Best Colleges for Physics 2021

Physics illustration for ranking of best university physics programs.

Physics is a science that involves the study of the properties of the physical universe, from the characteristics of visible materials down to the very smallest of subatomic particles that make up all matter.

20 Best Colleges for Physics

This is our RealRanktm ranking of the best colleges for Physics. Each of the listed university programs on the ranking includes a link to its website as well. You can search around those websites to find out more about their Physics programs, and the fee/cost estimators, if they have one. (Independence Note: We do not earn any commissions from the links!)

1Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyCambridgeMA
2California Institute of TechnologyPasadenaCA
3Stanford UniversityPalo AltoCA
4Harvard UniversityCambridgeMA
5Princeton UniversityPrinceton NJ
6University of ChicagoChicagoIL
7Columbia UniversityNew YorkNY
8Yale UniversityNew HavenCT
9Cornell UniversityIthacaNY
10University of California - BerkeleyBerkeleyCA
11University of TexasAustinTX
12University of PennsylvaniaPhiladelphiaPA
13University of WashingtonSeattleWA
14Texas A&M UniversityCollege StationTX
15University of IllinoisChampaignIL
16Georgia Institute of TechnologyAtlantaGA
17The Ohio State UniversityColumbusOH
18University of ArizonaTucsonAZ
19University of North CarolinaChapel HillNC
20Carnegie Mellon UniversityPittsburghPA

What is your experience at these universities or in their physics departments?


Economic Value of A Physics Degree

Physics is a highly mathematical and theoretical field. Often experts in the field view the undergraduate major as just the beginning, since a more advanced degree is required to develop an expertise of value for a lot of the types of careers available.  Accordingly, undergraduate Physics programs at many universities serve as feeders for graduate programs, or as a weeding out process. This is why the earnings potential for physics majors is more complicated than for many other fields.

Examples of the types of careers utilizing a Physics degree include:

  • Academics and teaching.
  • Pure Scientific Research.
  • Research and Development at companies or governmental or military agencies that deal with subatomic particles, such as complex computer chips, nuclear fission and nuclear fusion.
  • Complex manufacturing research and development.
  • Particle accelerators.

Physics Has a Relatively Low Earning Potential for Undergraduates and a Mid-High Earning Potential for Advanced Degrees

The job market for physics majors is relatively complex compared with other fields of study. Students who major in Physics as an undergraduate can find it difficult to land the top physics related jobs without an advanced degree. Typically a Ph.D. (doctorate) is required for the top jobs. If you develop that type of credential, the earning potential actually is very high, especially in private industry. However, that requires several college years beyond undergraduate study.  Because of this relatively long career structure for physics majors, the costs of a college education can be relatively high.

Strategies to Minimize Physics College Debt

If you are planning ultimately to get an advanced degree in physics, one possible strategy is to select one of the outstanding public universities, such as those ranked in our ranking list.  Sometimes private universities have provided extra financial aid to attract top students to their physics programs as well. You can get a ballpark estimate of the tuition and costs involved by using the estimators that some universities provide on their websites.


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