# Programs Any good online physics degrees? Bachelors or Masters

#### m73m95

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.
No no... Ordinarily, I would wholeheartedly agree.

I was actually leaning more towards the Mechanical Engineering degree they offer.... but your argument still applies.

Honestly, I'm not after just "some degree" to change my career path. I didn't pull this out of a hat. Its something I'm not only interested in, but have been practicing on my own for a number of years. I'm all self taught in working with carbon fiber (I'm designing, and plan to build my own autoclave), welding, plastic resin casting, and have fairly decent CAD skills. I've always had an interest in physics, which plays a big part in mechanical engineering.

As I said before, I am in no position to go away to college. I'm to old, and have responsibilities here. Online school is, unless someone might suggest another way, what is best for me right now. With a degree in something I am already decent at, I can have a good career.

#### odinsthunder

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.
I know of several people personally who completed their undergraduate studies with the OU, and are now professional physicists who are certainly not starving. One of whom is now a working astrophysicist with a PhD, a university lecturer and incidently did all of this in his fifties. Another is a young single mother who went on to complete her PhD in condensed solid matter and is now training astronauts on behalf of the European Space Agency. I've also heard of plenty of OU physics graduates being accepted into highly ranked UK universities for postgraduate studies.

I personally started my studies with the OU, and have now accepted a conditional offer with a traditional university as a second year undergraduate, which features a top five ranked physics department.

Not sure I'd recommend the OU to a non-British/EU citizen though. Mainly due to the extra expense and I'm not sure if their local institutions or employers really have an understanding or respect for the OU and its excellent standard of education.

Last edited:

#### m73m95

I know of several people personally who completed their undergraduate studies with the OU, and are now professional physicists who are certainly not starving. One of whom is now a working astrophysicist with a PhD, a university lecturer and incidently did all of this in his fifties. Another is a young single mother who went on to complete her PhD in condensed solid matter and is now training astronauts on behalf of the European Space Agency. I've also heard of plenty of OU physics graduates being accepted into highly ranked UK universities for postgraduate studies.

I personally started my studies with the OU, but have now accepted a conditional offer with a traditional university as a second year undergraduate, which features a top five ranked physics department.

Not sure I'd recommend the OU to a non-British/EU citizen though. Mainly due to the extra expense and I'm not sure if their local institutions or employers really have an understanding or respect for the OU and its excellent standard of education.
On their website, it says the school is recognized in the US as an accredited university. It also says it welcomes students from other countries.

I've sent them an email regarding fees, tuition, and information. We'll see how it goes.

#### odinsthunder

On their website, it says the school is recognized in the US as an accredited university. It also says it welcomes students from other countries.

I've sent them an email regarding fees, tuition, and information. We'll see how it goes.
Just be aware that there will be massive fee increases next year due to government spending cuts. It will cost a UK resident over £15,000 to complete an OU degree from scratch, although student loans will be available. I have no idea how that will affect overseas students, but when considering the current fee structure, I'm sure it'll probably be much worse. If you start this year though, this may not apply to you. See what the OU says I guess....

#### twofish-quant

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.
I don't think so. People that go into physics are often entrepreneurial types, and what the field needs are people that are entrepreneurial to make things better.

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.
It's also simply not a career in which you can get a Ph.D. through the traditional route and expect to get a reasonable job in. That's why physics distance education isn't very well developed. For MBA's, you have enough people that can make enough money to pay for the education which makes MBA's profitable. Physics isn't nearly as profitable.

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'd argue that you should go into the field expecting that you *won't* get a research professorship and the standard career path *won't* work. That's actually a liberating realization.

Once you figure out that *YOU ARE DOOMED* you have to do something creative, and if that creative things means doing something new and original with the internet, good for you.

Also to answer the original question:

Your best bet in the US to try Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State College, or Charter Oak University. These are accredited universities that will let you create an individualized program and I know that TESC will let you create a physics degree.

Also you can try University of New England in Australia and UNISA in South Africa.

I don't know anything about the general quality of the programs other than they aren't scams (which is something that you do have to watch out for in this field).

The other thing is that I'm very interested in this area, so I'd really like to talk to you off-line about what can be done.

