2016-2017 Undergraduate Catalog [ARCHIVED CATALOG]
Bachelor of Science with a major in Physics and a concentration in Nuclear Science
Nuclear Science is a prominent and expanding field, especially in the state and region. The proximity of the Savannah River Site, the development of the MOX facility, the expansion of the Plant Vogtle facility, and the importance of radionuclides in medical physics each represent some of the various rewarding career opportunities for graduates with nuclear science experience. Nuclear science 4-year degree programs are not common, and graduates will have knowledge and skills to set them apart from others. Nuclear workers have a high-value skill set in an expanding field. Students should be aware that nuclear facility workers must adhere to strict regulations such as drug testing that involve zero-tolerance for any sort of substance abuse.
The BS Physics degree overall provides a robust, fundamental science education that can be applied effectively to nearly any career path. Graduates have extraordinary analytical, mathematical, and problem-solving skills including the ability to think abstractly and handle complex data. These skills that are developed by pursuing the physics degree are highly valued by employers. Graduates frequently choose to pursue further education in graduate level physics, engineering, or professional programs such as medical school or dental school. Physics majors are traditionally among the best prepared for professional programs as evidenced by MCAT scores higher than most other majors (second only to Economics in 2012 according to the AIP Statistical Research Center based on AAMC data). Demonstrating the broad applicability of skills, physics majors were second only to math majors in performance on the LSAT for admission to Law School (2012 Law School Admission Council data).
Physics is the study of the behavior of the world around us. It is the foundation of all other sciences with principles being essential to engineering, scientific research, healthcare, and manufacturing. Physics majors frequently become highly skilled at computer programming and some find employment opportunities in IT.
Physics graduates, like others in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) are not only in high demand by employers, but they generally command higher salaries regardless of the area of employment. A 2005 PricewaterhouseCoopers report found physics majors earn 30% more than other BS degree majors, with salary differences becoming more pronounced later in the career. A 2010 Institute of Physics survey found that 58% of physics graduates who were employed immediately after their BS degree worked in an occupation that was not related to physics, yet 79% of these employees reported that their physics background was useful to their job. From 1980-2008 the number of STEM majors in managerial positions increased 73% while the overall workforce increased by only 44%. You can usually use your physics degree to take you to a career that fits your passion.
Job satisfaction is generally quite high among physics graduates. American Institute of Physics surveys show greater than 80% in private sector STEM have high satisfaction. Greater than 70% in non-STEM positions report satisfaction, with the lack of intellectual challenge as the main factor lowering the rate. Over 90% of physics graduates teaching in high schools report high job satisfaction.
Skills and interests suited to studying physics
Physics majors are generally very curious and are interested in learning how the world around them works. Physics majors must pursue and ultimately be comfortable with high level mathematics. In coursework, students learn to apply fundamental principles and problem-solving strategies to complex problems. While there is fundamental factual content, there is minimal use of rote memorization in course material.
About the program
Upon completion of Calculus I, students are ready to begin the 2-semester introductory physics coursework. The advanced physics coursework is completed in the junior and senior years. Most of the advanced courses are currently offered only every other year, thus the juniors and seniors take the advanced courses together. Many majors participate in undergraduate research projects and present results at professional meeting. The physics faculty work closely with the majors to advise and mentor them through the program. The nuclear science concentration includes 3 specialized nuclear science courses, an intro course in fall plus an applications course and measurements lab in the spring.