Top Schools for Physics

Read about the top schools for physics in the U.S., which include high-ranking national universities and technology institutes. Find information about degree options at four top-notch schools, as well as a list of other universities around the country that offer programs for aspiring physicists.

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Physics degree programs are available at top institutions across the country at the undergraduate and graduate levels. Students interested in these programs can learn more about some of the unique programs here.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Acoustics
  • Atomic and Molecular Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Optical Sciences
  • Solid State Physics
  • Theoretical Physics

School Overview

Among the top schools highlighted below, students will find a public university, a private technical college and two Ivy League institutions, all four of which have high-ranking physics schools, according to U.S. News & World Report. Unique characteristics to the individual schools include a physics library, an interdisciplinary engineering program and a lecture series.

University of California in Berkeley, CA

School Highlight: The University of California at Berkeley's Department of Physics ranked at the top of the National Research Council's list of graduate programs in 2010.

The University of California at Berkeley tied with the second best graduate physics graduate program among universities in 2014, according to U.S. News & World Report. The Department of Physics offers a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in a variety of related areas, including electromagentism and optics, statistical and thermal physics, solid state physics, equilibrium statistical physics and particle physics phenomonenology. Students can also take advantage of the Physics-Astronomy Library, which provides access to books and journals in physics, both online and in print.

California Institute of Technology (Caltech) in Pasadena, CA

School Highlight: The California Institute of Technology features an applied physics program which consists of a physics and engineering combined curriculum.

Caltech is a private technical college which also tied for second on the U.S. News & World Report list of top physics graduate schools in 2014. The Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy offers a undergraduate and graduate programs in physics, emphasizing both coursework and participation in research. The purpose of the institute's Master of Science program is to prepare prospective students for Ph.D. candidacy. An interdisciplinary graduate program in applied physics that combines the study of physics with engineering is also available.

Harvard University in Cambridge, MA

School Highlight: Harvard University's Department of Physics has hosted The Morris Loeb & David M. Lee Lectures in Physics, featuring lectures on research related to physics since 1953.

According to U.S. News & World Report in 2017, Harvard University ranked as the second best university in the U.S.; it also tied for second place among physics graduate schools in 2014. The Department of Physics at this Ivy League school offers both undergraduate and graduate programs in physics, with the latter leading to a Master of Arts or a Ph.D. Undergraduate areas of concentration include applied physics, biophysics and teaching physics. A defining feature of the university's Department of Physics is the annual Morris Loeb Lectureship and the David M. Lee Lectures in Physics series, available to graduate students, faculty and research groups.

Cornell University in Ithaca, NY

School Highlight:Cornell offers students access to the Cornell NanoScale Science and Technology Facility.

Cornell tied for the #7 spot on U.S. News & World Report's list of best physics graduate schools in 2014. Cornell is also an Ivy League school that provides students with undergraduate and graduate programs in physics. Undergraduates must take three semesters of introductory courses followed by upper-level courses that can include topics like quantum mechanics and electromagnetism. The Ph.D. program only requires an advanced lab course, thus allowing students to customize their coursework to best match their research and career goals.

Top Physics Schools

These additional top ranking schools offer physics programs that are distinct in several ways.

  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) is located in Cambridge, MA, and offers the M.I.T. Summer Research Program (MSRP).
  • Stanford University in Stanford, CA, is home to the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
  • The University of California in Santa Barbara has a faculty that consists of 3 Nobel Laureates and 16 members of National Academies.
  • The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign offers the Physics Education Research (PER) group.
  • The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor has state-of-the-art physics shops.
  • The University of Texas at Austin offers the Women in Physics outreach program.

Physics degree programs are fairly common at top-ranking institutions across the country, including the University of California in Berkeley. These undergraduate and graduate programs offer exclusive facilities, a variety of programs and more.

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