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Physics is largely a theoretical subject, with experts in the field devoting their time to studying, testing theories, and developing scientific conclusions. However, the applied physics field works to apply those groundbreaking theories and scientific discoveries in an actionable, concrete way.
Students who are considering an applied physics major will find that this is a growing, in-demand field with many prospective job opportunities across a range of industries.
Understanding the Scope of Applied Physics
Physics is known as a theoretical field. According to Brittanica, physics is a science that focuses primarily on the structure of matter and the way these structures interact with one another. It is incredibly complex, leaving physicists to spend long hours in the lab, entirely devoted to their research.
Applied physics takes those complex concepts and applies them in a practical way, showcasing how the science of physics can be used to improve existing problems. According to Physics Today, applied physics is often used in the world of engineering in order to solve complex problems and introduce new technologies.
Delving Into the Significance of Applied Physics
Many prospective students considering a scientific major might find themselves asking, "What is applied physics?" This relatively new focus is becoming one of the most in-demand STEM degrees. As technology continues to redefine daily life and the field of engineering evolves, experts in the realm of applied physics are needed to come up with scientific yet actionable solutions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary for physicists is $139,000, and the industry is expected to grow by about 5 percent between 2022 and 2032. With more than 1,100 new positions expected each year over the next decade, applied physics is establishing itself as one of the most remarkable industries of our time.
The Differentiation Between Applied Physics and Pure Physics
Pure physics is the scientific study of nature and matter, leaving those who specialize in it to focus purely on the theoretical. Applied physics, however, takes those theories, concepts and developments and applies them in a real-world setting. Many people describe applied physics as the science that exists between pure physics and engineering.
Industries Where Applied Physics Graduates Are in Demand
Once you understand what an applied physics degree is and how this field differs from pure physics, you can begin exploring the available careers and job opportunities.
According to Indeed, these are seven industries where applied physics graduates are in demand:
- Chemical engineering
- Mechanical engineering
As scientific specialists with the ability to translate complex knowledge and theories into practical solutions, applied physicists play a unique role in today's modern world. Technology advancements and streamlined processes are in high demand across all industries, yet the experts who truly understand how to connect science to technology are few and far between. With this degree under your belt, you could likely create a customized career path that is both personally and professionally rewarding.
Core Requirements of an Applied Physics Major
At University of the Cumberlands, students who opt for the applied physics major are enrolled as part of the dual degree program and receive two bachelor's degrees upon graduation: one in applied physics and another in engineering. This program is made possible through the university's 3+2 Partnership with the University of Kentucky. The core requirements for this specific program entail that students complete 70 credit hours at University of the Cumberlands, with an additional 32 credit hours to be completed at the University of Kentucky.
An Overview of the Course Structure
Within the applied physics degree program, students take a deep dive into the most relevant and complex physics theories. In addition, they hone hands-on skill development that will allow them to apply their expert knowledge in the real world—largely focusing on engineering and technology applications.
Key Subjects to Focus On
Courses that are commonly required as part of the applied physics curriculum include:
- Quantum Physics
- Ethics in Physics
- Applications of Nuclear Physics
- Experimental Physics
- Object-Oriented Programming
The Value Addition of Project-Based Learning
Project-based learning is not typical in a scientific degree program, but it's a valuable addition to the applied physics curriculum. Given that applied physics graduates will be called upon to implement real-world solutions based on the most recent and relevant physics theories, it's crucial they know how to work with others in a productive, results-oriented way.
Commonly called PBL in the education sector, project-based learning is a method that requires students to collaborate and solve a complex problem. All members of the team must combine their creative and critical thinking skills to generate an effective solution.
Importance of Hands-On Experience in Physics
In physics, the hands-on experience gained through PBL allows students to discover new ways to put their foundational physics knowledge into action. Immersed in a mainly theoretical science, physicists may easily forget how to translate their research and findings into actionable results. Hands-on experience throughout the degree program can help students become better collaborators and problem-solvers.
How Does Project-Based Learning Enhance Understanding?
According to PBL Works, project-based learning improves understanding and academic results by:
- Allowing students to exercise voice and choice throughout the experience, elevating their connection to the work.
- Requiring students to solicit feedback and accept constructive criticism.
- Giving students an opportunity to present their findings, which helps improve communication skills.
Earn Your Applied Physics Degree at University of the Cumberlands
At University of the Cumberlands, our applied physics degree equips you with an expert-level understanding of critical physics theories and concepts while also teaching you to apply that knowledge in a practical, concrete way. An applied physics degree is an ideal option for those interested in a STEM-related career, with more and more industries seeking qualified graduates with expertise in this innovative field.
Request more information about our undergraduate degree programs today.