Mathematical physics is a subject that applies mathematical theories to actual physics problems. While both bachelor's and doctoral degree programs in this field include coursework in quantum mechanics, calculus and differential equations, doctoral programs are considerably more advanced and focus heavily on research and the completion of a dissertation. Bachelor's degree programs typically prepare enrollees for entry-level positions, while doctoral programs can lead to careers in college-level research and instruction.
Candidates for a bachelor's degree program need a strong aptitude in mathematics and science. Applicants to a doctoral program need undergraduate or graduate coursework in a related field.
Bachelor's in Mathematical Physics
Bachelor's degree programs in mathematical physics are interdisciplinary programs that provide students with a solid understanding of mathematical principles as well as physics. Students learn how to apply mathematical formulas and equations to subjects such as thermodynamics, magnetism, aerodynamics and black holes.
Students enrolled in a mathematical physics degree program must start out with introductory courses in physics and calculus before moving on to advanced courses in applied physics. Some examples of topics covered in courses include:
- Engineering systems design
- Thermal physics
- Quantum mechanics
- Complex analysis
Doctoral Degrees in Mathematical Physics
Students who are interested in pursuing further research in a particular branch of physics, such as atmospheric physics or astrophysics, may choose to enroll in a doctoral degree program in mathematical physics. Most doctoral programs in mathematical physics require students to select mathematics and physics courses that cater to their own chosen path of study within the discipline.
While elective courses offered within a Ph.D. program in mathematical physics might vary from school to school, the core courses are often related to differential equations and analysis. Some examples of classes are listed below:
- Partial differential equations
- Functional analysis
- Complex analysis
- Mathematical methods
- Advanced electromagnetic theory
- Wavelet analysis
Popular Career Options
Many students who graduate with a bachelor's degree in mathematical physics go on to earn an advanced degree. However, some entry-level positions in the field of mathematical physics might include:
- Medical technology developer
- Lab technician
- Materials scientist
Employment Outlook and Career Options
A Ph.D. in Mathematical Physics program may prepare graduates for positions as research physicists or astronomers. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the number of physicists employed in the United States totaled 15,650 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Many of these individuals worked for scientific research services, the federal government or universities, and the BLS listed the median annual salary in the field as $111,580 in 2015. The employment of physicists is predicted to grow by about 8% in the 2014-2024 decade, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education and Certification
Physicists working in the United States do not typically need any type of certification or licensure. Many can work their way into postdoctoral research positions by working in laboratories with senior scientists. After several years of postdoctoral experience, physicists can often gain positions that allow them to take on and conduct their own experiments and research.
Doctoral degree programs are available to students wishing to study mathematical physics to prepare for careers as physicists or professors. Graduates of bachelor's degree programs in this field may find employment as lab technicians or other types of scientists.