Physics majors are interested in understanding the nature of the physical universe. This interest may focus on more specific sub-areas, such as the physics of elementary particles, the properties of solid matter or the evolution of stars, galaxies and/or black holes. A successful physics major will develop analytical and problem-solving skills which will be useful in a wide range of possible applications and careers.

Admission into the Major

Students are expected to formally declare a major no later than the fourth semester of full-time enrollment (or at 61 semester hours for transfer students). Students can declare a major by completing the Change of Major/Minor Application online under the Student tab of myBama.

Special Opportunities

The department sponsors a local chapter of the Society of Physics Students. The department also has an honors program. Students are invited to apply for admission to the honors program in physics on the basis of performance in introductory courses. Physics majors participating in the physics honors program must maintain a minimum 3.3 grade point average in physics courses and a 3.0 cumulative GPA. Honors students must also submit an acceptable honors thesis based on research conducted under the supervision of a faculty member in physics or astronomy and participate in the PH 490 Honors Seminar In Physics. Students can inquire at the department of physics and astronomy office for further information.

Students earning the bachelor of science (BS) degree with a major in physics must complete all University, College and departmental degree requirements. These include the general education requirements, the following major requirements, all requirements for an approved minor and other sufficient credits to total a minimum of 120 applicable semester hours.

The major in physics requires successful completion of 33–41 semester hours in one of four tracks: graduate school, astrophysics, biophysics or physics education.

Grade Point Average

A 2.0 grade point average in the major is required for completion of the degree. Please see the Grades and Grade Points section of this catalog for an explanation on grade point average calculations.

Upper-level Residency

A minimum of 12 hours of 300- and 400-level courses in the major must be earned on this campus.

Ancillary Courses

Grades in ancillary courses are not computed into the major GPA. The major in physics for all tracks requires the successful completion of 23–39 semester hours of ancillary courses.

Required Minor

This major requires the completion of a minor.

Additional Major Requirements

Students are responsible for ensuring that they have met all University, college, major and minor requirements. However, each student must meet with an adviser in the major department for academic planning and to be approved for registration each semester. College advisers are also available for additional assistance with minor, college and University requirements.

Prerequisites

In addition to stated prerequisites, physics courses numbered 253-354 have as prerequisites PH 101 General Physics I, PH 105 General Physics W/Calc I or PH 125 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus, AND PH 102 General Physics II, PH 106 General Physics W/Calc II or PH 126 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II. Physics courses numbered 400-499 have as prerequisites 14 hours of physics or 11 hours of physics and senior standing in addition to stated prerequisites.

Graduate School Track

Primarily designed for students considering graduate work in physics, the graduate school track requires the successful completion of the following 36 semester hours:

More InformationHours
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc I
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus
General Physics I 1
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc II
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II
General Physics II 1
PH 253
PH 255
Intro Modern Physics
and Modern Physics Lab
4
PH 302Intermediate Mechanics3
PH 331Elect & Magnetism I3
PH 332Elect & Magnetism II3
PH 441Quantum Structure of Matter I3
PH 442Quantum Structure of Matter II3
PH 471Thermal Physics3
PH 491Advanced Laboratory3
Select three hours of PH or AY elective 300 or 400 level3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 36
Ancillary Courses
Grades in ancillary courses are not computed into the major GPA. The major in physics for the graduate school track requires the successful completion of the following courses outside the major:
CH 101 or General Chemistry4
CH 117 Honors General Chemistry
CH 102 or General Chemistry4
CH 118 Honors General Chemistry
MATH 125 or Calculus I4
MATH 145 Honors Calculus I
MATH 126 or Calculus II4
MATH 146 Honors Calculus II
MATH 227 or Calculus III4
MATH 247 Honors Calculus III
MATH 238Appld Diff Equations I3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 23
Total Hours59
1

General physics with calculus (PH 105 General Physics W/Calc I and PH 106 General Physics W/Calc II, or honors PH 125 and PH 126 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II) is the preferred preparation for advanced physics courses. However, general physics (PH 101 General Physics I and PH 102 General Physics II) can substitute for students who must begin the major courses before taking calculus.

Astrophysics Track

Primarily designed for students interested in astronomy or space science, the astrophysics track requires the successful completion of the following 41 semester hours:

More InformationHours
AY 203Observational Astronomy2
AY 204Solar System Astronomy3
AY 206Astron Beyond Solar Syst3
Select six hours of AY elective 300- or 400-level6
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc I
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus
General Physics I 1
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc II
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II
General Physics II 1
PH 253
PH 255
Intro Modern Physics
and Modern Physics Lab
4
PH 302Intermediate Mechanics3
PH 331Elect & Magnetism I3
PH 332Elect & Magnetism II3
PH 441Quantum Structure of Matter I3
PH 442Quantum Structure of Matter II3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 41
Ancillary Courses
Grades in ancillary courses are not computed into the major GPA. The major in physics for the astrophysics track requires the successful completion of the following courses outside the major:
CH 101 or General Chemistry4
CH 117 Honors General Chemistry
CH 102 or General Chemistry4
CH 118 Honors General Chemistry
MATH 125 or Calculus I4
MATH 145 Honors Calculus I
MATH 126 or Calculus II4
MATH 146 Honors Calculus II
MATH 227 or Calculus III4
MATH 247 Honors Calculus III
MATH 238Appld Diff Equations I3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 23
Total Hours64

Physics Education Track

This track is open to all students but is primarily designed for those who want to teach in grades K–12. Please note that this track does not lead to teacher certification. Students interested in earning teacher certification must be admitted through the College of Education. For more information, visit here.

