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Degree Programs in Physics

Physics undergraduate image


Physics students study the basic laws of mechanics, heat and thermodynamics, electricity and magnetism, optics, relativity, quantum mechanics, and elementary particles. Students also study applications of the basic theories to the description of bulk matter, including the mechanical, electric, magnetic, and thermal properties of solids, liquids, gases, and plasmas, and to the description of the structure of atoms and nuclei. In addition, students develop the laboratory skills and techniques of the experimental physicist, skills that can be applied in the experimental search for new knowledge or in applications of the known theories.

B.S. in Physics

Students who want a strong fundamental physics and mathematics background may choose the Bachelor of Science in Physics program in the College of Arts and Sciences. This program prepares students not only for employment following graduation, but also for graduate work in physics or other science and engineering fields.

B.A. in Physics

Students who are interested in pursuing a career that involves physics along with a broader background in other topics may choose the Bachelor of Arts with a major in physics in the College of Arts and Sciences. This is best suited, for example, for students interested in teaching physics in secondary school or in pursuing a career such as technical law or business, or combining physics with another major or minor. The many electives available in this major allow students maximum flexibility in designing programs best suited for their particular interests.

B.S. in Engineering Physics

The Engineering Physics (EP) major in the College of Engineering and Applied Science is designed for students with an interest in both physics and its applications. Within EP there are two concentrations to choose from, Solid State Electronics and Optical Sciences. Our EP program, which is designed to fit accreditation guidelines for engineering physics, contains a number of engineering courses and has a strong applied flavor.

Program Requirements

B.S. in Physics

Mathematics Courses (18-19)

  • MATH 021 Calculus I (4)
  • MATH 022 Calculus II (4)
  • MATH 023 Calculus III (4)
  • MATH 205 Linear Methods (3)

  Select one of the following:

  •  MATH 208 Complex Variables (3)
  •  MATH 320 Ordinary Differential Equations (3-4)
  •  MATH 322 Methods of Applied Analysis I (3)

Basic Science Courses (17)

  • PHY 021 Introductory Physics II (4)
  • PHY 012 Introductory Physics Laboratory I (1)
  • PHY 022 Introductory Physics Laboratory II (1)
  • PHY 031 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics (3)
  • CHM 030 Introduction to Chemical Principles (4)

Select one of the following: 

  • PHY 011 Introductory Physics I (4)
  • PHY 010 General Physics I (4)

Laboratory and Computing Courses (7)

  • PHY 220 Advanced Physics Laboratory I (3)
  • PHY 221 Advanced Physics Laboratory II (2)

Select one of the following:

  • CSE 003 Fundamentals of Programming * (2)
  • CSE 007 Introduction to Programming (2)

*Or an equivalent course in scientific computing
Intermediate and Advanced Courses (22)

  • PHY 212 Electricity and Magnetism I (3)
  • PHY 213 Electricity and Magnetism II (3)
  • PHY 215 Classical Mechanics I (4)
  • PHY 340 Thermal Physics (3)
  • PHY 362 Atomic and Molecular Structure (3)
  • PHY 364 Nuclear and Elementary Particle Physics (3)
  • PHY 369 Quantum Mechanics I (3)

Elective Courses (15)
Select five Physics or Astronomy courses numbered higher than 100. Up to two courses in appropriate technical areas offered in other departments may be substituted, when selected with advisor approval. Students planning graduate work in physics are encouraged to include PHY 273 (Research) among their electives.

Total Credits 79-80
A total of 123 credit hours are required for the Bachelor of Science in Physics.

B.A. with a Major in Physics

  • PHY (10 or 11), (13 or 21), 12, 22, 31, 220
  • MATH 21, 22, 23, 205
  • CHM 30
  • Select at least 6 courses from the following: ASTR 301, PHY 212, 213, 215, 332, 340, 342, 348, 352, 355, 362, 363, 364, 365, 369, 380.

A total of 120 credits are required for the B.A. in Physics

B.S. in Engineering Physics

This program is similar to the B.S. in Physics through the College of Arts and Sciences. Requirements for the two specializations, Solid State Electronics and Optical Sciences, may be found in the University Catalog.

Minor in Physics

The minor in physics requires 15 credits of Physics and Astronomy courses. These must include PHY 031, plus at least 6 credit hours at the 100 level or above. No more than one course required for a student's major program can be counted towards the number of credits for the physics minor. The minor program must be approved by the Physics department chair or undergraduate advisor to ensure a coherent intellectual theme. Examples of course sequences for the minor program can be found on the Physics Department Website. 

Departmental Honors in Physics

Students may earn departmental honors by satisfying the following requirements:

  • Grade point average of at least 3.50 in physics courses.
  • Complete 6 credits of Physics 273 (research), or summer REU project, submit a written report, and give an oral presentation open to faculty and students.
  • Complete three courses from the list: Physics (332 or 342), 348, 363, (352 or 355), 369, 380, any 400 level Physics course.

Declare a Physics Major

Students in the CAS are required to declare a major by the end of their sophomore, or fourth, semester. If students are still undecided at that time they should reach out to the CAS Advising Center via as well as the Center for Career and Professional Development for assistance with finding an appropriate career path.

Major Declaration Form