Majors Course Planning

Students and advisors: Degree requirements worksheets
(summary of the required classes for each area of focus)



FAQs for majors

What is the difference between a physics and applied physics major?

The Department of Physics and Astronomy offers two undergraduate majors, in Physics and in Applied Physics. The Physics major is designed to give students a rigorous training in physics which can be used as strong preparation for graduate school, work in the private sector, or teaching. The Applied Physics degree also offers strong preparation in physics, but allows students greater flexibility to customize coursework so they can also gain expertise in an additional, related field (e.g. engineering, programming, or materials science). Below, you can learn more about each major and its concentrations, which help you develop a specialized skillset in addition to your general physics training.
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What is is a concentration / specialization / track for physics & applied physics majors?

Physics and Applied Physics majors are required to take about five upper-division electives as part of their degree. A concentration* is a way to pick a set of electives that will help you to develop deep knowledge of a specific area (such as astrophysics), deepen general physics knowledge to prepare for graduate school, or develop a skill (such as computation). The options are listed in the table below. Note that some areas are only available to physics majors, while others are only available to applied physics majors. See the UCI General Catalogue for more detailed information and a list of minors available in other departments. All Physics and Applied Physics majors select an area of focus by the end of their freshman year or first quarter as a transfer student.

* The distinction between tracks, concentrations, and specializations is not particularly important, but UCI uses the following official terminology, which governs whether the concentration / specialization / track will appear on your transcript, diploma, or neither:

  • A minor is a formal program offered by another department consisting of seven or more courses. A successfully completed minor is listed on the transcript, but not on the diploma.

  • A concentration within the major is a formal program that includes courses taken in other departments. A completed concentration is listed on the transcript but not on the diploma.

  • A specialization is a formal degree program of courses taught within the department. A completed specialization is listed on the transcript but not on the diploma.

  • A track is an informal program of courses within a major. Track names do not appear on the transcript.


How do I pick a concentration?

Review the videos below for more about each concentration, and attend the workshops during annual advising to ask questions. You can also contact the concentration advisor (listed below for each concentration) if you have specific questions.


What are the concentrations offered for physics & applied physics majors, and how can I learn more about each?


Astrophysics specialization (physics major)

Electives include courses on the physics of stars and galaxies, cosmology, high energy astrophysics, and observational astronomy. For more information, watch the video above and attend an annual advising workshop.

Advisor: Prof. Buote

Computational Physics concentration (physics major)



Training in computational and numerical techniques and software development with applications to modeling of physical systems and data analysis methods.

Advisor: Professor Lin

Philosophy of Physics concentration (physics major)

Study of the conceptual history of physics and physical inquiry, and the structure and interpretation of physical theories. Includes courses in Logic and Philosophy of Science

Advisor: Professor Whiteson

Physics Education concentration (physics major)

Preparation for a career in secondary education in physics and general science. A secondary teaching certification option is also available through the CalTeach program.

Advisor: Professor Collins

Earth System Science minor(physics or applied physics major)

A Physics major with a minor in Earth System Science is excellent preparation for careers in environmental research or policy or for graduate school in atmospheric science, oceanography, or related fields.

Advisor: Prof. Heidbrink

Engineering Physics concentration (applied physics major)

Preparation for careers in technology and industrial research or graduate programs in applied physics and/or engineering, with a combination of physics and engineering coursework. For more information, see the Applied Physics General Track video below.

Advisor: Prof. Taborek

Biomedical Physics concentration (applied physics major)

Preparation for students interested in applying to medical, dental, or pharmacology school with a strong foundation in physics. See the UCI General Catalogue for important information about required courses and prerequisites for this concentration.

Advisor: Prof. Siryaporn

General track (physics major)


Advisor: Prof. Barwick

General track (applied physics major)

Preparation for other interdisciplinary careers including materials science, geosciences, biophysics, or other fields. Students propose a coherent set of electives that combines advanced physics coursework with a sequence of courses from another discipline.

Advisor: Prof. Taborek

Business & Law track (physics major)

Preparation for careers in business, and for students interested in business school or law school with a strong undergraduate science foundation.

Advisor: (contact Prof. Tucker)


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How do I know if I'm on track to graduate? What classes should I be taking next quarter / year?

Please see our mentoring and advising page for more information on annual advising and help available year-round for these kinds of questions.

The basic requirements for the physics and applied physics majors are listed in the course catalog. In addition to a standard set of courses, each student majoring in physics or applied physics is required to take about five elective courses. Each student majoring will pick an "area of focus," which is a way to pick a set of electives that will help you to develop deep knowledge of a specific area such as astrophysics, deepen general physics knowledge to prepare for graduate school, or develop a skill such as computation. We encourage students to meet with their faculty advisor in the physics department with questions about which courses to take. Use the degree requirements worksheets from Physical Sciences Student Affairs for a summary of the required classes for each major and area of focus.

Note: for Physics majors who entered UCI prior to 2016 (before the Applied Physics major was created), there were previously concentrations in Applied Physics and in Biomedical Physics within the Physics major. These concentrations have now been moved to the Applied Physics major, but for students who were already in these concentrations within the Physics major prior to the change, the course requirements for these Physics concentrations are listed in a separate worksheet.


What is annual advising? Where can I get more information?


Please see our mentoring and advising page for more information on annual advising.


Can I pick two concentrations?

The purpose of a concentration is to give you a specific set of skills to help you as you move towards your next career or academic step when you graduate. Instead of pursuing multiple concentrations, we encourage students to become involved in a research project or internship, which usually provides much deeper and more helpful experience than a set of additional coursework.


Can I double-major in Physics or Applied Physics and another field?

Yes. Some students choose to double major in Physics or Applied and another field. Pursuing a double major requires substantial effort and planning, and students interested in double majors are encouraged to talk with academic advisors in the Physical Sciences Student Affairs Office to plan their course of study. 

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How can I know when each physics course will be offered?

Please see the course info page.

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I didn't pass my physics or math class. Is the physics major still a choice for me?

Many successful physicists have had difficulty in introductory or advanced undergraduate courses. If you are passionate about pursuing physics, schedule a meeting with an advisor or peer mentor to discuss how you can excel in your physics and math courses moving forward. Please see our mentoring and advising page for more information on advising and mentoring resources in our department. Support is available -- you don't have to go through a difficulty alone!