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Top Colleges for Physics

by Suzy Kerr

Physics may be classified as a basic science, but this course of study and the potential career opportunities are anything but basic. With a degree in physics, you can pursue a diverse range of professions, from engineering to astronomy to health sciences and many more. Whether you’re seeking your bachelor’s or master’s degree in the subject, you can plan on a rigorous program of study that requires critical analysis, problem solving and intense research while you explore matter, energy and how they interact with one another. While many colleges have a physics department, some are exceptional in their quality of education, faculty experience and preparation of students for work in the field.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The Physics Department at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has the top-ranked physics program in the world. Undergraduate students can select between a focused option for students who plan on working in physics, or a flexible course of study for those that desire a physics background but don’t intend to pursue a master’s in physics or work directly in the field. The graduate program at MIT results in a master’s or doctorate, with students collaborating with faculty on research project and developing their thesis.

Harvard University

Harvard University’s Department of Physics is one of the most prestigious in the world and is noted for its Nobel Prize-winning faculty members and for having the oldest physics lab in the country. The undergraduate program is very flexible, offering concentrated study to students wishing to pursue their master’s in the subject, and other options for those that go on to study medicine or law. Undergrads are also encouraged to take an independent research course to pursue their own physics interests under the guidance of faculty members. Graduate students explore physics more in depth, with courses in electromagnetism, quantum theory and others.

Stanford University

Since the late 1800s, Stanford has offered one of the best physics programs, producing a number of award-winning faculty members and students. Undergraduate students can elect to major in physics, engineering physics or teaching physical science, with minors in either physics or astronomy. The graduate program involves formal coursework, a thesis and an oral presentation to the PhD committee. Stanford also offers research opportunities in the areas of particle physics and astrophysics, gravitational waves and relativity, among others.

University of Oxford

Oxford has one of the largest physics departments in the world, with both faculty and students engaged in cutting edge research that includes studies of dark matter, climate physics, laser science and other projects that have a global impact. Undergraduates and post-graduates embark on a challenging course of study that includes classes in condensed matter, theoretical physics and more. Oxford also has several outreach project, both for schools and the public, to promote physics education in the community.

University of Cambridge

The University of Cambridge is home to the Cavendish Laboratory, where students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees. Students at Cambridge can expect a rigorous curriculum with numerous opportunities for independent and group research. In fact, the university has 15 distinct research groups, with teams of researchers and faculty members studying a variety of physics-related issues. One of the most recently added areas of research is the study of physics in relation to sustainability. Here, students and staff can explore different ways that physics can be used to meet demand of environmental resources.

About the Author

Suzy Kerr graduated from Grady School of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Georgia. She completed her Master's degree in Nutrition Sciences, also at the University of Georgia. Suzy has been a successful health, fitness and nutrition writer for more than 10 years, and has been published in various print and online publications.

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