Math & Physics Degrees: Bachelor's, Associate & Online Course Info

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What kind of job can you get with an associate's degree or bachelor's degree in math and physics? Find out degree program requirements, online options and info on courses and math and physics degree programs.
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Study Math and Physics: Degrees at a Glance

Associate's and bachelor's degree programs in this field offer foundational knowledge of a wide variety of mathematics and natural science subjects, but these programs may not lead directly into work related to mathematics or physics. Associate's degree programs are commonly designed for transfer to bachelor's degree programs in the same field, not for individuals interested in beginning professional work. A bachelor's degree program in mathematics and physics could qualify you for multiple relevant jobs, but a master's degree is typically required for mathematicians and a doctoral degree is typically required for physicists.

As a graduate of a bachelor's degree program in mathematics and physics, you may be qualified for work as a geoscientist or an environmental scientist. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicted that, from 2010-2020, geoscientists would see a 21% growth in employment, while environmental scientists would see a 19% increase in employment.

Associate's Bachelor's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in transferring to 4-year physics and mathematics programs Individuals preparing to enter graduate level study or lower-level scientific positions that aren't based in research
Common Career Paths (with approximate mean annual salary) These programs are offered as transfer options, and wouldn't be beneficial for any particular career- Geoscientists ($98,000)*
- Environmental scientists ($69,000)*
Time to Completion Two years Four years
Common Graduation Requirements - About 60 credit hours
- General education coursework
- Scientific courses with lab experiences
- About 120 credit hours
- General education coursework
- Advanced mathematical and scientific coursework
Prerequisites High school diploma High school diploma
Online Availability Some courses might be available online Some courses might be available online

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011.

Associate's Degree in Math and Physics

Associate's degree programs are not typically available by that specific title, but similar programs are offered through multiple schools. Programs with the title of 'mathematics and science' are commonly available, and these programs include coursework in physics. Additionally, associate's degree programs in mathematics and associate's degree programs in physics are available as distinct areas of study, and these programs often include coursework in both topics. These programs generally include science courses with laboratory experiences.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can gain a foundational knowledge of a variety of multiple scientific areas in only two years
  • These programs commonly prepare you for transfer into a bachelor's degree program
  • Through lab work, you'll gain hands-on experience in various scientific areas

Cons

  • An associate's degree won't prepare you for a specific career path
  • To work in mathematics or physics, you'll need at least two more years of education
  • Online programs may not be available

Common Course Topics

Coursework in programs in the subject of mathematics and science, in mathematics and in physics is commonly dictated by the specific program title. Programs in mathematics and science may offer the opportunity to study a specific subject through elective coursework, or they may allow for the completion of a concentration track in a specific related area. In some cases, a co-op work experience may be completed as part of an associate's degree program, which can allow for hands-on professional experience while still in school. Some courses you might take at this level include:

  • Calculus
  • Geometry
  • Computer programming
  • Algebra
  • Discrete mathematics
  • Chemistry
  • Physics
  • Geology

Online Degree Options

Online programs specifically in mathematics and physics were not available as of October 2012, and related programs were only rarely offered. In some cases, mathematics and science programs can be completed online, and mathematics programs may also have online components. Currently, the best way to study physics and mathematics at the associate's degree level may be on campus. Not only are programs more available in an on-campus setting, but hands-on lab experiences also require being physically present.

Stand Out with this Degree

While completing this program, you won't be looking for a way to stand out to employers upon graduation. Instead, you'll want to focus on ways that you can stand out to 4-year colleges when you're applying to related bachelor's degree programs. For instance, if you're interested in transferring into a science program, such as physics, chemistry or biology, you'll want to take coursework in those areas. Or, if you're interested in pursuing a field such as computer science, you would want to complete computer-related electives as part of your associate's degree program.

Bachelor's Degree in Math and Physics

Unlike associate's degree programs, bachelor's degree programs are commonly available in the specific subject of mathematics and physics. These programs can prepare you for graduate work in either field, or work in a broad variety of industries. While mathematicians commonly need at least a master's degree to find work, a bachelor's degree could qualify you for some mathematician positions.

In some cases, these programs also incorporate engineering into the primary areas of study. A senior project may be a requirement for graduation, and students in a combination program can complete a project that is relevant to either mathematics or physics.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • You can be prepared for a variety of relevant positions, including those in the scientific and health industries
  • You can study more advanced coursework than at the associate's degree level
  • You can be prepared for a mathematics or physics graduate program, including master's or Ph.D. programs in either subject

Cons

  • To work as a mathematician or physicist, you typically need more than a bachelor's degree
  • Only about 3,000 mathematicians work in the entire U.S., with only hundreds working in the states that employ the most of these professionals*
  • Online programs are rare

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, May 2011.

Common Course Topics

Coursework in these programs typically attempts to balance the subjects of mathematics and physics equally and cover advanced topics in both fields. Courses in relevant subjects, such as engineering technology, computer science and electronics, are also commonly included, and completion of a senior project or capstone experience may be required for graduation. Mathematics and physics programs often include courses in subjects such as:

  • Calculus
  • Statistical analysis
  • Engineering circuits
  • Chemistry
  • Mechanics in physics
  • Electromagnetism

Online Degree Options

Online degree options in physics and mathematics were hard to find as of October 2012, but online programs in mathematics and online programs in physics were available, though rare. In some cases, you may find mathematics or physics programs with online components or you may find programs offered entirely online through private, for-profit colleges. You may be able to choose between an online/on-campus hybrid format and an entirely online format. These programs may offer similar coursework to on-campus programs, or they may offer customizable coursework that can be designed in conjunction with a faculty advisor.

Stand Out with this Degree

If you intend to enter a specific career field after graduation, you may benefit from including some coursework that is relevant in that field in your curriculum. For example, aspiring geoscientists may benefit from coursework in areas such as geology or petrology, while aspiring environmental scientists would benefit from coursework in fluid mechanics or hydrology. Bachelor's degree holders in physics are also qualified to work in non-research-based positions in related fields, including engineering technology.

If you plan to apply to a specific graduate program, such as a master's or Ph.D. program in mathematics or physics, or a narrower area of study, you may consider emphasizing coursework in these subjects at the undergraduate level. You may have the opportunity to choose an area of specialization, attend seminars or complete a senior project in a relevant area of study.

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