#### twofish-quant

Not sure I'd recommend the OU to a non-British/EU citizen though. Mainly due to the extra expense and I'm not sure if their local institutions or employers really have an understanding or respect for the OU and its excellent standard of education.
In the fields that matter, I think they do.

One other thing is that industrial employers are pretty open about distance learning degrees. It has something to do with the fact that very large numbers of people in human resources have gotten their degrees from the University of Phoenix, and most companies have policies that encourage continuing education online. If companies didn't think the degrees were any good, then why would they be paying employees to take them.

#### odinsthunder

In the fields that matter, I think they do.

One other thing is that industrial employers are pretty open about distance learning degrees. It has something to do with the fact that very large numbers of people in human resources have gotten their degrees from the University of Phoenix, and most companies have policies that encourage continuing education online. If companies didn't think the degrees were any good, then why would they be paying employees to take them.
Fair enough, I was just going by the knee jerk reactions I often see from Americans in regards to distance learning as featured earlier in this thread. I guess that people who are in the know would think quite differently. Although, it wasn't so long ago that the OU failed quite badly trying to introduce their method of education to the US and came up against quite a lot of resistance to the idea, and lost a few million quid in the process.

#### jspenuk

OU is replacing its BSc (Hons) Physical Science degree with BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences degree, where one of the paths ("majors" to use US term) is physics. This is similar to some other UK institutions. For example, when you study physics at University of Oxford, you also get awarded a Natural Sciences degree.
The physics “major” is described here:
Be warned though, studying with the OU can be a tough going. They have a reputation in the UK for top quality (a lot of universities here use OU textbooks). The "S207 Physical world" course mentioned earlier has a 40% drop out rate, and that's before the folk even had a chance to get as far as the exam. And this is a Level 2 course (the easiest, introductory course).
I studied at various universities. For instance, I did a few postgraduate modules (for credit) at the University of Oxford (Software Engineering) for professional development (I work as software “engineer”) and I can tell you I found the OU the best by a mile. I think Americans just do not "get" what the OU is. The OU is the biggest university in Europe, not just the UK! Most of them probably think it is something similar to University of Phoenix or such (it is not). OU science programs are a regular feature on national TV, the BBC. OU’s “Bang goes the theory” program has been suggested a contributing factor to the increased number of students choosing physics in the UK as their major in 2011:
http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-14563766
http://www.open.ac.uk/openlearn/whats-on/ou-on-the-bbc-week?samsredir=1314170566
The OU is also famous here for taking part in space missions. For instance, they took (a major) part in the construction of Beagle 2 space landing spacecraft that formed part of the European Space Agency's 2003 Mars Express mission:
http://beagle2.open.ac.uk/index.htm
Another point worth making is that more and more traditional universities introduce distance learning programs the OU style, where you learn most of the theory at home and attend lectures (in OU called “tutorials”) only every few weeks or so. Like the OU, you still have mandatory residential periods and of course you need to show up for your exams. I would think that more and more students will be getting their degrees in this way.

Last edited:

#### m73m95

I don't think so. People that go into physics are often entrepreneurial types, and what the field needs are people that are entrepreneurial to make things better.

It's also simply not a career in which you can get a Ph.D. through the traditional route and expect to get a reasonable job in. That's why physics distance education isn't very well developed. For MBA's, you have enough people that can make enough money to pay for the education which makes MBA's profitable. Physics isn't nearly as profitable.

I'd argue that you should go into the field expecting that you *won't* get a research professorship and the standard career path *won't* work. That's actually a liberating realization.

Once you figure out that *YOU ARE DOOMED* you have to do something creative, and if that creative things means doing something new and original with the internet, good for you.

Also to answer the original question:

Your best bet in the US to try Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State College, or Charter Oak University. These are accredited universities that will let you create an individualized program and I know that TESC will let you create a physics degree.

Also you can try University of New England in Australia and UNISA in South Africa.

I don't know anything about the general quality of the programs other than they aren't scams (which is something that you do have to watch out for in this field).

The other thing is that I'm very interested in this area, so I'd really like to talk to you off-line about what can be done.
Thank you, thank you.

