What is Physics?
One of the oldest academic disciplines, physics is a natural science whose goal is to understand how everything works at its most fundamental level. Physicists study nature on scales as small as an atomic nucleus to as large as the observable universe. Physics is the cornerstone of the other natural sciences (chemistry, geology, biology, astronomy) and is essential to understanding our modern technological society. At the heart of physics is a combination of experiment, observation and the analysis of phenomena using mathematical and computational tools.
Examples of what physicists study include:
- The nature of fundamental particles (protons, quarks, electrons, neutrinos,…).
- The behavior of dark matter, dark energy, galaxies and black holes.
- The properties of matter in standard and exotic phases (solids, liquids, plasmas, superconductors, superfluids…).
- The behavior of complex systems (the stock market, cellular locomotion, infectious disease transmission, the motion of galaxy clusters or distant planetary systems).
Why study Physics?
Physicists attempt to understand the fundamental mathematical relationships that govern natural phenomena and apply those relationships to interesting problems. The main reason to study physics is because you are curious about how the world works. In addition to that knowledge, you gain a set of incredibly useful skills that make you attractive to a wide range of employers.
A physics degree trains you to become an expert problem solver. You will learn to break down a problem into its component parts and apply advanced mathematics, computing, data analysis and experimental techniques to arrive at a solution. We also emphasize technical writing and presentation skills, as well as working in teams.
Physics majors are well-prepared for further graduate study in physics or astronomy, or employment in a wide-range of sectors including:
- Engineering and manufacturing
- Computer programming/software design
- Finance and management consulting
- Defense and aerospace industry
- High school science teaching
- Journalism or science writing
- Law and government
- Physics & Astronomy research
Employers understand the strong analytical skill set that physics majors bring; physicists get good job offers with salaries comparable to engineering and computer science majors. Among all disciplines, physics students have among the very highest average scores on the MCAT and LSAT examinations, indicating that a physics degree also provides excellent preparation for law and medical school.
- Click here for more information on why you should study physics.
- What can you do with a Physics degree?
- Learn about our department degree programs.
- Visit the Physics Careers Fact Sheet and Career Toolbox to learn about job options for physicists. Also check out the APS Professional Development Guidebook.
- Learn about preparing for a career in physics and the economics of a physics degree.
- Physicists come in all colors, shapes, sizes, genders, ethnicities, and religious or political affiliations. Read about profiles of all kinds of physicists. Physics is for everyone!
Becoming a Physics Teacher
There is an extreme shortage in New Jersey of high school teachers with physics training. Physics majors become well-qualified to teach not only physics but also geoscience, chemistry and all levels of mathematics. Our graduates regularly get attractive offers from excellent high schools in the region. Learn more about becoming a physics teacher at the links below:
- Becoming a physics teacher.
- Why teach physics?
- More about the shortage of physics teachers.
- Noyce Science Teacher Scholarship Program at Montclair State.
- Learn about our teaching certificate and degree programs.
Why study physics at Montclair State?
Physics is a difficult subject, and pursuing a physics degree will require more than just a passing interest in physics or astronomy. You will be expected to work hard and dig deeply into the subject. If you are up for the challenge, we hope you’ll consider joining our department. Some of the advantages of studying with us include:
- Our faculty size and number of majors allows for small classes and individual attention. Here, your professors will know you.
- There are multiple opportunities for research with faculty, including as part of a group focused on the LIGO gravitational-wave detector, which helped discover the first black hole collisions and led to the 2017 Nobel Prize in Physics.
- Our active Physics Club connects you with other physics majors, weekly activities, and free food!
- Our recently revised curriculum provides excellent preparation for STEM careers or graduate study.
- Recently renovated lab spaces have state-of-the-art new equipment: learn about atomic/nuclear physics, optics, and more!
- Two seminar courses prepare you for the physics major and set you on the path for post-graduation success.
- Our students have a strong track record of acceptance to graduate schools, landing top high school teaching positions, and corporate employment. Multiple degree paths provide a range of options suited to your talents and interests.
- Our department wants you to succeed and provides a community to help you do so! Join us!
To learn more, contact our department chairperson, Prof. Marc Favata.
See also our department flyer for additional information.