The physics education track requires the successful completion of the following 33 semester hours:

More InformationHours
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc I
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus
General Physics I 1
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc II
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II
General Physics II 1
PH 253
PH 255
Intro Modern Physics
and Modern Physics Lab
4
PH 301 or Mechanics I3
PH 302 Intermediate Mechanics
PH 331Elect & Magnetism I3
PH 354Intermediate Modern Physics3
PH 405Physics For Science Teachers3
PH 491Advanced Laboratory3
Select six hours of PH elective 300 or 400 level6
Credit Hours Subtotal: 33
Ancillary Courses
Grades in ancillary courses are not computed into the major GPA. The major in physics for the physics education track requires the successful completion of the following courses outside the major:
CH 101 or General Chemistry4
CH 117 Honors General Chemistry
CH 102 or General Chemistry4
CH 118 Honors General Chemistry
MATH 125 or Calculus I4
MATH 145 Honors Calculus I
MATH 126 or Calculus II4
MATH 146 Honors Calculus II
MATH 227 or Calculus III4
MATH 247 Honors Calculus III
MATH 238Appld Diff Equations I3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 23
Total Hours56
1

General physics with calculus (PH 105 General Physics W/Calc I and PH 106 General Physics W/Calc II, or honors PH 125 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus and PH 126 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II) is the preferred preparation for advanced physics courses. However, general physics (PH 101 General Physics I and PH 102 General Physics II) can substitute for students who must begin the major courses before taking calculus.

Biophysics Track

Primarily designed for students planning a career in a health profession, the biophysics track requires successful completion of the following 33 semester hours:

More InformationHours
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc I
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus
General Physics I 1
Select one of the following:4
General Physics W/Calc II 1
Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II
General Physics II 1
PH 253
PH 255
Intro Modern Physics
and Modern Physics Lab
4
PH 301 or Mechanics I3
PH 302 Intermediate Mechanics
PH 331Elect & Magnetism I3
PH 354Intermediate Modern Physics3
PH 411Biophysics3
PH 491Advanced Laboratory3
Select six hours of PH elective 300 or 400 level6
Credit Hours Subtotal: 33
Ancillary Courses
Grades in ancillary courses are not computed into the major GPA. The major in physics for the biophysics track requires the successful completion of the following courses outside the major:
Select one of the following:4
Principles Of Biology I
and Laboratory Biology I
Honors General Biology I
Select one of the following:4
Principles Biology II
and Biology II Laboratory
Honors Gen Biology II
CH 101 or General Chemistry4
CH 117 Honors General Chemistry
CH 102 or General Chemistry4
CH 118 Honors General Chemistry
CH 231Elem Organic Chemistry I3
CH 232
CH 237
Elem Organic Chem II
and Elem Organic Chem Lab
5
MATH 125 or Calculus I4
MATH 145 Honors Calculus I
MATH 126 or Calculus II4
MATH 146 Honors Calculus II
MATH 227 or Calculus III4
MATH 247 Honors Calculus III
MATH 238Appld Diff Equations I3
Credit Hours Subtotal: 39
Total Hours72
1

General physics with calculus (PH 105 General Physics W/Calc I and PH 106 General Physics W/Calc II, or honors PH 125 and PH 126 Honors Gen Ph W/Calculus II) is the preferred preparation for advanced physics courses. However, general physics (PH 101 General Physics I and PH 102 General Physics II) can substitute for students who must begin the major courses before taking calculus.

A wide range of careers are available for people with physics degrees: academic careers in physics, astronomy and engineering; research science in government laboratories; research and development in private industry; engineering; K-12 teaching; quantitative financial analysis for investment firms; medical research or practice; science journalism. The analytical skills developed in the course of taking a physics curriculum allow physics majors (on average) to have relatively high scores on the LSAT and MCAT admissions tests for law school and medical school. For more information, see http://www.aps.org/careers/physicists/.

Types of Jobs Accepted

Most of our recent graduates go on to graduate school in physics, engineering, astronomy, mathematics or education. Other recent graduates have gone to medical school, law school, joined research laboratories or become high school teachers.

Jobs of Experienced Alumni

university or college professor, engineer, research scientist in a government laboratory, researchers and developers in private industry, K-12 teacher, physician.

Learn more about opportunities in this field at the Career Center