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Best universities in the US for physical science degrees 2023

Explore the best universities for physical science degrees in the US, using data from the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2023

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November 14 2022
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Top 10 universities in the US for physical science degrees 2023

Scroll down for the full list of best universities in the US for physical science degrees

US physical sciences rank 2023 WUR physical sciences rank 2023 University State
1 1 Princeton University New Jersey
=2 =2 University of California, Berkeley California
=2 =2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
4 4 California Institute of Technology California
5 5 Stanford University California
6 6 Harvard University Massachusetts
7 10 Columbia University New York
8 11 The University of Chicago Illinois
9 12 Yale University Connecticut
10 15 University of California, Los Angeles California

The physical sciences include mathematics, statistics, physics, astronomy, chemistry, geology, environmental sciences and Earth and marine sciences. Courses in the physical sciences differ across universities and countries, but the core focus is on the understanding and application of mathematics in the natural world through practical and lab work.

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In the US, studying physical sciences at the undergraduate level usually takes the form of a four-year course, beginning with a foundation in calculus, physics and chemistry. After the first year, students can choose more specialised areas of study, and through the country’s major-minor system a number of scientific disciplines can often be explored simultaneously. Students are also encouraged to engage in research projects throughout their studies.

Postgraduate courses are focused on more specific subject areas, where students undertake research in their chosen area of interest or join a research group within their institution. 

These are the best universities in the US for physical science degrees 2023. 

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5. Stanford University

At Stanford University half of all undergraduates take at least one physics course as part of their studies. 

Undergraduates can also major or minor in physics, choosing to specialise further. 

Elective modules across the physical science fields allow for specialisation later down the line and cover everything from aeronautics, astronautics and astronomy to chemical engineering, geological sciences, mathematical and computational science and statistics.

There is a specific chemical physics track for students with a strong aptitude for physics and maths. Students can major or minor in maths, and they have the opportunity to participate in an annual maths contest with cash prizes for excellent scores and for outstanding performances by women.

An undergraduate research programme over the summer gives students the opportunity to join a physics research group to gain research experience.

There are many streams for graduates studying physical sciences, from applied physics to biophysical chemistry. 

4. California Institute of Technology

The California Institute of Technology, also known as Caltech, is a science and engineering institute founded in 1891.

Caltech’s Division of Physics, Mathematics and Astronomy offers undergraduate and postgraduate courses in a range of subjects across the physical sciences. 

The physics undergraduate courses offered at Caltech include classical mechanics and electromagnetism, the science of music and frontiers in physics. All undergraduates must complete three terms of introductory physics. Students are encouraged to get involved in research, for which they can receive academic credit.

The four-year mathematics undergraduate programme at Caltech provides a foundation in calculus, combinatorics, geometry and analysis in the first year. There are then a range of elective mathematics modules, from abstract algebra and classical analysis to homological algebra and Riemannian geometry. Seniors are encouraged to do a bachelor’s thesis in an advanced topic.

The university manages the Jet Propulsion Laboratory for Nasa as well as operating the Seismological Laboratory. 

The astronomy department has four observatories available for students to use: Ovro, Palomar, W.M. Keck, and Ligo.

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=2. Massachusetts Institute of Technology

The physics undergraduate programme at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers two tracks: Flexible and Focus. 

Postgraduate students in physics take a range of core classes such as classical mechanics and quantum mechanics. 

The Flexible track is selected by most physics majors and allows students to choose from a range of fundamental physics topics. The Focus track requires students to take more specific required courses, including two terms of experimental physics, and to write a research thesis.

There are three different undergraduate programmes in maths: applied mathematics, pure mathematics and general mathematics. There are also two postgraduate programmes in pure mathematics and applied mathematics. 

The university lays claim to 85 Nobel Laureates, 58 National Medal of Science winners, 29 National Medal of Technology and Innovation winners and 45 MacArthur Fellows. Among its impressive alumni is Kofi Annan, former secretary-general of the United Nations.

=2. University of California, Berkeley

The University of California, Berkeley was founded in 1868.

Undergraduate physical sciences courses include applied mathematics, astrophysics, Earth science, geology, geophysics, mathematics, physical science, physics and statistics. 

Earth and planetary science students can choose from six majors and eight minors covering a range of topics, including marine science, geology and atmospheric science. 

The mathematics department is home to one of the largest mathematics libraries in the US. Maths-related organisations that students can get involved in include the mathematics undergraduate student association and the women in math group.

