Online Physical Science Degrees

ASO Staff Writers
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Updated June 9, 2023
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The physical sciences encompass a broad array of subjects, from physics to geology. For prospective students considering a degree in the field, developing an understanding of the various educational options is important. The following guide serves as an introduction to the different types of online degrees in the physical sciences, the types of classes offered at each degree level, and how earning a degree can position a student for success in a diverse number of professional fields.

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ONLINE PHYSICAL SCIENCE SCHOOL DEGREES

While a number of colleges and universities offer online courses in the physical sciences, due to the need for in-the-lab hands-on training, distance learning postsecondary degree programs in the physical science fields are almost non-existent (with the exception of a very few programs in physics and geology). Many of these online programs are presented in a hybrid format that requires some level of in-person on-site attendance in combination with online classes.

Best Online Physical Science Schools

Those interested in physical sciences enjoy the study of chemistry, physics, astronomy and other non-living systems and then go on to careers with a wide range of opportunities. Earning a degree online can can help graduates get a foot in the door in their career of choice because they have added knowledge and possibly work experience to give them a leg up on the competition. To help in the search for the best possible program, we’ve done some research on classes available, services offered and student to teacher ratio so aspiring scientists can make a good choice.

#1 Online Physical Science Degrees

Missouri University of Science and Technology

  • Location-markerRolla, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,120
  • Out-of-state$27,921
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate79%
  • Students Enrolled8,088
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment22%
  • AccreditationYes
#2 Online Physical Science Degrees

Michigan Technological University

  • Location-markerHoughton, MI
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$16,834
  • Out-of-state$36,688
  • Retention Rate84%
  • Acceptance Rate74%
  • Students Enrolled7,027
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment9%
  • AccreditationYes
#3 Online Physical Science Degrees

Southern Methodist University

  • Location-markerDallas, TX
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$50,200
  • Out-of-state$50,200
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate47%
  • Students Enrolled11,824
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment10%
  • AccreditationYes
#4 Online Physical Science Degrees

Mississippi State University

  • Location-markerMississippi State, MS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,800
  • Out-of-state$23,840
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate54%
  • Students Enrolled22,226
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment18%
  • AccreditationYes
#5 Online Physical Science Degrees

Auburn University

  • Location-markerAuburn, AL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,816
  • Out-of-state$29,448
  • Retention Rate91%
  • Acceptance Rate81%
  • Students Enrolled30,460
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment27%
  • AccreditationYes
#6 Online Physical Science Degrees

Arizona State University-Tempe

  • Location-markerTempe, AZ
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,710
  • Out-of-state$28,800
  • Retention Rate88%
  • Acceptance Rate86%
  • Students Enrolled53,286
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment47%
  • AccreditationYes
#7 Online Physical Science Degrees

Kansas State University

  • Location-markerManhattan, KS
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$9,735
  • Out-of-state$25,251
  • Retention Rate86%
  • Acceptance Rate95%
  • Students Enrolled21,719
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment27%
  • AccreditationYes
#8 Online Physical Science Degrees

University of North Dakota

  • Location-markerGrand Forks, ND
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,212
  • Out-of-state$14,371
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate81%
  • Students Enrolled13,581
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment45%
  • AccreditationYes
#9 Online Physical Science Degrees

Iowa State University

  • Location-markerAmes, IA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$8,042
  • Out-of-state$23,230
  • Retention Rate87%
  • Acceptance Rate92%
  • Students Enrolled33,372
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment23%
  • AccreditationYes
#10 Online Physical Science Degrees

Park University

  • Location-markerParkville, MO
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$7,999
  • Out-of-state$7,999
  • Retention Rate66%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled11,415
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment78%
  • AccreditationYes
#11 Online Physical Science Degrees

Stanford University

  • Location-markerStanford, CA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$52,857
  • Out-of-state$52,857
  • Retention Rate99%
  • Acceptance Rate4%
  • Students Enrolled17,249
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment5%
  • AccreditationYes
#12 Online Physical Science Degrees

Lehigh University

  • Location-markerBethlehem, PA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$54,790
  • Out-of-state$54,790
  • Retention Rate93%
  • Acceptance Rate32%
  • Students Enrolled6,953
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment6%
  • AccreditationYes
#13 Online Physical Science Degrees

