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Any good online physics degrees? Bachelors or Masters

  1. Jun 6, 2009 #1
    I am currently a law student and intend to eventually practice ‘patent’ law, however law students are not permitted to sit for the patent law bar exam unless they have an academic background in one of the core sciences. There are specific degrees (or classes) which fulfill this prerequisite. A bachelors or masters in Physics will suffice, or a minimum of 24 semester hours in physics for physics majors.

    I have no undergraduate background in physics, but would like to complete 24 semester hours in an 'on-line' bachelors or masters program from an accredited on-line program (if one exists.)

    I am not having much luck finding anything that meets my needs. There is a on-line masters program in Beam physics at Michigan State University, but I don't think i want to focus on something so specific. Does anyone have any knowledge of any other accredited on-line programs in physics?

    Thanks so much!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 6, 2009 #2
    Do you primarily need the credits or the courses? That is, are you able to take credit-by-exam tests?
  4. Jun 6, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the post. Here's how the requirements read:

    "...an applicant can satisfy one of the four options, other training, or other education listed below. The applicant must submit the necessary documentation and objective evidence showing satisfaction of one of the options or other means of qualifying.

    Option 1: 24 semester hours in physics. Only physics courses for physics majors will be
    accepted. "

    Therefore, as long as I have a transcript showing 24 semester hours in physics (for majors) from an accredited university, then my requirements would be met. Are there some exams that will count as credits at some universities?

    My thinking was that most masters programs are about 30 semester hours. And if i was going to take 24 semester hours, I may as well get a masters degree while i'm at it.
  5. Jun 6, 2009 #4


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    How do you intend to enroll in a masters degree in physics, when you don't even have not only a physics degree, but it appears that you've never even taken any substantial physics courses? Pick up a textbook such as Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics. You are expected, as a Masters degree candidate, to start working through such a textbook.

  6. Jun 6, 2009 #5
    I would have thought an understanding of an engineering field would be better than science. Considering alots of patents are engineering abstractions. Also from job advertisements and from what I have heard about patent lawyers. They also require the ability to read technical drawings and some form of a technical background/experience.

    Doing any sort of external or online degree/courses is stupid. It will not benefit you nor be worth your time. How do you intend to complete any practicals online?
  7. Jun 7, 2009 #6
    Although my academic background is primarily business and education (non-technical), i do have a 'professional' technical background. Specifically, I spent 15 years as a software engineer.

    It's true that an engineering degree is probably the best undergraduate degree to have in the field of patent law, but there are many other degrees that qualify and are equally valid. For example, biology, chemistry, botany, food technology, marine technology, pharmacology, etc-- all qualify. However, the science that interests me the most, and that I would be able to fulfill the credit hours the quickest is in physic. There's also no predicting what type of patent work someone will need, historically patents were more 'mechanical' in nature. Today, their are more and more which are based in 'software' (which is my professional background). I have no doubt in my ability to be a good a good patent attorney even without a formal science degree-- i just need to fulfill the prerequisites of taking the bar exam.
  8. Jun 7, 2009 #7
    It sounds as if you need a "real" degree in Physics rather than a BS with a concentration in Physics. Online, or distance degrees, are often perceived as being less valuable than resident degrees and that might pose a problem if you were going to apply to a good graduate school; however, for your purposes there should be no problem. An MS is almost out of the question without the undergrad preparation; your software engineering courses will not prepare you. ZapperZ's comment about Jackson is spot on.

    A good source for information is Bear's Guide to College Degrees by Mail & Internet from Ten Speed Press (Many large bookstores also carry this). You should also look at the Georgia Tech site (I know they offer an MS, but I don't know about the BS) and the University of North Dakota. Check Thomas Edison State College (Be careful here; there is a diploma mill with almost the same name) to see if their degree is an actual structured one rather than a concentration one.

    Finally, a word of caution. If you are not an experienced self-directed learner, distance education is difficult. Many (perhaps most?) people who attempt this end up dropping out.
  9. Jun 7, 2009 #8


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    Then you should consider enrolling in several undergraduate physics classes, beginning with intro physics. It is inconceivable that you actually were thinking of doing a Masters program in physics when you lack the basic foundation in undergraduate physics.

  10. Jun 30, 2009 #9
    Hi guys

    I'm new in the forum and am looking for some advice in order to start an online Bachelor's degree in physics. I do not intend to become a professional physicist at this stage of my life but just getting a deeper knowledge of what's always been my passion. I already have a career somehow related to physics and also some experience on the online learning so I guess that's better than nothing.
    I've been looking at the program the Open University (UK) offers and seems interesting to me... any comments?

    Thanks very much!
  11. Jun 30, 2009 #10
    I have never heard of an online degree in physics and I should hope there are no masters degrees online. In physics, for a masters, one is actually expected to do research and contribute to the body of science. Also, to be honest, I would say a physics degree is one of the worst picks as a lark. Physics is very difficult and for people who take 4 years out of their lives to focus entirely on it for an undergrad many of them don't make it past first year. It would be even more difficult to do it ad hoc. That being said; assuming your software engineering degree was from a reasonably prestigious unviersity you should already have a strongish math background (usually SE's do calculus 1-3 and DE's plus combinatorics and such, at least at my undergrad uni) so that should definetly give you a leg up.
  12. Jun 30, 2009 #11

    If all you're after is a 'deeper knowledge', do you really need a degree? just borrow some textbooks, or try

  13. Jul 1, 2009 #12
    Hi boboYO,

    thanks for your comment, great site indeed! and as a matter of fact you are quite right, I thought of a degree as a way to force myself in terms of timeframe and discipline when studying, not to get a title or a paper stating what I know.

