Associate Degree in Physics

By Erika Lasrado

Updated January 9, 2024
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Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.

Degrees

Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

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The science that investigates the fundamental concepts of energy, space, and matter, including the relationship among them, is known as Physics. An associate degree in physics will help students develop investigative skills and learn to analyze magnetism, dynamics, heat, atomic and nuclear physics, sound, and other physical phenomena. There is a wide range of career options for graduates of the associate degree in physics. They can work in industries such as astronomy, education, science research, space exploration as well as medicine. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statics predicts a growth of 8% in the overall employment of physicists between 2020 and 2030. This guide will examine the various factors of an associate degree in physics online, including the curriculum, specialization options, cost of the program, and more.

Physics

Best Associate Degree
in Physics

Physics associate programs are offered in various institutions across the United States. It is crucial for students to find the right institution which aligns with their objectives and interests. They must consider certain factors such as the tuition fee, location, faculty experience, university reputation, infrastructure, and more. Find Best Degrees (FBD) has assessed numerous programs and colleges offering online associates degrees in physics. Here is a list of the best online schools for associates in physics: *

Arizona Western College (AWC) is a public community college offering associate degrees, occupational certificates, and transfer degrees. AWC offers over 100 degrees and certificates in person and online. Its associate degrees include Arts (AA), Science (AS), Business (ABus), and Applied Science (AAS).
Univ Address
Arizona Western College (On Campus) 2020 S. Avenue 8E, Yuma, Arizona 85365

Universities and programs are ranked by various factors, such as affordability, curriculum and coursework, reputation and availability, program length, statistics, the potential of employment, and return on investment for the students. For a more in-depth analysis, please read about our rankings methodology page

What to Expect from the Associate Degree
in Physics Programs

The associate degree in physics is offered in both full-time and part-time formats. Typically, the program is for 2 years and has a requirement of 60 to 68 credits to complete the program. The curriculum of the online associate degree in physics will prepare students to transfer to a 4-year university or college and internship and research programs in the physics field. The curriculum typically consists of a combination of core courses, electives, and general education courses. Students learn to use appropriate technical vocabulary to communicate quantitative and qualitative scientific ideas.

Some prominent core courses in the online physics associate degree include:

Physics for Scientists and Engineers

By using calculus methods when applicable, students will learn to solve important concepts in physics like electrostatics, heat and thermodynamics, magnetic and induction, kinetic theory, and electricity through the fundamentals of AC and DC circuits and EM waves. They will be equipped with the ability to use, appraise, collect and interpret data to express results mathematically.

Multivariable Calculus

In this course, students will be able to analyze curvature and torsion as well as compute integrals and derivates for vector functions. They will also learn to derive and apply Stoke’s and Green’s Theorems.

Calculus of Single Variable

This course teaches the concepts of integral and differential calculus. Students will acquire the necessary skills to solve problems and apply integration in volume arc length, area, and curve length applications. They will also be able to obtain derivatives of function by using the Derivative Definition.

Differential Equation

This course will teach students to solve the linear, separable, homogeneous, exact, and Bernoulli first-order differential equations. It will also teach them to solve and set up application problems by using mathematical software.

Programming Fundamentals

This course introduces the important concepts of structured programming. Some topics include data types, arrays, development methodology, control structures, functions, and the mechanics of testing, debugging, and running software.

Other courses in the physics associate degree program may include:

  • Electricity & Magnetism
  • Calculus with Analytic Geometry
  • General Physics
  • Modern Physics
  • Statistics
  • Classical Mechanics
  • Dynamics
  • Scientific Programming
  • Thermodynamics
  • Materials Science & Engineering

In addition to these core courses, an online associate degree will also include general education courses such as:

  • Arts and Humanities General Education
  • Social and Behavioral Science General Education
  • Writing about Literature
  • College Writing
  • Humanities, Fine Arts and Design

Degree Types offered in Associate Degree
in Physics Programs

There are two types of associate degrees in physics online programs- the Associate of Arts in Physics and the Associate of Science Degree in Physics.

