Theoretical Physics Degree Programs

You can study theoretical physics while completing a physics degree program. Read about physics programs, online offerings and employment options in this field. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Degree Programs Can I Find in Theoretical Physics?

If you're interested in theoretical physics, you can enroll in a bachelor's degree program that encompasses both philosophy and physics. Additionally, master's or doctoral degree programs exist in physics that include courses that teach theoretical concepts. Most graduate programs divide coursework into experimental and theoretical approaches, and you're usually offered the flexibility to focus your studies in theoretical physics through electives and directed research.

Before applying to a program, most undergraduate and graduate physics programs require you to take prerequisite classes in entry-level physics and calculus. For graduate programs, you'll usually need to hold a bachelor's degree in a physical sciences major and meet a GPA requirement. Graduate programs also might ask you to submit a statement outlining your research goals prior to admission.

Degree Levels Available Bachelor's, master's, Ph.D.
Prerequisites Undergraduate programs: must have a basic understanding of physics and calculus
Graduate programs: must have a bachelor's degree in physical science and meet GPA requirement
Common Courses Principles of physics, quantum physics, mathematical physics, lab assignments and experimentation
Online Availability Fully online programs are rare, some blended degrees available with online course work and lab work on campus
Career Options Physician's assistant, technician, secondary or post-secondary physics teacher, research positions
Median Salary (2018)$90,800 (Physics teachers, postsecondary)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)10% growth (Physics teachers, postsecondary)

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

How Will I Learn?

During a physics program, much of your learning involves lab assignments and experimentation, but you'll also explore the theoretical principles behind laws and occurrences of physics. Master's degree programs give you the option of writing a thesis or taking additional coursework with a comprehensive exam. As a graduate student, many schools allow you to participate in teaching assistant-ships that can provide you with experience if your career goal lies in academia or offers you financial assistance while you pursue your studies. A doctoral degree program typically requires you complete a year of coursework before advancing to doctoral candidacy and beginning your specialized dissertation work. Some common topics you'll study in a physics program include:

  • Principles of physics
  • Modern physics
  • Theoretical physics models
  • Quantum physics theories
  • Problems in theoretical physics
  • Mathematical physics

Is Distance Learning Possible?

Online options in the field of theoretical physics are extremely limited. If you're interested in a career in education, you can enroll in an online physics education bachelor's or master's degree program. These programs combine physics knowledge with education and teaching strategies and might include a few electives in theoretical physics.

To complete the laboratory work, schools either mail you a science kit so that you can conduct experiments from home or require you to attend some campus-based labs. You'll receive online exercises and study guides to test your knowledge on your own. You can collaborate with other students through chat rooms, discussion boards and Webinar sessions. You might need to complete a supervised teaching component before graduating or attend summer sessions at the campus.

What Job Options Are There?

With a bachelor's degree, you could find jobs working as a physicists' assistant or technician, and a graduate degree in physics often qualifies you for positions as a theoretician or physicist. You can find work at schools, government-funded research centers, health care organizations or in private industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that physicist jobs were expected to rise 14% from 2016-2026 (source: However, the BLS stated that you might experience competition for research positions because of funding cuts in some industries. According to BLS figures, physicists had median salaries of $120,950 as of May 2018 (source:

If you're interested in a career in education, you can earn your bachelor's or master's degree in physics with some educational training, and enter the teaching field as a secondary school physics teacher. The BLS stated that the median annual salary for high school teachers was $60,320 as of May 2018, and demand was projected to grow 8% between 2016 and 2026 (source: You'll need to secure a teaching license through your state to work as a public school teacher, which typically requires you to pass a state-approved skills test and complete some teaching experience.

With a doctoral degree, you can teach at the college level in the physics field, in which jobs are projected to rise at 10% from 2016-2026. Postsecondary physics teachers earned a median wage of $90,800 per year, according to May 2018 BLS data (source:, though full-time, tenured teaching positions may be difficult to find.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:
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