    However I am still interested in any further advice about online degrees, specially the one offered by OU UK. I'm currently working full time but due to the nature of my job I have plenty of time that I'd like to dedicate to enhance my knowledge.

    Thanks again!
  14. Jul 6, 2009 #13
    The OU isn't strictly an online university, although you'll have access to tutors and other material online. You will receive books etc at the start of the course and there will be written and marked assignments throughout. This will be followed by a three hour written exam in that subject under strict test conditions so no multi-choice computer stuff for you my boy.

    If you're working and can't attend a regular Uni then this is a good alternative. Be aware though, you have to have uber committment and drive to stick with it through all your other work. Full-time Uni students work exclusively on their study material (in theory).
  15. Jul 6, 2009 #14
    i love that jackson is what people threaten wanna be physics majors with. jackson isn't scary.
  16. Aug 4, 2010 #15
    Hello guys, I am new to this thread. Can anyone please guide me regarding what are the colleges and universities that provide online undergraduate courses in physics. I have 3 queries:

    1)where can a find a list of college or universities that provide online bachelors in physics?

    2)Are the degrees earned by such mode accredited?

    3) Will I able to pursue a career in physics research after this?
  17. Aug 4, 2010 #16
    Why does nobody just use google? I can't understand. A quick google search will yield results and you can determine whether or not a physics degree online is even viable.
  18. Aug 4, 2010 #17
    Here, let me give advice that should apply to 60% of the posts in this subsection:

    1. No, you cannot and should not get a BS in physics online or through distance learning.

    2. No, psychology/crop sciences/English/underwater basket weaving is not enough to prepare you to jump into a master's degree in physics.

    3. It is unlikely that you will be a string theorist if you suck at math and have yet to take precalculus. Learn calculus first and take an 'intro to physics course' then come back.

    4. Physics is one hell of a field to pick for fun. Reading a popular science book about physics, wanting to be an [insert current fad] theorist, or harboring the idea that you can get anywhere in the field without significant amounts of math are also bad reasons to embark on this degree.

    Granted, some of this may be controversial but I am sick and tired of seeing, both online and in real life, the idea that this is in any way, shape, or form an easy field that does not demand gobs of time and sacrifice.
  19. Apr 9, 2011 #18
    You can't design an aircraft online. You can't perform experiments online. You can't gain leadership skills through teamwork online. You can't gain experience from professors in the field online. You can't gain a true scientific insight online.

    However, you can become a professional multiple choice test taker. I don't know of anyone who employs or even admits those guys into their engineering/physics departments.
  20. Apr 9, 2011 #19


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    The phrase "online physics* degree" sounds like a bad joke...

    *or engineering, etc.
  21. Apr 9, 2011 #20


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    Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, and wrong. What do you think that real professional engineers who work in multinational companies and collaborations do every day?

    But you are almost certainly right that you can't LEARN to do any of those things from an online course and nothing else.
  22. Apr 11, 2011 #21
    You *can* (just about...) get a BS in physics through distance learning, with the Open University:

    http://www.open.ac.uk/science/physics/courses-and-qualifications/courses-and-qualifications.php? [Broken]

    They actually call it a BSc in physical science.

    As the OP just needs 26 hours he might get away with doing just one course - like "S207 The physical world"...

    The slagging off of distance learning in this thread perhaps reflects a vast cultural difference between the UK and the USA. In the UK the Open University is as highly respected as any other "top thirty" University. But in the US distance education has a bad name ...
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  23. Apr 11, 2011 #22
    Yes you can. I managed to do a large amount of the work to get my Ph.D. online. My dissertation advisor was in the other side of the country while I was getting my Ph.D. Also, when I ran simulations using the supercomputer, I was connecting to it via the internet.

    Any non-trivial job today has a large online component. I've got another window open with my e-mail inbox, and lots of chat windows open with people that are in various parts of the world.

    I'd argue that you *can't* get a decent degree today *without* some sort of online component.
  24. Aug 22, 2011 #23
    That is brilliant!

    Thank you very much for the link! I was "settled" in life, until I lost my job 3 years ago. Having a home, wife and kids, I couldn't just go off to some university somewhere to learn different skills to change careers. OU seems like a great place to get an online education. Most online degree programs I've come across don't impress me too much, so I had almost given up hope until I saw the link for OU.

    First day on a new forum, and its already paid off!
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  25. Aug 22, 2011 #24
    Are there even physics online degrees? I couldn't see how one can do the labs required for a physics degree. Even if there was a program that didn't require labs, I wouldn't go through it seeing as you will be hurting yourself.
  26. Aug 22, 2011 #25
    I hate to say it but studying physics through distance learning in the hopes of getting any but the lowest, dead-end job in the field is false hope. This is simply not a career like criminal justice that you can take through a community college and expect to get a reasonable job in. I would argue that physics grad school and trying to be a physicist are harder than going to med school and being a doctor and equivalently competitive. I applaud your interest and I wish you only the best, but do a LOT more research if you want to pursue a physics career.
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