Accredited online master's degree programs in physics are rare, but Master of Physics Education and Master of Medical Physics programs are available in an online format. Some on-campus work, such as clinical experiences, lab assignments and summer residencies, may be required in these programs. Physics education master's degree programs are for licensed teachers who already hold a bachelor's degree.
Master's Degree in Physics Education
While on-campus options are numerous, fully online accredited master's degree programs in science education are rare. Online graduate students gain the skills to teach physics to grades 5-12. Applicants must already have a bachelor's degree, a valid teaching license and a strong math and science background. Programs are designed to give current science teachers advanced training in physics for professional development credits towards recertification.
Information and Requirements
Distance learners can complete the requirements for a master's degree in 2-3 years by devoting at least 20 hours per week. Some courses of study do not require traditional classes. Instead, distance learners are tasked with demonstrating competency in a number of subjects and evaluated through a series of assignments and exams. The core competencies are natural sciences, physics and teaching methods. Other programs do offer coursework in the traditional sense, but require on-campus workshops during the summer.
Advanced coursework in physics provides teachers the background for developing better curriculum content for their own students. Teacher training classes introduce students to technological aids and particular strategies for teaching physics at the middle and high school levels.
History of Physics
Classical theories of physics are discussed in a historical context. Students discuss major advancements in the field from Galileo's understanding of the heliocentric solar system to Einstein's theory of relativity.
Distance learners explore current concepts in physics such as relativity and quantum mechanics. A strong background in calculus is necessary to complete problem solving assignments.
Physics for Instructors
Students are introduced to current technological teaching aids. They discuss teaching methods and science curricula that engage and motivate young learners.
Master's Degrees in Medical Physics and Health Physics
The field of medical physics encompasses the study of radiation and nuclear medicine for detection, diagnosis and treatment. Health physics is the branch of medical physics that pertains specifically to the use of x-rays and other sealed radiation equipment. Post-baccalaureate students with strong backgrounds in biology, chemistry, physics and calculus may apply to online master's degree programs in either medical physics or health physics. Students acquire technical skills to operate equipment. Graduates possess legal and ethical knowledge to ensure the safety of their colleagues and patients. Some programs require distance learners to be board certified.
Information and Requirements
A master's degree in medical physics or health physics can be obtained in less than two years. On-campus lectures are recorded and delivered to distance learners via streaming video. In this way online students receive the same instruction as their classmates. Web discussion boards provide a means of interacting with other students and instructors. Some courses require that lab assignments be completed on-campus on weekends and clinical training be conducted at a local hospital.
Coursework in health physics covers radiation physics and medical physics, as well as legal guidelines, communications and business management. Medical physics students learn about nuclear engineering for diagnostic imaging in addition to the use of radiation equipment for diagnosis and therapy.
Distance learners study the effects of radiation on matter and how x-rays are produced. Digital modeling is used to illustrate quantum physics as well as atomic and nuclear structures.
Students explore the uses of radiation in medical treatment. They learn about equipment and the use of computer modeling for addressing clinical problems.
Radionuclides, or radioactive isotopes, can be combined with pharmaceuticals for diagnostic medical imaging and patient therapy. Students are introduced to the production and methods of use of radionuclides.
A master's degree in physics education qualifies graduates to teach high school physics. Additionally, some 2-year colleges and technical schools only require faculty members to hold a master's degree. As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that the mean annual salary for secondary school teachers was $60,440, and $93,950 for postsecondary physics teachers (www.bls.gov).
Graduates with a master's degree in medical physics may work in hospitals, universities and government or corporate research labs specializing in diagnostic radiology or nuclear medicine. According to the BLS, the mean annual salary for radiologic technologists was $58,520 as of May 2015. The same report noted a slightly higher mean wage of $74,990 for nuclear medicine technologists(www.bls.gov).
Those interested in teaching physics at a 4-year college may pursue a Ph.D. A doctorate in physics can be obtained from a number of on-campus programs as well as through distance learning.
Medical, or health, physics master's degree programs may require applicants to be board-certified health care practitioners. The American Board of Radiology, the American Board of Medical Physics, the American Board of Health Physics and the American Board of Science in Nuclear Medicine grant professional certification based on graduate-level education and a required clinical residency. Residencies in medical physics are highly competitive and some necessitate a Ph.D. On-site doctoral programs in medical physics are available.
In online Master of Physics Education programs, experienced teachers take advanced physics classes and learn to teach the subject to middle and high school students. In contrast, medical physics master's degree programs focus on the applications of physics to medical technologies and procedures.