Can you earn a Physics degree while in the military?

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I was wondering if one could earn a Physics degree while on active duty. I was thinking about joining the Air Force.
 

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  • #2
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Its seems that you can although it will be quite arduous unless you are selected for some special program.

Here's a discussion thread of people talking about their experiences circa 2010:

http://www.city-data.com/forum/military-life-issues/955594-getting-degree-while-active-duty.html

and here's an Army recruitment on this benefit:

http://www.goarmy.com/benefits/educ...ucation/taking-classes-while-in-the-army.html

Be aware that when talking to a recruiter, their goal is to recruit not necessarily counsel you on the best strategies for getting a degree while in the military.

There's also ROTC programs that will allow you to get your degree in exchange for serving in the Air Force:

https://www.afrotc.com/careers

and lastly the US Air Force Academy:

http://www.academyadmissions.com/the-experience/academics/majors/physics-major/
 
  • #3
Dr. Courtney
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If you can get into the Air Force Academy, the Physics Dept there is very good, as is the Math Dept. Highly recommended.

But odds are against most people getting in.

Another great option would be going ROTC and earning a Physics degree at a very good, ROTC friendly school like Texas A&M.

Earning a physics degree while actively serving is very challenging, if not impossible, both because of your service duties and the lack of any distance learning undergrad Physics programs in the US. Somehow, I doubt the US military would pay for a distance learning program in the UK's Open University, but you could ask.
 
  • #4
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Thanks for the respond guys, I've been busy. I had no clue this was already discussed. The thing is I'm getting ready to transfer to university in California but also want to join before I'm too old. I figure a military career with a physics education would be good. By the time I finish I'll be around 25.
 
  • #5
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I am thinking about going to the Air Forces and stumbled upon this distance learning university called Open University that offers online Physics undergrad degrees.
 
  • #6
Jonathan Scott
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What do you want to know? You can probably find it on their excellent website. The Open University (OU) is the largest university in the UK and one of the largest in the world.

I am a UK-resident graduate of the Open University, from 1992. That is admittedly some time ago (pre-internet) so I expect a lot has changed in the mean time.

Distance learning requires being able to study effectively on one's own, and of course misses out on the social life associated with normal universities. It will usually take significantly longer to get a degree than it would take with full-time study, although that depends on how many courses you do at the same time.

In my case, I had previously dropped out of a Computing Science course at Imperial College in 1976 to take an interesting (and well-paid) full-time software development job, but some years later I was looking for another job and found I was ineligible because of a lack of a degree. I already knew a lot about mathematics and physics, so I studied with the Open University in my spare time primarily to get a degree, although I did learn some interesting new stuff in the process.

My degree was a BA (Hons) equivalent to four years of study of which a certain amount had to be at least at level 3. I passed all courses "with distinction" giving a 1st class honours result. At the time I graduated, the OU only awarded BA degrees, but as I had selected only general Science, Physics and Mathematics courses, if I had graduated a little more recently I would have been awarded a BSc instead of BA (and even more recently I would have been able to get an honours degree with fewer courses).

I studied with the OU from 1982 to 1992, with a gap for 4 years while I worked in Sweden. I had a full-time job, so most of this was study at home, especially at weekends. You can select which courses to study at a time, up to the approximate equivalent of full-time study. Most years I selected the maximum amount, although several times a popular course was oversubscribed (especially those that required experiment kits or summer schools) and I had to leave it for a later year. However, I was already very familiar with the relevant subjects from studying them informally, otherwise it would have been very hard work getting through all of the material in the available time.

Some courses at the time involved receiving experiment kits by post, which couldn't be sent to Sweden, which is why I had to suspend my studies at the time. Some courses used video and audio (which at the time was broadcast late at night BBC TV or radio, or available on tapes, but would now be on DVDs or CDs) but I rarely took the time to use them, as almost everything necessary was provided in the excellent main course materials (although some advanced courses also referred to specific text books). Course work consisted of "Tutor Marked Assessments" (TMAs) which were sent to my assigned tutor for that course and "Computer Marked Assessments" (CMAs) which were multiple choice, submitted using forms for machine marking. At the time, for some courses I was required to attend a summer school course for lab work (usually one week at some UK university) and final examinations were also scheduled at locations in various major cities, but apart from that I studied only at home. There were some tutorials arranged in various areas for various courses, but after trying a couple early on I decided that they weren't worth the effort, and I never even met most of my later tutors.

Some of the courses were somewhat less challenging than I had hoped, but I was very impressed with the quality and clarity of their course materials and the well-organized course plans. I believe OU course materials are now used by many other universities as well.
 
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  • #7
Dr. Courtney
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The Air Force and other military branches are usually willing to work with their folks doing college through distance learning in the US. Before going down the Open University (UK) route, I would get their confirmation in writing from multiple sources that will not erect roadblocks to a plan to do your distance learning through Open University (UK).
 
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  • #8
Hi Bruce, I'm currently studying the BSc Mathematics & Physics course at the OU, happy to answer any questions you may have. I echo Jonathan's comments about the quality of the OU course materials, and the content of the Maths & Physics course in particular (at least so far as the level 1 material, I start level 2 with my next module).
 
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  • #9
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Hi Bruce, I'm currently studying the BSc Mathematics & Physics course at the OU, happy to answer any questions you may have. I echo Jonathan's comments about the quality of the OU course materials, and the content of the Maths & Physics course in particular (at least so far as the level 1 material, I start level 2 with my next module).
That's good to hear that Open University isn't a scam or a lousy distance learning program, when I first read about it I thought it was too good to be true. Seeing that I've been looking high and low for a accredited online physics degree program in the states at least and haven't found a single one. I know that any serious physics program requires SOME form of lab. The question I have is how does OU compensate for the lack of the in person aspect of learning?
 
