that can be tailored to students vocational goals. The plan emphasizes hands-on instruction such as instrumentation laboratory courses that provide students with experience using industry-standard tools.

Faculty members are known nationally or internationally for their work. All physics classes, including discussion sections in the introductory courses for physics majors, are taught by professors.

What to Expect From a Bachelor’s in Applied Physics Program

Applied physics programs at the bachelor’s level are designed for students who want to apply their physics knowledge to real-world problems. The coursework emphasizes the application of physics principles to solve problems in areas like engineering, medicine, and research. Students take classes in topics like mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, and optics. Most programs also require students to complete a capstone project or internship.

Applied physics programs typically do not require any in-person attendance or residency. The programs are generally flexible and cater to working students. However, the coursework can be challenging, and students need to be able to handle advanced math and physics concepts.

Common Applied Physics Courses

The courses necessary for a degree in applied physics will vary depending on the school and program. However, there are some courses that are commonly found in applied physics programs. The following is a list of five such courses.

Electricity & Magnetism

This course covers the topics of electricity and magnetism. Topics include Coulomb’s law, electric fields and potentials, capacitance, current and resistance, direct-current circuits, magnetic fields, sources of magnetic fields, and inductance. Emphasis is placed on the application of the laws of electricity and magnetism to engineering problems. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the laws of electricity and magnetism to engineering problems.

Physics

This course is a study of the basic principles of physics and their application to the world around us. Topics include mechanics, heat, waves, electricity, magnetism, light, atomic, and nuclear physics. The laboratory work is an integral part of the course and reinforces the concepts presented in the lectures. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of physics to solve problems and understand the physical world.

Calculus

This course covers limits, continuity, derivatives, integrals, and infinite series of functions of one variable. Vectors and vector-valued functions are introduced. Applications are included throughout the course. Upon completion, students should be able to find limits, derivatives, and integrals of functions and use them to solve problems.

Materials Science

This course covers the structure and properties of materials, including metals, semiconductors, ceramics, polymers, and composites. Topics include crystal structures, defects, phase diagrams, diffusion, mechanical properties, electrical, magnetic, and optical properties. Emphasis is placed on the relationship between structure and properties, and the processing-structure-property relationships in engineering materials. Upon completion, students should be able to apply the principles of materials science to the selection and design of materials for engineering applications.

Laboratory Methods

This course covers the physics of measurement with an emphasis on the statistical nature of measurement. The course includes an introduction to the International System of Units (SI), proper use of significant figures and scientific notation, and an introduction to basic statistical methods. The laboratory component of the course emphasizes the proper use of laboratory equipment and the analysis and presentation of data. Experiments are designed to acquaint students with the physics of measurement and the proper use of statistical methods. Upon completion, students should be able to properly use laboratory equipment and techniques, understand the physics of measurement, and use statistical methods to analyze and present data.

Career Options for Applied Physics Graduates

Graduates of applied physics programs work in a variety of industries, including engineering, manufacturing, and research and development. They may also work in fields such as sales and marketing, or in government or academia.

Field Service Engineer

Field service engineers are the people who install, maintain, and repair equipment and machinery. They work in a wide variety of industries, including healthcare, manufacturing, and food and beverage processing. Field service engineers often work for companies that make and sell the equipment they service, but they can also be employed by third-party service organizations. No matter where they work, field service engineers typically travel to customer sites to do their job. That means they need to be able to troubleshoot problems quickly and efficiently and have a deep understanding of how the equipment they work on works.

Process Engineer

Process engineers are responsible for developing, improving, and overseeing the production process for a company’s products or services. They work to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve quality. Process engineers typically have a background in engineering, although some come from a business or management background. The job can involve a lot of problem-solving and troubleshooting, as well as working with other departments, such as research and development, to create new processes.

Quality Engineer

Quality engineers work to ensure that the products or services a company provides meet the necessary standards. To do this, they may develop quality assurance plans, conduct audits, create testing procedures, and oversee the implementation of quality control programs. Quality engineers typically work in manufacturing or other production-based industries, but they can also be found in service-based industries, such as healthcare, retail, and software development.

Research and Development Engineer

Research and development engineers work on designing and developing new products and technologies. They conduct feasibility studies, create prototypes, test products, and work with a team of other engineers to bring a product to market. R&D engineers often specialize in a particular type of engineering, such as mechanical, electrical, or software engineering.

Research Scientist

Research scientists conduct studies and experiments to increase our understanding of the world around us. They work in a variety of settings, including academic institutions, government agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. The specific tasks of a research scientist can vary depending on the employer, but they typically involve designing and conducting experiments, analyzing data, writing reports and papers, and presenting findings to colleagues and clients. Research scientists typically specialize in a particular area of science, such as biology, chemistry, or physics.

Insights From an Applied Physics Graduate

Ronald Payne is a Senior Engineer at Raytheon. He has a bachelor’s degree in applied physics from the University of California, Los Angeles. Ronald has over 25 years of experience in engineering and management.

ClimbtheLadder: What were the biggest takeaway(s) you got from your Applied Physics program that you may not have gotten otherwise?

Ronald Payne: One of the biggest takeaways I got from my applied physics program was the ability to think critically and solve problems. Physics is all about solving problems, and I was able to transfer those skills to my career in engineering. I was also able to take those problem-solving skills and apply them to other areas of my life.

ClimbtheLadder: What should students interested in Applied Physics be good at?

Ronald Payne: Students interested in applied physics should be good at critical thinking, problem solving, and math. They should also be able to work independently and be self-motivated.

ClimbtheLadder: What misconception(s) do people have about an Applied Physics degree, and what would you tell them?

Ronald Payne: I think the biggest misconception is that an applied physics degree is only good for engineering or other technical jobs. While it’s true that an applied physics degree provides a great foundation for many technical careers, the skills you learn in an applied physics program are actually useful in a wide range of fields.

For example, applied physics teaches you how to think critically and solve problems. These skills are valuable in any field, from business to law to medicine. So, if you’re considering an applied physics degree, don’t limit yourself to only technical careers.

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