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Degree Options available to Physics Majors at Purdue

Purdue's Department of Physics offers several baccalaureate programs. All of these programs share a common set of general degree requirements and additional requirements tailored to each program. Dual majors and dual degree programs are available to physics majors in conjunction with other departments in Colleges of Science and Engineering.

Some Specialty Options in Applied Physics

  • Applied Physics in Geophysics
  • Honors Applied Physics in Geophysics
  • Applied Physics in Atmospheric Sciences
  • Applied Physics in Astrophysics
  • Applied Physics in Computational Physics
  • Applied Physics in Nuclear Physics
  • Applied Physics in Material Science & Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Chemical Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Food Process Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Aeronautical & Astronautical Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Industrial Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Computer Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Electrical Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Civil Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Agricultural/Biological Engineering
  • Applied Physics in Mechanical Engineering

In addition, many physics majors manage to complete dual or multiple major programs. This is possible because of a considerable overlap of requirements between the Physics and several other programs, especially Mathematics and Chemistry.

Physics Major

This program offers a specialization in physics as the core of a broad general education. The core courses provide a solid foundation in Classical Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Waves and Optics, Quantum Mechanics, Thermal and Statistical Physics, Modern Physics, Relativity, Electronics, and Computational Physics.

By using free electives in the program, a student can include concentrations in condensed matter physics (PHYS 545), nuclear physics (PHYS 556), astrophysics (PHYS 560), particle physics (PHYS 564), and other areas.  Students also are encouraged to participate in one or two semesters of individual research projects with a selected faculty member (PHYS 593).

Opportunities for employment in fields related to physics will also be enhanced by taking free-electives in additional science courses such as biological sciences, bio-nucleonic, chemistry, computer sciences, geosciences, geophysics, meteorology, and in various branches of engineering.  With assistance from an advisor, a student can prepare an individualized program suited to career plans by selecting electives from these areas or from any other area within the University.  Normally, students take such electives as juniors and seniors.

Honors Physics Major

The honors program offers an intensive concentration in physics that provides a solid foundation for advanced studies.  Successful graduates of this challenging program are recognized for both the depth and breadth of their physics education, and they have gone on to the premier graduate schools in the country and ultimately to many different career choices.

The honors program provides a solid theoretical and experimental background in mechanics, electromagnetism, optics, thermal physics, quantum mechanics, and the micro-structure of matter.

A very important feature of this plan is a senior-year research project (PHYS 593) in some area of modern physics, such as condensed matter physics, nuclear physics, elementary particle physics, biophysics, geophysics, etc. Students receive individual supervision and guidance from a faculty member whose specialty matches the area of their research project. PHYS 593 introduces students to the type of research atmosphere they later might encounter as professional physicists, and it promotes self-motivation and independence in their work.

Students interested in the honors program typically start by taking PHYS 172H as freshmen.  Students from other majors who have taken PHYS 172/272 may switch into the Honors Physics major.  However, it is advisable that all students pursuing the honors program take PHYS 344, 422, and 450 during the second semester of the sophomore year.  Admission to, and continuation in, the honors program requires a grade of "A" or "B" in all physics and mathematics courses or special permission from the Physics Undergraduate Committee.

Applied Physics at Purdue University

ยป Information for Applied Physics and Honors Applied Physics Majors

The specialties under the applied physics curriculum can range from different areas in engineering including nanotechnology and biomedical engineering, in science including nano-science, biology, biophysics, chemical physics, geophysics, medical physics, computer science, computational physics, quantum physics, and special areas such as forensic science.  Individually tailored specialties may be chosen by the student in consultation with an advisor. Different specialties are listed here.

Fifth-Year M.S. (in Applied Physics) Option

Many positions for physicists require an M.S. in physics. Students who complete the B.S. requirements in Applied Physics at Purdue with at least a 3.0 grade-point average can apply for admission to the Graduate School as an M.S. candidate in Applied Physics. The M.S. degree requirements (12 credit hours in physics and 18 credit hours in applied electives) can be completed in one year under the usual rules of the Graduate School, and the Department of Physics.

Physics Major with Specialization in Physics Teaching

This degree provides a strong background in physics, in addition to a license to teach physics at a high school and middle school level.  The requirements for this degree are listed below.  Additional guidelines are available at the Office of Professional Preparation and Licensure.

Since teacher certification requirements are determined by each individual state, a student will need to contact the state education licensing agency in state(s) where he or she plans to teach.  Prospective teachers are exempt from the second year of the foreign language requirement, provided they successfully complete the professional semester within the baccalaureate program.  The professional semester is the one that includes six weeks of a methods course at Purdue and 10 weeks of teaching.

To receive a Bachelor of Science with a major in physics teaching, a student must maintain a grade-point average of 2.5 or above in all physics courses, and 3.0 or above in education courses required to meet licensing requirements.

The following 32 credit hours of education courses are required for certification to teach physics in Indiana high schools.

  • Introduction to Educational Technology and Computing: EDCI 270. 2 cr.
  • Exploring Teaching as a Career: EDCI 205. 3 cr.
  • Multiculturalism and Education: EDCI 285. 3 cr.
  • Learning and Motivation: EDPS 235. 3 cr.
  • The Inclusive Classroom: EDPS 265. 3 cr.
  • History and Philosophy of Education: EDST 200. 3 cr.
  • The Teaching of Earth/Physical Science in the Secondary Schools: EDCI 424. 3 cr.
  • Teaching Science in the Middle and Junior High School: EDCI 428. 2 cr.
  • Supervised Teaching: EDCI 498. 10 cr.