A scientific understanding of how the world works is considered a vital part of a college education. To those with limited exposure to mathematics and science, physics can seem intimidating, but physics courses for general education requirements are relatively gentle introductions to the topic, offering fun and interesting discussions as well as hard scientific fact.
An introductory physics course requires more than just a curious scientific mind. Before taking a physics course in college you likely will need some basic algebra, geometry and possibly pre-calculus coursework. Although previous scientific coursework is recommended, you can get by without a rigorous background in science. Prerequisites vary somewhat by college and course, so check with the school's advisors before signing up.
What You Learn
The study of physics explores topics including forces and the motion of objects. The course will also deal with the nature of light and energy, and how atoms and related particles make up matter. The instructor will discuss standard units of measurement and how to collect data, and organize your lab results into a readable format.
A standard physics course is usually divided into a lecture portion and a laboratory work portion. Lectures explain the ideas behind the scientific understanding of natural phenomena. Laboratory work gives you hands-on experience with the scientific method and observing physics theories in action.
Classical vs. Quantum Physics
An introductory physics class will touch on the classical theories developed before 1900 as well as more modern ideas on matter and energy including quantum theories. Expect to learn extensively about Isaac Newton's "Law" of Gravity during the classical portion of the class. The "Modern" portion of the class usually starts with Einstein's "Theory of Relativity," discovered during the early part of the 20th century.
Benefits of a Physics Class
Learning about the famous theories of physics sounds great, but you may wonder why you should take a physics course in college. If you plan on completing a Bachelor of Science degree, most colleges require at least 1 year of physics, giving you a firm foundation for chemistry, biology and other disciplines. Undergraduate coursework preparation for medical schools also entails an intensive scientific survey, including physics coursework.
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