Study Physics in the US

Physics is the most fundamental physical science, concerned with the underlying principles of the natural world. It is at the heart of everything, from the stars in the sky to the electronics in your i-pod. It is a highly rewarding discipline to study at school, university and beyond. Physics is at the heart of many fundamental problems posed by science today from the search for the origin of the universe to the search for a clean renewable energy source for the future.

Study Physics in the US

Above all studying physics in America opens doors to a wide variety of careers and physicists are sought after in areas as diverse as investment banking to medical research in addition to the more traditional university based academic research careers. Employees see a physics qualification as an indication of someone who will immediately be an asset to the organisation. This is because physics requires a logical and numerate mind, an ability to solve problems, computing and practical skills, teamwork and flexibility and, above all, an enquiring mind.

There are a number of reasons an international student interested in physics should consider studying in the United States. The United States is a world leader in physical science research. Nine of the last ten Nobel Laureate Awards for Physics were awarded to US researchers. The large number of American research universities and national research labs present both graduate and undergraduate students with a wealth of opportunity to study virtually any and every field of physics. In addition, the sheer number of colleges and universities in America present international students with an opportunity to study in a variety of settings that range from small liberal arts schools on the West Coast, state universities in large college towns in the mid-West, research universities in an East Coast city, and everything in between.

In addition to formal study, there are also a host of scholarly physics societies in the United States and worldwide, whose focus covers all fields and subfields of the physical sciences. The largest physical society in the US is the American Physical Society (APS). The APS and many other societies have special student membership rates, as well as activities geared to physics students at both the graduate and undergraduate level. One of the chief functions of science societies is to organize physics conferences where physicists from all over the world can meet to present and discuss their latest research and results. The United States hosts hundreds of physics conferences throughout the year that are open to students, often at reduced registration rates.

The scientific community in the United States deeply appreciates that scientific research must cross national boundaries. Large numbers of American researchers at both government funded labs and in the private sector are involved in international research collaborations. This is illustrated by their international publication record in some of the world’s most prestigious science journals and this international approach trickles down to the graduate and undergraduate level in American schools. According to the US Department of Education, "Each year over half a million students visit the United States to study in our educational institutions at all levels." Twenty-two percent of these international students are enrolled in science and engineering programs. The percentage of international students rises when looking exclusively at graduate programs. After a brief post-9/11 drop, the number of international graduate students applying and being accepted into American graduate programs is on the rise, going up 12 percent from 2005 to 2006. Just as important, seventy-nine percent of graduate schools who responded to a Council of Graduate Schools survey reported that, "they have initiated at least one intervention to improve outreach to prospective international applicants, and one-third reported undertaking two or more."

In addition to school specific academic standards, international students seeking to study in the United States should expect to demonstrate a working knowledge of English. The most commonly accepted test of English proficiency is the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) exam. Because national study standards and certifications vary from country to country, students may need to refer to the National Council for the Recognition of Foreign Academic Credentials, which is the U.S. national body responsible for developing and publishing comparability statements designed to assist U.S. educators and credential evaluators in determining how international qualifications correspond to U.S. certificates, diplomas, and degrees at various educational levels. International students should also be aware that financial aid for American students is limited and even rarer for international students. Financial aid options improve at the graduate level, where student teaching is often a part of the graduate program.

The following is a list of general links that may be helpful to anyone considering studying physics in the US or wish to find out more about physics in general. Most university and college physics programs also have their own websites, some even have specific pages that address the needs and questions of the international applicant.

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