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  • #10
ZapperZ
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You should also make sure if there is a requirement for you to attend, in person, any exams given for the courses you take. If there is, think of how realistic and feasible it will be for you to take a few days off from active duty at wherever you are at, and fly off to Europe or the U.K. to sit for the exam.

Zz.
 
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  • #11
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If there is, think of how realistic and feasible it will be for you to take a few days off from active duty at wherever you are at, and fly off to Europe or the U.K. to sit for the exam.

Zz.
Sounds good in theory haha. Only in a perfect life my friend [emoji108]
 
  • #12
ZapperZ
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Sounds good in theory haha. Only in a perfect life my friend [emoji108]
That was why I pointed it out based on Jonathan's response in Post #6. There is no point in you exploring the OU option if there is a requirement that you have to show up somewhere to take an exam.

Zz.
 
  • #13
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That was why I pointed it out based on Jonathan's response in Post #6. There is no point in you exploring the OU option if there is a requirement that you have to show up somewhere to take an exam.

Zz.
Indeed, I have to look more into it by finding more people that attend the school to know for sure.
 
  • #14
That's good to hear that Open University isn't a scam or a lousy distance learning program, when I first read about it I thought it was too good to be true. Seeing that I've been looking high and low for a accredited online physics degree program in the states at least and haven't found a single one. I know that any serious physics program requires SOME form of lab. The question I have is how does OU compensate for the lack of the in person aspect of learning?
The short answer is that it's tough. One of the ways they mitigate the impact of that is by making it maths and physics rather than just straight physics, which reduces slightly the requirements for practical experiment. In the early units there are a number of straight forward experiments that can be done with household items, there are lots of good online simulations that allow you to virtually perform the experiments, and I believe that some of the final year astrophysics modules actually get remote time on the OUs big telescope. But, in the end, it will necessarily have a much less hands-on aspect than a traditional physics degree.
 
  • #15
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I see well that's good to know that there trying to implement a in person aspect into a online program.
 
  • #16
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Why do you want a physics degree? If the answer is to go to physics graduate school, I'd be very wary of programs without labs or with minimal labs. If the answer is to advance your career in the Air Force, that may not be the best choice of major or school, depending on your career path.

One thing that's been only touched on is that junior enlisted have very little free time. This is by design. The military has discovered that young people + free time = trouble, and since they need young people and don't want trouble, the solution is to remove "free time".
 
  • #17
Student100
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The real answer to this question is no if you go in as enlisted. As a vet, not one person I knew in eight years ever earned a degree, in anything.

Unless you apply for and get selected for an enlisted to officer program - which are limited - you aren't going to get a degree worth getting in the US.

The military has agreements for some correspondence work, but it's rarely even worth doing it for GEs. There simply isn't enough time in the day, even when you aren't deployed or in the field.
 
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  • #18
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You may have more options depending on where you're stationed and your job. Some jobs/supervisors will allow you to leave during the day for class and you make up the hours at another time (working late, working through lunch on non-class days, etc.).

Also, all the military branches have education centers whom work with local universities to provide courses on-and-off base during times that are suitable for military members. If you decide to join, once you've learned your job and get to your first duty station, go to the education center and speak with one of their counselors.
 
  • #19
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You may have more options depending on where you're stationed and your job
Right, but by the same token, he may not. I certainly wouldn't want to make a major life decision assuming this.
 
  • #20
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Right, but by the same token, he may not. I certainly wouldn't want to make a major life decision assuming this.
I agree. I just wanted to ensure the OP knew other options were potentially available.

Regardless, I don't think the OP should join the military solely based on the want for a physics degree unless he/she plan to do 4-years then separate to use GI Bill benefits to earn their degree.
 
  • #21
If you want a physics degree while being a part of the armed forces, you've got the right idea with the air force. You have to really want it though, as some career fields have little to no spare time outside of their jobs and we're expected to do a bunch of extra stuff (volunteer work and professional training like leadership classes)... that's if you want to get a good EPR anyway.. i'd say the hardest part about aspiring to a difficult career field in the military is actually the mental battle and trying to find the will power to push through with it.. sacrificing personal time to study and read your subject of interest instead of wasting your time, which after working long shifts constantly, (especially maintenance fields) it's a lot easier said than done. The other part of that battle is you get stuck in a sinkhole, which for me is the hardest thing of all to overcome.. theres no mental stimulation and almost nobody is interested in discussing fields like these. Where you get stationed can also be a pretty big hurdle (im stationed in okinawa and the education options are limited and i'm personally a little intimidated by taking an online course since i learn better in a classroom or around other people where i can physically discuss the subjects and work and ask for help).. the stable job and gi bill make it worthwhile though.. think about it, no college debt once you finish your obligation and a degree to boot? Pretty nice.. also, while your in, the military pays supplements for your books and such.
 
  • #22
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I was wondering if one could earn a Physics degree while on active duty. I was thinking about joining the Air Force.
I did exactly this while in the Navy. I did it through the seaman to admiral program so that school was my full time job for 3 years. I got my degree in physics at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, VA which is where the east coast fleet is stationed. The university was right down the street. So it is conceivable that it could be done at a slower pace while being part of a unit or ship.
 

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