Is an Online Degree in Physics Right for Me?

In summary, the new job will require me to work all day, and it's difficult to find time to take classes in physics to get a degree in physics.
  • #1
gdrocella
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I currently have a degree in computer science and minor in math, and I am about to start a new job doing web development. I have started my own personal project building a physics engine in C++ and OpenGL. It is a lot of fun doing applied maths. I would like to get a degree in physics. The problem is that I will be working all day, and physics classes and labs at a near by university seem to happen morning and mid day.

The masters program seems to have classes at night, which would work, but I only took one calculus based physics course.

Does anyone have any suggestions on great online degree programs for physics? Also, I would like to ensure that the degree is extremely thorough. Since I have a degree in computer science, should I go straight for a Masters Program in Physics instead?
 
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  • #2
The Open University in the UK was one of the pioneers in online degrees, and by now there are many good options. If you had only one real physics course, there's no way you should apply to a Master program. You will be non-competitive at admissions, and lost once classes begin. Don't underestimate the difficulty of junior-level mechanics, E&M, quantum mechanics and stat mech. You might feel comfortable skipping the first year of physics, and your math minor may stand you in good stead. (You'll need ODE and PDE, complex variables, and linear algebra). You can gauge your level by looking at textbooks in the university library for the courses you are considering.
 
  • #3
The only online physics bachelor's degree program that I've ever seen mentioned here (that I can remember) is the one at the Open University in the UK.

The biggest hurdle to a full physics degree is probably the need for laboratory work. It's possible to teach an introductory physics course online using pre-packaged laboratory kits shipped to the student. The college where I retired from offers such a course during the summer, but it's an algebra/trig based course for non-majors, not a calculus-based course for physics majors. However, every physics bachelor's program that I know about also has courses above the introductory level with labs, plus directed and independent laboratory work (senior thesis, capstone project, etc.)

The Open University has a physical center for laboratories etc., in the UK of course, according to a post that I've seen here. I don't know of any program in the US that has something similar.
 
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  • #4
Excellent point. I forgot about lab work.
 
  • #5
I have browsed the curriculum for physics at the Open University at the UK, and the topics they cover seem pretty thorough. Open University hasn't really gone into detail about labs. It looks like they have some classes that are all about experiments though, which are the following: Remote experiments in physics and space (SXPS288) and Science project course: radiation and matter (SXP390) I am sure that it will be important to do more experiments then just that though.

If they don't have a rigorous lab program, then would it be beneficial to google for labs to complete on my own?
 
  • #6
I found this on the Academia Stack Exchange: https://academia.stackexchange.com/questions/85947/flexibility-or-lack-of-at-the-open-university. I did kind of think it was weird that they have only two math modules at stage 1, which lumps "all" the math needed for physics. They don't even have calc 1,2,3. It's just calculus and further calculus. I also think it's strange that a physics module covers everything from classical mechanics to electromagnetism to quantum mechanics. Is this thorough? or does it just lightly touch each topic?

Anyone know of any other physics degrees online, preferably in America?
 
  • #7
It's hard to be sure of a negative, but I've looked hard and come up empty with respect to accredited online physics degrees in the US. I'm not sure the labs are the real show stopper, as I can see several ways to deliver quality labs for the upper level courses much more cost effectively than in person attendance.

I think the real reason there are no online Physics degree programs in the US is simply supply and demand. There is a critical mass of students for most degree programs, and the accredited programs just don't see it as likely that an online offering would attract enough students.

There are hardly even any online math courses beyond Calculus and hardly any Physics courses online beyond the intro sequence. Putting all the advanced math and physics courses online for an entire BS Physics program simply has very low prospects for return on the initial investment and return on the costs to keep it running each semester.
 
  • #8
gdrocella said:
I currently have a degree in computer science and minor in math, and I am about to start a new job doing web development. I have started my own personal project building a physics engine in C++ and OpenGL. It is a lot of fun doing applied maths. I would like to get a degree in physics. The problem is that I will be working all day, and physics classes and labs at a near by university seem to happen morning and mid day.

The masters program seems to have classes at night, which would work, but I only took one calculus based physics course.

Does anyone have any suggestions on great online degree programs for physics? Also, I would like to ensure that the degree is extremely thorough. Since I have a degree in computer science, should I go straight for a Masters Program in Physics instead?
It depends on what you’re looking for. Texas A&M has an online MS in Physics geared towards teachers. That’s the only one I’ve seen.

ETA: This seems more like a BS program “on steroids” than a true master’s program.

http://www.tamuc.edu/academics/coll...y/graduatePrograms/msPhysicsForEducators.aspx
 
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  • #9
John Hopkins has an online degree for a MS in Applied Physics. Courses are not cheap, but it looks like there are also good EE courses to choose from as electives. Their online degrees are well respected in U.S. industry.
 
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  • #10
WHOOHM said:
John Hopkins has an online degree for a MS in Applied Physics. Courses are not cheap, but it looks like there are also good EE courses to choose from as electives. Their online degrees are well respected in U.S. industry.
How do they do their labs?
 
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  • #11
I assume everything is done on computers or through homework assignments since the courses are online. Probably no labs like a traditional physics curriculum. I think someone could argue that those taking the courses online are already employed in industry and likely getting adequate hands-on experience through their work. Probably not a great program for someone looking to go into AMO or condensed matter experimental research.
 
  • #12
WHOOHM said:
I assume everything is done on computers or through homework assignments since the courses are online. Probably no labs like a traditional physics curriculum. I think someone could argue that those taking the courses online are already employed in industry and likely getting adequate hands-on experience through their work. Probably not a great program for someone looking to go into AMO or condensed matter experimental research.
See the passage in bold? How will that be either certified or verified? Also, to which specified requirements?
 
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  • #13
symbolipoint - you could look the program up online and contact them with your questions. I provided a link in the post above.
 
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Related to Is an Online Degree in Physics Right for Me?

1. What are the benefits of pursuing an online degree in physics?

There are several benefits to pursuing an online degree in physics. One of the main benefits is flexibility, as online programs allow students to complete coursework at their own pace and on their own schedule. Additionally, online degrees often have lower tuition costs and eliminate the need for students to relocate for their studies.

2. How do online physics degrees compare to traditional degrees?

Online physics degrees are generally comparable to traditional degrees in terms of curriculum and academic rigor. Many online programs are offered by reputable universities and follow the same standards as their on-campus counterparts. However, it is important to research the specific program and ensure it is accredited.

3. What skills and qualifications are necessary for success in an online physics degree program?

To succeed in an online physics degree program, students should have a strong foundation in math and science, as well as good time management and self-discipline. They should also have access to a reliable internet connection and be comfortable using technology for coursework and communication with instructors.

4. Can I pursue a career in physics with an online degree?

Yes, an online degree in physics can lead to a variety of career opportunities, including research positions, teaching positions, and roles in industries such as aerospace, engineering, and healthcare. It is important to research the specific requirements for your desired career path and ensure that your online degree will meet those requirements.

5. What are the potential drawbacks of pursuing an online degree in physics?

Some potential drawbacks of pursuing an online degree in physics include limited opportunities for hands-on laboratory experience and less face-to-face interaction with instructors and peers. Additionally, some employers may still view online degrees as less valuable than traditional degrees, although this perception is changing as online education becomes more prevalent and reputable.

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