The astronomy department is known for its research on the discovery and computation of comets, orbits and minor planets. Undergraduates can take a variety of courses, from modern cosmology to radio astronomy, and develop skills in Python coding. The department also offers research funding, meaning many astrophysics majors have had work published in scientific journals before graduating.

Physical sciences students also participate in a range of extracurricular academic, sporting, theatrical and philanthropic groups, including the space exploration society and the women in the physical sciences group. 

Students are encouraged to take part in research projects during their course.

1. Princeton University

Princeton University offers a range of natural sciences programmes that include mathematics, astrophysics, chemistry, geosciences, physics, and sustainable energy.

Princeton’s astrophysical sciences department offers a range of courses including general relativity and cosmology, while the maths department’s offerings include combinatorial optimisation and dynamic meteorology. 

In the department of chemistry, undergraduates are taught in small classes and progress to an independent senior thesis project. 

Graduate studies in mathematics focus on independent research from the beginning of the programme, unlike many other doctoral courses in the US. 

Best universities for physical sciences degrees in the United States 2023

Click each institution to view its full World University Rankings 2023 profile

US physical sciences rank 2023 WUR physical sciences rank 2023 University State
1 1 Princeton University New Jersey
=2 =2 University of California, Berkeley California
=2 =2 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Massachusetts
4 4 California Institute of Technology California
5 5 Stanford University California
6 6 Harvard University Massachusetts
7 10 Columbia University New York
8 11 The University of Chicago Illinois
9 12 Yale University Connecticut
10 15 University of California, Los Angeles California
11 17 Cornell University New York
12 19 University of Washington Washington
13 24 University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Michigan
14 29 University of Pennsylvania Pennsylvania
15 31 Johns Hopkins University Maryland
16 32 University of California, Santa Barbara California
17 33 University of California, San Diego California
18 =34 Northwestern University Illinois
19 38 University of Texas at Austin Texas
20 =39 University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Illinois
21 43 New York University New York
22 48 Georgia Institute of Technology Georgia
23 51 University of Colorado Boulder Colorado
24 52 Brown University Rhode Island
25 54 Duke University North Carolina
26 55 University of Maryland, College Park Maryland
27 60 Carnegie Mellon University Pennsylvania
=28 =62 University of California, Irvine California
=28 =62 University of Wisconsin-Madison Wisconsin
30 66 Rice University Texas
31 84 University of Arizona Arizona
32 85 Penn State (Main campus) Pennsylvania
33 88 University of California, Davis California
34 =98 University of California, Santa Cruz California
=35 101–125 Boston University Massachusetts
=35 101–125 University of Minnesota Minnesota
=35 101–125 University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill North Carolina
=35 101–125 Ohio State University (Main campus) Ohio
=35 101–125 Stony Brook University New York
=35 101–125 Texas A&M University Texas
=41 126–150 Arizona State University (Tempe) Arizona
=41 126–150 University of Massachusetts Massachusetts
=41 126–150 Michigan State University Michigan
=44 151–175 University of California, Riverside California
=44 151–175 Colorado State University, Fort Collins Colorado
=44 151–175 University of Hawai’i at Mānoa Hawai'i
=44 151–175 University of Rochester New York
=44 151–175 Rutgers University – New Brunswick New Jersey
=49 176–200 Drexel University Pennsylvania
=49 176–200 University of Florida Florida
=49 176–200 Purdue University West Lafayette Indiana
=49 176–200 University of Southern California California
=49 176–200 The University of Tennessee-Knoxville Tennessee
=49 176–200 Washington University in St Louis Missouri
=55 201–250 University of Alaska Fairbanks Alaska
=55 201–250 Brandeis University Massachusetts
=55 201–250 Colorado School of Mines Colorado
=55 201–250 Emory University Georgia
=55 201–250 Florida State University Florida
=55 201–250 Indiana University Indiana
=55 201–250 North Carolina State University North Carolina
=55 201–250 University of Notre Dame Indiana
=55 201–250 University of Pittsburgh-Pittsburgh campus Pennsylvania
=55 201–250 Vanderbilt University Tennessee
=65 251–300 Boston College Massachusetts
=65 251–300 Case Western Reserve University Ohio
=65 251–300 University of Delaware Delaware
=65 251–300 University of Miami Florida
=65 251–300 University of South Florida Florida
=65 251–300 Syracuse University New York
=65 251–300 University of Utah Utah