Ohio University-Main Campus

  • Location-markerAthens, OH
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$12,612
  • Out-of-state$22,406
  • Retention Rate82%
  • Acceptance Rate82%
  • Students Enrolled27,367
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment48%
  • AccreditationYes
#14 Online Physical Science Degrees

Northern Arizona University

  • Location-markerFlagstaff, AZ
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$10,018
  • Out-of-state$16,613
  • Retention Rate78%
  • Acceptance Rate85%
  • Students Enrolled30,733
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment46%
  • AccreditationYes
#15 Online Physical Science Degrees

University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign

  • Location-markerChampaign, IL
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$14,188
  • Out-of-state$33,127
  • Retention Rate93%
  • Acceptance Rate59%
  • Students Enrolled51,605
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment39%
  • AccreditationYes
#16 Online Physical Science Degrees

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

  • Location-markerWorcester, MA
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$51,604
  • Out-of-state$51,604
  • Retention Rate95%
  • Acceptance Rate49%
  • Students Enrolled6,894
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment14%
  • AccreditationYes
#17 Online Physical Science Degrees

Johns Hopkins University

  • Location-markerBaltimore, MD
  • 4 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$55,350
  • Out-of-state$55,350
  • Retention Rate97%
  • Acceptance Rate11%
  • Students Enrolled27,079
  • Institution TypePrivate
  • Percent Online Enrollment46%
  • AccreditationYes
#18 Online Physical Science Degrees

Allen County Community College

  • Location-markerIola, KS
  • 2 year
  • Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$1,800
  • Out-of-state$1,800
  • Retention Rate62%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled2,407
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment73%
  • AccreditationYes
#19 Online Physical Science Degrees

Holmes Community College

  • Location-markerGoodman, MS
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$2,600
  • Out-of-state$5,180
  • Retention Rate69%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled5,529
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment53%
  • AccreditationYes
#20 Online Physical Science Degrees

Crowder College

  • Location-markerNeosho, MO
  • 2 year
  • Campus + Online
Average Tuition
  • In-State$3,552
  • Out-of-state$3,552
  • Retention Rate73%
  • Acceptance Rate0%
  • Students Enrolled4,401
  • Institution TypePublic
  • Percent Online Enrollment26%
  • AccreditationYes

PHYSICAL SCIENCE SCHOOL DEGREES

Given the scientific nature of the fields of study that fall under the physical sciences heading, it is no surprise that a strong commitment to higher education is a prerequisite to a career in the field. Major areas of study in the physical sciences include astronomy, geology, physics, chemistry, and more. The level of postsecondary education necessary for employment depends on both the specific field of study and the specific job sought. For example, entry-level positions for geologists (such as geological or petroleum technician) are available to graduates with as little as an associate degree. However, astronomers and physicists seeking employment as researchers will have to earn their doctoral degrees to land entry-level positions.

PROGRAM HIGHLIGHT:
ONLINE BACHELOR’S DEGREE IN PHYSICAL SCIENCES

Currently, many postsecondary institutions offer individual online courses in physical science. A few schools offer online bachelor’s degrees in science with a specialization in physics for those interested in becoming middle or high school physics teachers. This degree typically runs between 120 and 124 credit hours. Some online programs may require a full-time student teaching component for graduation. Students learn the basics of general science, advanced physics, and teaching methodologies to become qualified teachers in the field. Courses usually cover topics such as calculus, fundamentals of educational psychology, and modern physics. Graduates of an degree programs in the physical sciences should meet qualifications for single subject teaching at secondary schools. However, some school districts or states may have additional teacher requirements for employment.

ONLINE ASSOCIATE IN PHYSICAL SCIENCE DEGREES

An associate degree is a two-year program offered almost exclusively in the United States at junior and community colleges. Associate degrees in the physical sciences provide a basic foundation of knowledge in the given subjects. Anyone considering a career in the physical sciences would do well to forego an associate degree program and seek out an appropriate bachelor’s degree. Along with general education classes, students working on an online physical science associate degree will be required to complete general subject-related courses such as:

COURSE NAMEOVERVIEW
Conceptual PhysicsIntroduction to important phenomena in physics through description with experimental demonstrations.
General ChemistryDetailed study of basic principles of atomic and molecular structure and bonding, chemical reactions, solutions, gas laws, and more.
Introduction to AstronomyGeneral survey of astronomy that includes the sun, planets, moons, stars, black holes, dark matter, cosmology, and more.
Survey of GeologyIntroduction to the principles of geology including plate tectonics, earthquakes, volcanoes, and earth structure.

