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Major Options

Degree Options Available to Physics Majors at Purdue 

Purdue's Department of Physics and Astronomy 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 other Colleges. 




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 Oscillations, 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 54500), nuclear physics (PHYS 55600), astrophysics (PHYS 56000), particle physics (PHYS 56400), and other areas.  Students also are encouraged to participate in one or two semesters of individual research projects with a selected faculty member (PHYS 39000, 49000,or 59000).

Opportunities for employment in fields related to physics will also be enhanced by taking free-electives in additional science courses such as biological sciences, chemistry, computer science, geosciences, 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.


Physics Honors

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, waves and oscillations, thermal physics, quantum mechanics, and the micro-structure of matter.

A very important feature of this plan is a senior research project (PHYS 59300) with a written report 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.

The Honors Program in the Department of Physics and Astronomy begins in the Junior Year. All physics majors typically start by taking PHYS 172H and 272H as freshmen.  Students from other majors who have taken PHYS 172/272 may switch into the Honors Physics major.  Admission to, and continuation in, the honors program requires that all the core courses (PHYS 17200, 27200, 30600, 30700, 34400, 34000, and 42200) be complete with a B or better, or special permission from the Physics Undergraduate Committee.

The following stipulations need to be met in order to be in, stay in and graduate in the Honors or Applied Honors Program :

  • No D+ or worse grade is allowed in any course for a student to stay in the Honors Programs.
  • No more than one C range grade is allowed in all physics courses taken for a student to graduate with Honor. Note that a course can be re-taken for the purpose of satisfying this guideline.
  • Both the physics AND overall GPAs of 3.0 or better are required for a student to graduate with Honor.
  • All the core courses (PHYS 17200, 27200, 30600, 30700, 34400, 34000, and 42200) be complete with a B or better
  • Students need to petition to Undergraduate Committee for exceptions or requests.


Applied Physics and Applied Physics Honors

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, and special areas such as forensic science.  Individually tailored specialties may be chosen by the student in consultation with a faculty advisor.

Some Specialty Options in Applied Physics

  • Geophysics and Atmospheric Sciences
  • Astrophysics
  • Computational Physics
  • Nuclear Physics
  • Material Science & Engineering
  • Electrical and Computer Engineering
  • Medical Physics

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 Computer Science, Chemistry and Planetary Sciences.

Last Updated: May 9, 2023 2:18 PM

Department of Physics and Astronomy, 525 Northwestern Avenue, West Lafayette, IN 47907-2036 • Phone: (765) 494-3000 • Fax: (765) 494-0706

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