FAQ: Is Physics a Good Major?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published September 29, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Physics is a scientific discipline that focuses on the structure of the universe. Within a physics degree program, you can learn a variety of hard and soft skills to prepare yourself for a relevant position in your field. Learning the answers to some frequently asked questions about this major can help you determine if it's the right choice for your career path.

In this article, we describe physics, list major courses and requirements and provide some jobs you can pursue with a physics degree to help you determine if physics is a good major for you to choose.

What is physics?

Physics is a natural science discipline that involves the study of matter and its motion and behavior. In this field, you can use components of space, time, energy and force to understand the natural laws and structure of the universe.

For example, you may learn about forces like gravity that dictate the way matter moves in the natural world. If you're interested in understanding the structure of the universe and its movement, you may find physics to be an engaging subject.

What does the physics major involve?

Here are some components you can expect to experience during a physics major program:

Courses

During a physics major program, you may take a variety of courses that describe theories of motion, energy use and force. You may also learn about the historical context of the physics field and how it has evolved. To help you calculate the magnitude and effect of forces, you may also take coursework in mathematics. Here are some of the courses and topics you might cover in a physics program:

  • Laws of motion

  • Kinematics

  • Rotational motion

  • Calculus

  • Differential equations

  • Electricity

  • Magnetism

  • Historical foundations of physics

  • Optics

  • Quantum physics

  • Thermodynamics

Requirements

The requirements for your physics major can depend on your program and university. They can also depend on whether you begin a bachelor of art or bachelor of science program. In some cases, a bachelor of art program has fewer requirements and increased flexibility.

Your physics program may require you to pursue an experiential component in addition to your regular coursework. This can include an internship, research assistant position or capstone project. Consider researching the academic requirements of a physics program before beginning.

Timeline

If you intend to complete your physics major in a traditional university setting, you can often complete the requirements for your bachelor's degree in four years of full-time study. You can often earn a master's degree in physics with an additional one to two years of study, depending on the program.

If you'd like to pursue a doctoral degree in physics after completing your major degree, you can often expect to complete four to five more years of education. In many cases, options like part-time coursework or online classes can affect your degree timeline.

Skills

During a physics major degree program, you can often sharpen your skills and gain new competencies within your field. This can include technical, hard skills such as formula application and soft skills like attention to detail or problem-solving. Here are some of the skills involved with a physics major program:

  • Data analysis

  • Research

  • Organization

  • Theory development

  • Calculations

  • Report writing

  • Modeling

  • Computer and technology skills

  • Critical thinking

  • Communicating findings and observations

  • Collaborative research

Is physics a good major?

If you're interested in learning more about the natural universe in a scientific, theory-driven setting, physics can be a good major for you. From the coursework required of a physics major, you can develop skills to help you begin a successful career in your field. Your skills and training can make you a qualified candidate for many positions within physics and its surrounding areas.

What types of jobs can a physics major pursue?

Here are seven jobs you can pursue with a bachelor's degree in physics. For the most up-to-date salary information from Indeed, visit indeed.com/salaries:

1. High school teacher

National average salary: $46,657 per year

Primary duties: A high school teacher is responsible for teaching specialized topics to high-school-aged students. They can focus on individual subjects like math, English or science. Those with a physics degree can instruct students in the basic tenants of their field.

A high school teacher may provide instruction and testing to prepare students for college or careers. They may also create and apply rules to maintain order and discipline within their classroom.

Read more: Learn About Being a High School Teacher

2. Lab technician

National average salary: $59,055 per year

Primary duties: A lab technician is a professional who assists scientists in laboratory research settings. They may collect, prepare and test specimens and write reports analyzing their findings. They may also operate machinery and assist researchers in various aspects of the research process.

After experiments, they may clean and maintain technology and laboratory equipment to maintain effectiveness and safety. The laboratory and equipment training and analytical skills development associated with a physics degree can prepare a professional for a role as a lab technician.