Associate of Arts in Physics

The Associate of Arts degree places its emphasis on liberal arts and humanities. This degree focuses on the social, theoretical, and humanitarian aspects of physics.

Associate of Science in Physics

The associate of science in physics degree focuses on the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) subjects. The main focus of this degree is on the practical and scientific aspects of physics. The AS is best suited for people who want to join the workforce immediately at an entry-level position.

Students can also opt for two other variants at some colleges, which include:

Associate in Science for transfer Physics

The associate in science for transfer physics is explicitly designed for students who want to transfer to a four-year public institution after they complete their first- and second-year requirements in physics.

Associate in Science, Emphasis on Physics

The associate in science, emphasis on physics, provides the first two years of a four years curriculum for students preparing for application to different graduate programs in medical fields or who intend to specialize in physics.

Areas of Specialization in Associate Degree
in Physics Programs

There are various topics in the physics field that students can specialize in. Students with an associate degree in physics who are interested in other topics in the physics field can specialize in those areas. Doing so will help them to customize their education and match their career goals and interests. Here are some of the associate degree specializations in the physics field:

Area of SpecializationCareers This Concentration Prepares ForCareers This Concentration Prepares For
Radiation ProtectionStudents in this specialization study how to monitor radiation levels, use radiation survey instruments to measure levels within and around facilities, and deploy proper protective measures required in various settings.Specialization in radiation protection can lead to jobs in manufacturing, hospitals, and the nuclear industry.
AstronomyThis concentration provides a base for students interested in physics and astronomy and who want to transfer to a bachelor’s program in astrophysics or astronomy.Students can pursue their careers in physics research, education, astronomy, programming, and technology.
Engineering PhysicsThe engineering physics specialization studies the combined fields of physics, engineering, and mathematics to develop an understanding of the interrelationships between these three fields. This concentration provides a foundation for students interested in engineering and physics.This concentration leads to careers involving design, testing systems, development, engineering
Medical Physics Students who choose to specialize in medical physics learn how to use their understanding of physics to develop and use medical radiation therapies, devices, and technologies. They ensure that the machinery is functioning properly and are frequently directly involved in the diagnosis and treatment of patients, as well as in radiation safety and product development.This concentration leads to careers in health care facilities, medical clinics, and private practices.
Health PhysicsIn this specialization, students learn how to apply radiation protection principles, put radiation protection programs into practice, determine radiation exposure and health risks, and help design radiation controls and measurement tools. They also develop a thorough understanding of the advantages and disadvantages of radiation to safeguard the environment and the general public’s health.This concentration leads to careers involving radiation safety, environmental health, nuclear physics, etc.

Why should I enroll into an Associate Degree
in Physics Program?

Students who want to gain a solid understanding of physics and are interested in joining the technical workforce should consider studying for an associate degree in physics. They will be able to provide possible solutions and explanations by communicating information effectively.

When students think about an associate degree in physics, the key question that comes to mind is, “What can you do with an associate’s degree in physics?”. Students may transfer to a 4-year institution’s physics program after earning their associate degree. Alternatively, there are diverse career options in various industries at entry-level positions, although students will be required to study further to qualify for some jobs. Graduates can start working as material scientists, nuclear technicians, natural sciences managers, quality control analysts, and so on.

