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). 
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Which courses are required for a physics or applied physics degree?

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.

Coming soon: view sample schedules for physics and applied physics majors.

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.

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What is an "area of focus"?

Physics and Applied Physics majors are required to take about five upper-division electives as part of their degree. An "area of focus" 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. 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. Please see the list below of the areas. The distinction between tracks, concentrations, and specializations is not particularly important, but is explained below the table.
 

Area of focus name*

Major

Description

Faculty Advisor

General track

Physics

This track allows students to choose from a variety of upper-division Physics electives to fulfill the major requirements. Good preparation for graduate study in physics and for students who want a thorough foundation in general physics without a specialization or concentration in a particular topical area.

See "Area of Focus" advisor list

Astrophysics specialization

Physics

Electives include courses on the physics of stars and galaxies, cosmology, high energy astrophysics, and observational astronomy.

Computational Physics concentration

Physics

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

Philosophy of Physics concentration

Physics

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. Faculty contact in LPS: Jeffrey Barrett

Physics Education concentration

Physics

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

Business & Law track

Physics

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

Earth System Science minor

Physics or Applied Physics

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.

Engineering Physics concentration

Applied Physics

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.

Biomedical Physics concentration

Applied Physics

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.

General Applied Physics track

Applied Physics

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.

* UCI uses the following official terminology, which basically governs whether the area of focus 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.

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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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