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Learn physics with online courses and programs

Physics seeks to explain how the universe works, from the smallest subatomic particles to the largest galaxies. Explore physics with online courses from edX.

What is physics?

Physics is the study of the natural world, covering the behavior of matter and energy. It explores the fundamental laws and principles that govern the universe, such as motion, energy, force, and gravity. It applies these laws and principles to explain the behavior of objects and systems. Physics also seeks to understand and predict how these objects and systems will interact and behave in different conditions.Footnote 1

Physicists and other scientists use physics to test hypotheses and solve problems. Its purpose is to create scientific laws, typically expressed mathematically, so that other natural phenomena can be predicted and explained.Footnote 2

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Online physics course curriculum 

So, what do you learn in physics courses? For those who are new to the topic, an introductory online physics course may begin with studying the foundational concepts of the field which can include topics such as: Newton’s Laws and motion, conservation of energy and momentum, gravitation, waves and sound, and electric charge in matter. The field will require students to solve mathematical equations to calculate distances, velocities, accelerations, forces, and energies. 

As you progress throughout your learning, you may be able to study the application of physics to specific subfields. With edX, you can enroll in a physics class where you will take a deep dive into subcategories such as:

  • Mechanics: focuses on the movement and motion of objects under force and at rest. Mechanics is further divided into classical mechanics, things we can see and interact with, and quantum mechanics. Quantum mechanics is the behavior of subatomic particles like protons, electrons, and photons. 

  • Optics: addresses how infrared, visible, and ultraviolet light is propagated, how it behaves, and how it affects the world. 

  • Thermodynamics: explores how heat moves through the universe (via radiation, conduction, and convection) and how it interacts with concepts like energy.

  • Electromagnetism: explores the behavior and composition of light, magnetic fields, electrical fields, and electron flow, etc. Like mechanics, electromagnetism can be further broken down into two smaller branches – electricity and magnetism. 

  • Relativity: seeks to define better space and time relative to a fixed or moving frame of reference. It answers the question of “Why doesn’t everything happen everywhere all at once?”

  • Acoustics: studies the propagation, transmission, detection, and effects of sound waves and similar vibrations moving through matter. 

Physics jobs

If you want to become a physicist, you may potentially find work in a wide variety of industries, including aerospace, biotechnology, energy, healthcare, manufacturing, materials research, telecommunications, and transportation. In many of these sectors, physicists work in research and development, identifying both theoretical and practical solutions to problems, conducting research and experiments to test their theories, and analyzing research and data to report their findings. They can apply their existing knowledge and their findings to develop breakthrough technology.Footnote 3

With jobs in physics, you can explore the depths of space, help solve climate-related issues, or find new ways of treating diseases.Footnote 4 An understanding of physics and specialization in a specific field can lead to a wide range of job opportunities in roles as an atomic, molecular, and optical physicist, computational physicist, health physicist, medical physicist, particle and nuclear physicist, and quantum information physicist. You may also use physics as an astronomer to help calculate the positions and movement of celestial bodies and predict their future behavior. Or you may apply physics to many different roles in engineering helping to design, build and maintain aircrafts, vehicles, machinery, robotics, and power plants.Footnote 5

Physics careers often require job seekers to have at least a bachelor’s degree, with many requiring a master’s degree or higher.Footnote 6 If you are interested in pursuing an education in physics or other related topics, explore the learning opportunities made available through edX. Find the right fit for your professional aspirations and personal interests.