Upon completion of the program, students acquire specific skills they can use and apply to their careers. Some of these skills are the ability to:

  • solve scientific problems by applying quantitative reasoning;
  • use a variety of different representations like graphical, mathematical, and pictorial formalisms to describe, explain and predict real-world phenomena;
  • transfer problem-solving and information methods from familiar to unfamiliar contexts;
  • analyze and collect experimental data and then draw reasonable conclusions to support and develop the laws of physics;
  • solve physics-related problems by applying calculus-based mathematical skills; and
  • use the principles of electromagnetics and the basic concepts of thermodynamics to solve problems

Free Courses for Associate Degree
in Physics Students

When it comes to free online associate degrees in physics, there are none available. However, students who wish to enhance their knowledge in various topics in the field of physics can sign up for some free courses. These free courses are not accredited but can help with exams or writing assignments. Here are some free courses for the associate degree in physics students:

CourseDescriptionProvided by
Various Topics Related to PhysicsCoursera offers some free courses in physics, such as exploring quantum physics, introduction to mechanics, understanding modern physics, and introduction to physics.Coursera
Various Topics Related to PhysicsCoursera offers some free courses in physics, such as exploring quantum physics, introduction to mechanics, understanding modern physics, and introduction to physics.EdX
Various Topics Related to PhysicsMIT OpenCourseWare offers a few undergraduate courses in physics. These are not quite suited for associate degree students, but they can be helpful to them at some point in terms of information.MIT OpenCourseWare

How to get into the Associate Degree
in Physics Program?

An applicant should have a high school diploma or a Graduate Educational Development (GED) as an essential requirement for admission into an associate degree in physics. In addition to this, there are other associates in physics requirements, some of which are:

  • Admission or Application Form with its prescribed fee.
  • Official Academic Transcripts.
  • Grade Point Average (GPA) of 2.5 or more (higher grades in English and Math preferred).
  • SAT or ACT Score (required by some schools)
  • Personal Statement or Statement of Purpose (required by some schools)
  • Proof of English Proficiency (if the native tongue is or education was not in English)

Note: Admission requirements vary by school and program. It is always best for students to check with the admissions office at the school of their choice for exact requirements.

How Long does it take to complete Associate
Degrees in Physics

A typical online associate degree in physics will require 60 to 68 credits and about 2 years to complete. The timeline can also depend on the course structure, electives, concentration area, core courses, and other factors. Asynchronous and synchronous classes can also influence the timeline of the program. Students who opt for a part-time degree will take longer to earn their associate degree than full-time students. The average timelines to earn an online associate degree in physics programs are:

Typical time to complete a full-time associate degree in physics program: 2 years

Typical time to complete a part-time associate degree in physics program: between 2 and 3 years

Accelerated Associate Degree
in Physics Programs

Students can attend an online associate degree full-time in many institutions. But very few will allow them to graduate before the usual timeline of 2 years. Still, many colleges allow students of accelerated programs to transfer to 4-year bachelor’s programs with all their credits, such as the North Seattle College, which offers an accelerated physics associate degree transfer track with 90-108 units to complete.

Accreditations for Associate Degree
in Physics Programs

When choosing a program and an institution, students should ensure they are accredited. A program or a school which is accredited shows that it has gone through the process of strict evaluation to meet the essential administrative and academic standards of education. Accreditation also indicates that the program or institution is moving toward continuous improvement. Six regional accreditation bodies in the United States accredit physics schools. They are:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)

In the absence of national or regional accreditation, one should look for accreditation from organizations such as the Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP), the Accreditation Board for Engineering Technology (ABET), etc.

Read more about accreditation and its importance in the Guide to College Accreditation.

How to Pay for an Associate Degree
in Physics?

The tuition fee of an associate degree varies depending upon various factors such as location, course structure, timeline, the delivery of the program, and more. Online students have the advantage of skipping to pay for meals, accommodation, travel, and so on. But they still must bear the cost of tuition fees and course materials. A few funding options are available to reduce these financial burdens. Some common funding mechanisms are:

Scholarships

One of the most popular sources of funding students use is scholarships. Educational institutions, individuals, and non-profit organizations give out scholarships to students with excellent scores. One of the benefits of scholarships is that they are “Free Money” and do not need to be repaid.

Grants

Like scholarships, grants are “free money” and do not have to be paid back. Typically, grants are awarded based on the applicant’s financial need, but their academic record is also considered.

