What Ways Can You Specialize a Physics Degree?

Physics is one of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics or STEM related disciplines that are in such great demand in the job market today, and there are several ways you can specialize a physics degree. Scientists use the principles of physics to explain activities within nature that relate to matter and energy. Once they gain sufficient understanding of the laws of physics, they attempt to replicate these natural activities to power manmade inventions, predict and prepare for weather events and even create policies that help societies to protect the natural environment in which they must live. The study of physics is the foundation of the natural sciences, and it broadly encompasses many different specialty areas. Subsequently, most universities offer students who want to major in physics several ways to customize their degrees with concentration areas that suit their personal interests and career aspirations. Here are several types of physics concentration areas that today’s students can explore while pursuing university undergraduate or graduate degrees.

Astronomy and Astrophysics

Students who are curious about stars, incoming comets and distant galaxies may opt to choose the physics specializations of astronomy and astrophysics as undergraduate or graduate school students. These future scientists do not conduct the experiments that are characteristic of other natural science studies, but they observe celestial bodies through telescopes that are based in strategic locations on the Earth and on satellites in space. These telescopes collect samples of light and sound waves that allow scientists to determine the distance of space objects based upon the laws of physics and mathematical computations. There are opportunities for astronomers to discover new stars or planets as they call them by using these observational methods. For example, California Institute of Technology astronomers claim to have recently identified a new ninth planet in the solar system, according to the American Association for the Advancement of Science.


Meteorology is the physics specialization that helps scientists to explain weather phenomena like El Nino and other activities within the Earth’s atmosphere. While course work for meteorology majors are heavily math and physics centric, many degree programs also expose students to concepts within oceanography, chemistry and geology to enhance their studies. These students prepare for work as broadcast meteorologists, climate scientists and weather researchers within academia by completing exciting projects that can be located anywhere in the world. Graduates with weather related physics degrees are often employed by government agencies like the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency.


Students who choose to become geophysics majors study the earth and its resources through the use of applied physics and mathematical laws and theories. Practically, they study the behavior of the Earth when external forces are applied. For example, geophysicists study seismology and seek to explain how earthquakes occur. Some of their research even contributes to the development of technology that can predict earthquakes or volcanoes in different areas on earth. These scientists work mostly for government agencies, but their environmental science knowledge also make them ideal consultants for private oil and gas extraction companies.

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The field of physics seems intimidating, but it is used more often than most people would like to acknowledge. The laws of physics have been used to create power systems that heat and cool residences and businesses. These principles are also used to track storms and weather systems that impact everyone. The increased demand for innovative alternative energy systems, the frequent occurrences of strange world weather events and the discoveries of new celestial bodies make this an exciting time to study physics, and careers in the discipline are launched by first knowing about the many ways you can specialize a physics degree.