Top 25 Bachelor Of Physics Programs With The Best Return On Investment

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Staff Writers
Updated December 18, 2020

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Top Physics Programs

An undergraduate degree in physics can lead to any number of exciting careers, and there are many great undergraduate degree programs to choose from; by choosing from a list that ranks bachelor of physics programs with the best return on investment you will be making sure the money you put in to your education provides you with a secure future in the field of physics.

Many think of physics as an academic career, performing research in universities and this is one of the possible careers, but by no means the only, or even the primary career for physics degree holders. Physicists are sought out by many high tech companies looking to apply cutting edge research to their products and services, and studying physics as an undergraduate can often prepare students for the study of other sciences. There are also numerous interdisciplinary applications of physics, making it one of the best choices for students who want to keep their options open.

According to the BLS, physicists vie with engineers and computer scientists for high median pay, and many with just undergraduate degrees can still earn the top figures in the field. The median pay for physicists is over $105,000 per year according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, making it one of the highest paying fields in the modern world.

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The physics degree ranking list below is designed to help prospective physics majors choose a school with a high thirty year net return on investment, that will give students the best opportunities in the field at the undergraduate level.

Top 10 Rankings Bachelor of Physic Programs

#1 California Institute of Technology Pasadena, CA
#2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Cambridge, MA
#3 Stanford University Stanford, CA
#4 Harvard University Cambridge, MA
#5 Princeton University Princeton, NJ
#6 University of California-Berkeley Berkeley, CA
#7 University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia, PA
#8 Columbia University in the City of New York New York City, NY
#9 Cornell University Ithaca, NY
#10 Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD


Universities were included in the list according to their inclusion in the top 25 ranking of the Academic Ranking of World Universities for Physics. The schools were then ranked from the highest to lowest 30 year net return on investment as reported by

This Physics Degrees ranking list will help students discern the best value among affordable undergraduate physics programs, so that they are sure they are spending their time and money in the most optimal fashion.

  1. California Institute of Technology

    Pasadena, CA

    Cal Tech is a world renowned university for its work in the sciences, engineering, and technology. The school is the home of the award winning Cal Tech Undergraduate Research Journal, where students are able to gain first hand experience with the world of academic publishing by writing, editing, and evaluating works in their field. Cal Tech's 30 year average net ROI is also among the very highest in the United States. This is due to the fact that Cal Tech's strongest programs lead to jobs in some of the highest earning fields, and Cal Tech graduates often achieve great heights in their specialties.

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #4

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.99 Million

  2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

    Cambridge, MA

    MIT is well known to be one of the foremost epicenters of scientific research in the world. Physics students are given the opportunity to engage in research projects and develop their own research ideas through the Undergraduate Research Opportunities Program. Another opportunity for undergraduates that distinguish themselves is the MIT Summer Research Program, which seeks out high potential individuals and provides them with the opportunity to be involved in major research at the school.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #2

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.61 Million

  3. Stanford University

    Stanford, CA

    The Stanford undergraduate program in physics features a senior thesis program in which students pursue research in their specialty, and an optional honors program where additional research experience can be acquired. Stanford also provides undergraduate students research opportunities both on campus and abroad through the summer research program. Stanford University is one of the premier universities in the United States for the study of the sciences, and with the school's heavy research focus, students will find themselves with many opportunities to be involved with cutting edge research in the field while earning their undergraduate degree.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #6

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.43 Million

  4. Harvard University

    Cambridge, MA

    Harvard is well known for its prestigious Law and Medical programs, but it is also ranked #1 in the world by the Academic Ranking of World Universities for its physics programs. Harvard has two physics research centers that support undergraduate level student research in the field: Harvard Quantum Optics Center and the Center for Ultracold Atoms. These opportunities provide students with a chance to dive into physics research early in their academic careers.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #1

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.33 Million

  5. Princeton University

    Princeton, NJ

    Princeton has a wide range of opportunities available to undergraduate physics students who wish to gain research experience. Every student gains some research experience as each does a senior thesis project which begins training them to take initiative early in their career. There are also numerous opportunities for students to engage in research through internships at Princeton or any number of the worldwide network of labs and research centers with which Princeton has connections.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #5

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.23 Million

  6. University of California-Berkeley

    Berkeley, CA

    U.C. Berkeley boasts not only one of the highest net return on investments among public schools, but also one of the highest in the United States. The school is also highly ranked by the Academic Ranking of World Universities for its physics program. Undergraduate students will have a chance to develop their research skills if they so desire, through U.C. Berkeley, Atomic, Nanoscale, and Quantum Characterization Facility, which is specifically devoted to allowing undergraduate and graduate students to gain experience in research and develop their skills through various training opportunities.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #3

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.18 Million

  7. University of Pennsylvania

    Philadelphia, PA

    With a strong reputation for academic excellence, the University of Pennsylvania is one of the top schools in the United States. There have been eight Nobel laureates within the last ten years that have been associated with UPenn, an impressive number. Though not all of those prizes were in physics, it serves as an example to the University's commitment to groundbreaking research in the sciences.

    Undergraduate students will have an opportunity to learn under some of the greatest minds in the world of physics. The Research Experience for Undergraduates Program at UPenn is sponsored by the National Science Foundation and provides students with the opportunity to begin engaging in important research while in the early years of their academic career.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #22

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.22 Million

  8. Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York City, NY

    The physics department at Columbia University is small with only 20 undergraduate and 100 graduate students admitted per year, and 35 faculty. There is a heavy research focus at the school and undergraduate students receive much individual attention and mentorship, especially in their junior and senior years. The student to faculty ratio for undergraduate juniors and seniors in the physics department at Columbia is an astonishing 3:2 which truly allows students and professors to maximize the time of undergraduates in those crucial years.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #21

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.175 Million

  9. Cornell University

    Ithaca, NY

    Research opportunities for undergraduate students at Cornell are numerous. One of the primary strategies for landing a job working on research as an undergraduate at Cornell is to develop relationships with professors. Not all positions at the school are openly advertised, but students that distinguish themselves and express an interest often find many opportunities in front of them to both earn money, and gain valuable experience in their field.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #10

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.12 Million

  10. Johns Hopkins University

    Baltimore, MD

    While Johns Hopkins is most renowned for its medical school, it maintains a long history of high standards of education across the sciences. Undergraduates will have access to various research fellowships and awards. JHU has always been a highly research focused university and is committed to enriching the education of undergraduate students by involving them in research from the very beginning.

    Program Website

    Academic Ranking of World Universities: #15

    30 Year Average Net ROI: $1.07 Million

Earning a bachelors degree in physics prepares future scientists for graduate programs in physics and a plethora of exciting job opportunities. While doing researching on the best undergraduate Physics bachelor's degrees, be sure to consider this list of top-ranked bachelor of physics programs with the best return on investment.

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