Student Loans

Another common funding mechanism that students often use is student loans. They are usually provided by the federal government or banks. Students should note that loans come with payable interest and the principal amount, which must be repaid according to a schedule. Read about Donors for Student Loans and Grants for Student Loans to understand how one can apply for loan forgiveness to avoid repaying student loans.

FAFSA

Current and prospective students can determine their financial eligibility for federal financial aid by filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid or FAFSA form. The FAFSA Student Aid guide explains more.

Find out everything there is to know about college funding in the How to Pay for College guide.

FAQs Related to Associate Degree in
Physics Programs

What is an associate degree in physics?

The associate degree in physics provides students with the skills to apply physics in various contexts and also develop fundamental skills in abstract thinking and problem-solving. They will also learn to use the principles of classical mechanics to solve problems.

What is an associate of science in physics for transfer?

Is an associate degree in physics online?

What can you do with an associate’s degree in physics?

How long is an associate degree in physics?

How much can I make with an associate in physics?

Career Opportunities and Salaries after
Associate Degree in Physics

After completing the associate degree in physics, graduates can work in a wide range of sectors and take up various roles in these sectors. Compared to high school graduates, they have a competitive advantage for jobs, and it tends to increase if they pursue their bachelor’s and master’s degrees in the same field. There are a variety of career settings in diverse industries, including healthcare, education, technology, scientific research, astronomy, space exploration, and more. Here are some of the entry-level jobs for an associate degree in physics:

  • Operations Technician
  • Biomedical Technician
  • Natural Science Managers
  • Remote Sensing Technicians
  • Radiologic Technologist

Although most professions in the physics field demand higher education, additional skills, and more experience, graduates of the physics associate degree still have a good scope in securing entry-level jobs in the field. According to the U.S Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS), the job growth for astronomers and physicists is 8% from 2020-2030, which is as fast as average for all occupations. Here are a few job titles related to physics, including their estimated job growth, median annual salary, and skills required:

Occupation Job DescriptionSkills RequiredMedian Annual SalaryJob Growth (up to 2030)
Medical Equipment RepairersMedical equipment repairers install, maintain, and repair medical care equipment. They perform preventive maintenance and service and explain and demonstrate how to operate medical equipment.Knowledge of electricity, understanding schematics and manuals, communication skills$49,9107% (as fast as average)
Radiologic and MRI TechnologaistsMRI and Radiologic technologists monitor treatment, diagnose medical conditions, and predict outcomes. They also play an essential role in assisting surgical and medical teams. They adjust and maintain imaging equipment and operate computerized equipment to take medical images.Knowledge of radiation safety, equipment protocols, basic patient care, and patient positioning techniques$61,9809% (as fast as average)
Veterinary Technologists and TechniciansVeterinary technologists and technicians are supervised by licensed veterinarians and do medical tests that help diagnose an animal’s injuries and illnesses. They support veterinarians during animal exams and do a variety of clinical, care, and laboratory tasks, such as taking x-rays and collecting and performing laboratory tests.Manual dexterity, communication skills, detail-oriented, physical strength, compassion$36,85015% (faster than average)

Certifications and Licensing for Associate
Degree in Physics Students

One can increase one’s income potential and enhance career prospects by getting certified in the field. Certifications help individuals sharpen their skills and gain expertise in specific areas within the domain. There are various certifications for people who want to expand their efficiency and become professionals in physics-related areas. Here are some certifications for physics professionals to consider after graduating:

American Board of Radiology(ABR) Initial Certification

The American Board of Radiology (ABR) covers the recognition of successful candidates, initial certification, and maintenance of certification in medical physics. The initial certification in medical physics is offered for three specialties: Therapeutic medical physics, nuclear medical physics, and diagnostic medical physics. Every candidate who meets the training requirement specified by the computer-based exam and the board will be issued a certificate. A continuous ABR certificate is awarded to successful candidates.