#### twofish-quant

Thank you, thank you.
Also, you should get the guides from John Bear. One thing that you should be aware of is that online degrees is one area in which there is (unfortunately) a large amount of scams and outright fraud.

The universities that I mentioned are legitimate so you will get an proper accredited degree from them, but I have no information about quality beyond that, and I'd be very interested in people that have tried to go through the programs to see what they think.

Also the field of online physics degrees is something that I'd like to help develop. It's both exciting and frustrating because all of the pieces are there. It's just that no one has put them all together...... yet......

One of the missing pieces is that really important is the "inspiration" and "motivation" part of the equation. Education is more about books, it helps a lot to have teachers that inspire and motivate you do to things, and that's something that is one of the key missing pieces here.

#### m73m95

Also, you should get the guides from John Bear. One thing that you should be aware of is that online degrees is one area in which there is (unfortunately) a large amount of scams and outright fraud.

The universities that I mentioned are legitimate so you will get an proper accredited degree from them, but I have no information about quality beyond that, and I'd be very interested in people that have tried to go through the programs to see what they think.

Also the field of online physics degrees is something that I'd like to help develop. It's both exciting and frustrating because all of the pieces are there. It's just that no one has put them all together...... yet......

One of the missing pieces is that really important is the "inspiration" and "motivation" part of the equation. Education is more about books, it helps a lot to have teachers that inspire and motivate you do to things, and that's something that is one of the key missing pieces here.

I'm sorry, I don't have the time for a proper reply right now, so I'll edit this later.

Anyway... I couldn't agree more about the problems with finding a reputable online school/program. I was getting very frustrated, until I saw the link for OU. Just a very small amount of research shows that not only is it a reputable school, but its also a very good school. The only problem (hopefully the ONLY problem) is that its not in the US.

Other schools either seem to only want your tuition. The "counselors" that call ask, within the first 2min of the conversation, When I would like to sign up, and how I will be paying. Seems to me that there would be a fair bit of actually talking about the school, the program, etc etc etc, before the "When will you be signing up" question. It makes me, almost immediately, lose interest in them as a school I would like to attend. So far I have been contacted by 3 schools, and they are all very pushy. The girl from Penn Foster calls me 3 or 4 times a DAY!

#### twofish-quant

Other schools either seem to only want your tuition. The "counselors" that call ask, within the first 2min of the conversation, When I would like to sign up, and how I will be paying.
Yup, and if you look at how things are organized the counselors are usually essentially used car salesmen. They don't have much in skills, and get paid commission to read from a script. They are interested in getting you to sign on the dotted line because that is how they make money.

If you look on the web, there is a lot of talk about how student loans are going to be the next big financial disaster.

So far I have been contacted by 3 schools, and they are all very pushy. The girl from Penn Foster calls me 3 or 4 times a DAY!
One thing that is a little scary is to see how much those schools spend on admissions counselors and how much they spend on instruction.

Let me tell you what doesn't make sense to me.....

When I taught at University of Phoenix, I made $1000/month. You have ten students that pay$1000/month, which means that $10000/month goes into the system. If you look at the annual report for UoP you see where that money goes, and a lot of it goes into sales and marketing. The logical thing for me to do is to get rid of the middleman. It would be nice if I could charge$500/month get ten students, so with 20% overhead, I end up with \$4000/month income teaching the same thing that I did at UoP. The problem is that UoP can issue accredited degrees, whereas if someone takes an Algebra I class from me, there is no obvious way that they can get a piece of paper that they can then turn into cash.

I'm not sure how to get around this problem, but some time in the next five to ten years, someone will figure out how to get around this in a big way.

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/25/education/25future.html

#### kishaw33

The University of Washington in Seattle has a part-time evening program that allow you to obtain a M.S. in Physics. Although its not an online program it is one of the first to offer a p/t evening program for working adults. http://www.phys.washington.edu/emsp.htm

### Physics Forums Values

We Value Quality
• Topics based on mainstream science
• Proper English grammar and spelling
We Value Civility
• Positive and compassionate attitudes
• Patience while debating
We Value Productivity
• Disciplined to remain on-topic
• Recognition of own weaknesses
• Solo and co-op problem solving