ONLINE BACHELOR’S IN PHYSICAL SCIENCE DEGREES

Bachelor’s degree programs in the physical sciences, like most other subject areas, can be successfully completed within four to five years. Online coursework will include a foundational general education requirement, a core set of classes in the chosen subject field, and a group of elective courses. The following table provides a sample of the types of courses physical science bachelor’s degree students will be taking:

COURSE NAMEOVERVIEW
Introductory Astrophysics [Astronomy]Topics include the development of astronomy, electromagnetic radiation, and the origin of the solar system.
Observational Astronomy [Astronomy]Introduction to current optical observation including, infrared, ultraviolet and x-ray techniques.
Foundations of Chemical Principles [Chemistry]Basic chemical principles, with topics that include the structure of the atom, periodic table and trends, covalent and ionic bonding, and others.
Principles of Chemical Thermodynamics and Kinetics [Chemistry]Focuses on the macroscopic properties of chemical systems.
Earthquakes and Natural Disasters [Geology]Addresses issues regarding earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, tidal waves, global warming and more.
Stratigraphy [Geology]Study of the principles of lithostatigraphy, biostratigraphy, and sequence stratigraphy.
Electricity and Magnetism [Physics]Magnetic properties of materials, electrodynamics, currents, magnetostatics, and more.
Optics [Physics]Covers geometrical and physical optics, waves, reflection, optical instrumentation, and several other topics.

ONLINE MASTER’S IN PHYSICAL SCIENCE DEGREES

Master’s degree programs are typically offered for each physical science field (e.g., Master of Science in Physics or Master of Science in Chemistry), or under the generalized title of Master of Science in Physical Science, with a stated emphasis in one of the specific disciplines. A growing trend at many colleges and universities is to allow students to design (under supervision) their own courses of study, combining aspects of two or more physical science fields together, or even combining one or more physical science subjects with an engineering, technology, natural science, or social science discipline. In almost all cases, completing a master’s degree program in the physical sciences will require a time commitment of eighteen to twenty-four months or longer, during which students will encounter courses similar to those on the following list:

MASTER’S PROGRAM CORE COURSESOVERVIEW
Chemistry and the Atmosphere [General]Focuses on chemistry as it applies to the Earth’s atmosphere, with topics such as the interaction of solar radiation and atmospheric gases.
Environmental History of the Earth [General]Emphasis on how geologic history has determined the physical and biological environments on Earth today.
Diffuse Matter in Space [Astronomy]Basic equations of fluid dynamics, fundamentals of magnetohydrodynamics and more.
Quantum Mechanics for Astrophysics [Astronomy]Quantum mechanical topics in areas of interest for astrophysics applications.
Advanced Analytical Chemistry [Chemistry]Emphasis on chemical information and modern analytical methods to chemical problems.
Medicinal Chemistry [Chemistry]Study of the chemistry and biological activity of hormones, vitamins, drugs, and other agents.
Earthquake Seismology [Geology]Topics include seismic waves, their recording and management, and the estimation of earthquake source strength, location and mechanism.
Environmental Geology and Planning [Geology]Geologic processes, hazards, minerals and energy resources, and their interaction with planning and regulations.
Lattice Gauge Theory [Physics]Introduction to Lattice Gauge Theory, building on the Wilsonian approach to Quantum Field Theory.
Topics in String Theory [Physics]Modern string theory topics, including aspects of 2d conformal field theory, mirror symmetry, and moonshine.

ONLINE DOCTORAL DEGREES IN PHYSICAL SCIENCES

As one might expect, a PhD in the physical sciences represents the highest level of academic achievement one can earn in each of the respective fields. Physical science doctorate programs are often offered in highly specialized sub-fields (such as nanoscience, nuclear chemistry, or analytical chemistry) or in an interdisciplinary format, combining two or more specializations. The time commitment to complete a PhD degree program in the physical sciences can vary substantially by specific field and other degree requirements, but individuals can expect to commit between four and ten years or more to their academic pursuit.

WHAT CAN YOU DO WITH A PHYSICAL SCIENCE DEGREE?

Careers in the physical sciences encompass a wide variety of professions and occupations, with employment in teaching and academia, and by government agencies, non-profit organizations, and private firms and businesses.

Career choices vary greatly among the various physical science subjects. The following list offers a brief glimpse at the types of occupations one might expect to find within each of the physical science fields:

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