American Board of Health Physics (ABHP) Certificatiaon

The American Board of Health Physics (ABHP) grants professional certification in health physics. The ABHP is accredited by the Council of Engineering and Scientific Specialty Boards. Individuals who get their certification in health physics from the ABHP will also qualify for membership in the American Academy of Health Physics.

American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine (ABSNM) Certifications

Candidates who pass the examination and meet the board’s requirements are issued certificates by the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine (ABSNM). This certification is the indication that the individual has gained and demonstrated knowledge in one or more of the following specialties in nuclear medicine: (1) Radiation Protection, (2) Molecular Imaging, (3) Radiopharmaceutical Science, and (4) Nuclear Medicine Physics and Instrumentation.

Note: Every certification may have different educational requirements, so students might need additional training or a more advanced degree to qualify for certifications.

Additional Resources for Associate Degree
in Physics Students

Participating in a professional organization and staying up to date on recent developments in the field of physics can help one stay ahead of the competition. Individuals can get their hands on additional resources by attending seminars and webinars, connecting with peers, and reading the latest publications and journals. Here are some organizations and sites offering various resources for associates in physics online students:

International Organization for Medical Physics (IOMP)

The IOMP aims to advance the practice of medical physics worldwide by promoting the best quality of medical service to patients, fostering the educational and professional development of medical physicists, and disseminating scientific and technical information.

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM)

The American Association of Physicists in Medicine (AAPM) supports the medical physics community with a focus on improving the safety and efficacy of radiation oncology and medical imaging procedure through research. This association aims to advance medicine through excellence in science, education, and the professional practice of medical physics. The AAPM sponsors three scientific meetings and publishes two scholarly journals a year.

Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP)

The Commission on Accreditation of Medical Physics Education Programs (CAMPEP) aims to promote the education of medical physicists of consistent quality. It does so by evaluating and accrediting Continuing Education and Certificate Programs and Graduate, Professional Doctorate in Medical Physics (DMP) that meet the high standards of CAMPEP and its sponsoring organizations.

International Medical Physics Certification Board (IMPCB)

The International Medical Physics Certification Board was formed by the eleven charter member organizations in 2010. Their objective is to establish infrastructure, assessment procedures, and requirements for the accreditation of the medical physics certification programs and certification of medical physicists. They also provide guidance and support to medical physics organizations to establish national medical physics certification boards.

Author Bio:

Erika Lasrado

Erika has broad experience in counseling, psychology, and human resources. Although she has done a master’s in psychology, she is currently pursuing a master’s in educational psychology to change careers. Erika is a foodie and reader and loves to research and write about various topics when time permits.

Degrees

Master of Psychology, Master of Educational Psychology

Areas of Expertise & Credentials

None to disclose in particular; the basics are covered in the short bio.

Disclaimer:

The average tuition (based on degree type for in-state students), average graduation rates, and rankings are based on data from various sources, including the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System (IPEDS), and are variable over time. All rankings and statistics are subject to change. The rankings are solely the opinion of Find Best Degrees (FBD) and are based on our proprietary methodology. They do not represent the views of the institutions or organizations mentioned, nor do they represent any official government census or survey. Furthermore, any views or opinions expressed on this page are of FBD’s researchers and teams. Unless otherwise specified, they do not represent the thoughts and opinions of the individuals, institutions, or organizations mentioned. This page’s content is provided solely for informational purposes, with data drawn from various sources, including IPEDS. FBD and its employees make no guarantees regarding the accuracy or completeness of any information found on this page or by following any link. FBD will not be held liable for any errors or omissions in this material nor any losses, injuries, or damages resulting from the exposure or use of this information. Although the information on this page is/was correct at the time of publication, readers should exercise caution because some or all of the provided information may have changed over time, potentially resulting in inaccuracies. For more information, please read our Terms of Service. Trademarks and logos are the property of their registered owners.