=65 251–300 University of Virginia (Main campus) Virginia
=65 251–300 Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University Virginia
=65 251–300 Washington State University Washington
=75 301–400 Auburn University Alabama
=75 301–400 University at Buffalo New York
=75 301–400 University of California, Merced California
=75 301–400 Clark University Massachusetts
=75 301–400 University of Connecticut Connecticut
=75 301–400 Dartmouth College New Hampshire
=75 301–400 George Washington University Washington DC
=75 301–400 University of Illinois at Chicago Illinois
=75 301–400 University of Iowa Iowa
=75 301–400 Iowa State University Iowa
=75 301–400 University of Maryland, Baltimore County Maryland
=75 301–400 University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nebraska
=75 301–400 Northeastern University Illinois
=75 301–400 Ohio University (Main campus) Ohio
=75 301–400 University of South Carolina-Columbia South Carolina
=75 301–400 Temple University Pennsylvania
=75 301–400 Tufts University Massachusetts
=75 301–400 The University of Tulsa Oklahoma
=75 301–400 William & Mary Virginia
=75 301–400 University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Wisconsin
=95 401–500 University of Denver Colorado
=95 401–500 Florida Atlantic University Florida
=95 401–500 Florida International University Florida
=95 401–500 George Mason University Virginia
=95 401–500 University of Houston Texas
=95 401–500 Missouri University of Science and Technology Missouri
=95 401–500 New Mexico State University (Main campus) New Mexico
=95 401–500 Northern Illinois University Illinois
=95 401–500 Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute New York
=95 401–500 SUNY University at Albany New York
=95 401–500 SUNY Binghamton University New York
=95 401–500 University of Texas at Dallas Texas
=95 401–500 University of Wyoming Wyoming
=108 501–600 The University of Alabama Alabama
=108 501–600 University of Central Florida Florida
=108 501–600 Illinois Institute of Technology Illinois
=108 501–600 Kansas State University Kansas
=108 501–600 Lehigh University Pennsylvania
=108 501–600 Louisiana State University Louisiana
=108 501–600 Marquette University Wisconsin
=108 501–600 Mizzou - University of Missouri Missouri
=108 501–600 Montana State University Montana
=108 501–600 University of Nevada, Las Vegas Nevada
=108 501–600 Old Dominion University Virginia
=108 501–600 Rochester Institute of Technology New York
=108 501–600 University of Texas at Arlington Texas
=108 501–600 The University of Texas at San Antonio Texas
=108 501–600 University of Toledo Ohio
=108 501–600 Wake Forest University North Carolina
=108 501–600 Wayne State University Michigan
=108 501–600 Worcester Polytechnic Institute Massachusetts
=126 601–800 University of Arkansas Arkansas
=126 601–800 Clarkson University New York
=126 601–800 Clemson University South Carolina
=126 601–800 University of Colorado Denver /Anschutz Medical Campus Colorado
=126 601–800 Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University Florida
=126 601–800 University of Georgia Georgia
=126 601–800 Georgia State University Georgia
=126 601–800 Howard University Washington DC
=126 601–800 University of Kansas Kansas
=126 601–800 University of Kentucky Kentucky
=126 601–800 Mississippi State University Mississippi
=126 601–800 New Jersey Institute of Technology New Jersey
=126 601–800 University of North Carolina at Greensboro North Carolina
=126 601–800 Oklahoma State University Oklahoma
=126 601–800 University of Rhode Island Rhode Island
=126 601–800 Rowan University New Jersey
=126 601–800 Saint Louis University Missouri
=126 601–800 San Diego State University California
=126 601–800 Southern Illinois University Carbondale Illinois
=126 601–800 Stevens Institute of Technology New Jersey
=126 601–800 University of Texas at El Paso Texas
=126 601–800 University of Texas Rio Grande Valley Texas
=126 601–800 Texas Tech University Texas
=126 601–800 Tulane University Louisiana
=126 601–800 Virginia Commonwealth University Virginia
=151 801–1000 Baylor University Texas
=151 801–1000 Bowling Green State University Ohio
=151 801–1000 Chapman University California
=151 801–1000 University of Dayton Ohio
=151 801–1000 Florida Institute of Technology Florida
=151 801–1000 Georgetown University Washington DC
=151 801–1000 Georgia Southern University Georgia
=151 801–1000 University of North Carolina at Charlotte North Carolina
=151 801–1000 University of North Carolina Wilmington North Carolina
=151 801–1000 Oakland University Michigan
=151 801–1000 Portland State University Ohio
=151 801–1000 Western Michigan University Michigan
=163 1001+ University of Memphis Tennessee
=163 1001+ Texas State University Texas

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Best universities in the United States 2023

Find the best universities in the United States 2023 through Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings data

October 12 2022
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