Read more: Learn About Being a Lab Technician

3. Data analyst

National average salary: $66,283 per year

Primary duties: A data analyst is responsible for collecting, cleaning, sorting and interpreting data sets to answer questions and understand processes. Working in many fields, these professionals can help any organization that would like to use its data to draw conclusions.

They can also scan data to look for patterns and write and present reports on their findings. The attention to detail, scientific procedure and organization skills developed in a physics degree program can help professionals succeed in this field.

Read more: Learn About Being a Data Analyst

4. Design engineer

National average salary: $78,611 per year

Primary duties: A design engineer is a manufacturing professional who studies and researches production systems and uses them to create new ideas for products or processes. They may also modify existing processes to make them more efficient or productive.

In some cases, they may create instructions or programs to improve the performance of manufacturing machines. Understanding properties of motion and energy transfer can help in this role.

Read more: Learn About Being a Design Engineer

5. Product development engineer

National average salary: $85,319 per year

Primary duties: A product development engineer is responsible for managing the design, prototyping and testing of a product's development. Similar to a design engineer, a product development engineer may assess the mechanical aspects of products and systems.

The difference between these two roles is that a design engineer may focus on the mechanical systems that create a product while a product development engineer may focus more on the product itself. This role may also require a professional to understand product standards for safety and effectiveness.

6. Aeronautical engineer

National average salary: $95,535 per year

Primary duties: An aeronautical engineer designs aircraft and propulsion systems and studies the performance and function of aircraft construction material. Understanding aspects of motion can help these professionals create safe and effective technology for air travel. This can also require them to understand the mechanics of flight and atmospheric properties and theories.

Read more: Learn About Being an Aeronautical Engineer

7. Software developer

National average salary: $94,805 per year

Primary duties: A software developer analyzes technology users' needs and creates and designs software systems to meet needs and improve functionality. They may create virtual applications piece by piece and assemble them into cohesive, functioning wholes. They can also recommend and install software updates and improvements.

This role may require an understanding of technology and its purposes along with software and functionality. An understanding of scientific procedures along with technological skill and problem-solving can help a physics major in this position.

Read more: Learn About Being a Software Developer

How do you decide if physics is a good major for you?

Here are five steps you can take to determine whether physics is a good major for you:

1. Consider your interests

Before beginning any degree program, consider if you're interested in the field and its contents. If you'd like to learn more about the natural laws of the universe, you may enjoy the work required in this major.

If you're not interested in the subject, though, you may find the content challenging. Since many physics majors begin a career path in the physics field, you may want to think about if you enjoy the field before committing to it for an extended period of time.

2. Gauge your skills

You may also want to consider if you have the skills necessary to succeed in the physics field. If you're a strong student in math and science, for example, you may be ready to begin a challenging major.

While you can sharpen your skills during your major program, it can help to begin a program where you believe you can thrive. To determine your skill level, consider taking physics courses before entering a major program to see if you're able to understand the content.

3. Determine your desired career path

You can also evaluate whether you would like to begin a career in the physics path before selecting your major. Even if you're interested in the subject, you may be more successful if you select a major that you may like to continue throughout your career.

While you can apply the skills from your physics major program to many career paths, it can be simpler and more effective to take coursework that directly prepares you for your professional career. If you're unsure, you can pursue internships or research opportunities to see if you enjoy working in the physics field.

4. Learn more about potential programs

Another important aspect of selecting a major is determining whether you enjoy the programs offering it. Consider researching the physics programs at your desired universities to see which classes are required and who is teaching courses.

You can also determine if a program has any specialized project or experiential requirements. If you're interested in the subject of physics and feel like you can begin a physics program that matches your preferences, you may enjoy pursuing your major.

5. Consult professionals

If you're still unsure whether physics is a good fit for a major program, consider consulting with professionals who have completed the program or current students. They can offer their perspective about the major and whether it's a good choice.

They can additionally provide details about the level of work and job prospects after graduation. If possible, consider consulting with a student or professor from your desired program. They can often give more details and personal experiences surrounding the specific program and its benefits.

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