A customizable program that will take you anywhere
Students who earn an undergraduate degree in physics have a wide variety of career opportunities. Some go on to pursue graduate study in physics or related fields, including astronomy, mathematics, computer science and engineering. Many others find employment in research and development in industries such as electronics, materials science, aerospace, acoustics and computer science. Students can choose to pursue a graduate degree in education to become high school teachers. Our undergraduate programs allow students to choose courses that will enhance their opportunities for graduate education or employment. Several standard programs are available, but students are encouraged to work with their advisor to design personalized plans of study if a different area of specialization is desired. All programs are flexible, and some variation is possible within each, with the approval of the advisor and the Department Head.
The physics major is nominally a four-year program. In the first two years, most of the coursework for the major is introductory physics, chemistry and mathematics (similar to most other science and engineering majors). For the last two years, students take courses that study aspects of physics in great detail. In 1997 the OSU Physics Department implemented a total revision of the upper-division courses. The restructured curriculum represents a departure from the traditional one that is firmly rooted in courses of equal difficulty devoted to particular subfields of physics. Our new approach attempts to teach physics as physicists think about it, namely in terms of concepts that broadly underlie the various subfields: energy, symmetry, wave motion, and so forth. These Paradigms courses, taken typically in the junior year, are followed by senior-year Capstone courses in each of the major sub-disciplines.
Careers of our recent graduates
- Camera Hardware Engineer at Apple
- Assistant Professor at Troy University
- Graduate students at Princeton, Stanford, Brown, UT-Austin
- Quality Engineers at Crane Aerospace & Electronics, Mentor Graphics
- Advanced Development Engineer at KLA-Tencor
- CEO & Founder of PVBid
- Emergency Medicine Resident at the University of Central Florida
- Process Engineers at Intel, SkyWater Technology Foundry
- Research Scientist at Saint Gobain Crystals
- Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley Lab
What will you do as a physics major?
As a physics major, you will study our nationally recognized Paradigms in Physics curriculum which has reinvented the way students learn physics. Through the upper-division Paradigms curriculum, you’ll develop expertise in sub-fields of physics such as electromagnetism, thermal and statistical physics, thermodynamics and quantum mechanics. You will gain interdisciplinary, computational, core and applied physics knowledge and skills through a cutting-edge physics curriculum and acquire hands-on experience working in our laboratories. Eight options, from applied physics to geophysics, within the physics major will prepare you very well for competitive graduate programs as well as jobs in a wide variety of technical and related fields. You will have the freedom to explore and select a course of study that aligns with your academic interests and career goals. You will also write a physics thesis project to deepen your learning and enhance your problem-solving and technical skills in the field.
The flexible physics major offers both a B.S. and a B.A. in physics. The B.S. in physics is appropriate for those interested in careers in physics or a related area or in preparing for graduate study. In addition to required courses, students pursuing a B.S. in physics will complete 22 credits of required and elective courses.
The B.A. degree requires fewer physics courses but more courses from the College of Liberal Arts; in addition, second-year proficiency in a foreign language is required for the B.A. degree.
Preparing to major in physics
Setting yourself up for success in physics starts early! You will probably find the material in your first-year chemistry and physics classes more familiar if you have taken the courses in high school, but you shouldn't hesitate to take these university courses even if you lack a high school background. Your math background is much more important; you should be ready to start calculus (MTH 251) at the beginning of your freshman year. However, if you must complete one term of math (MTH 112) before starting calculus you can do so without delaying your physics curriculum; if more than one term of pre-calculus math is needed, it will delay your entry into the physics curriculum. If you lack an adequate math background, you will find it helpful to use the summer before you start at OSU to strengthen your background, perhaps by taking courses at your local community college. Placement in the math courses is governed by the ALEKS placement test.
B.S. in Physics
The B.S. is appropriate for those interested in careers in physics or a related area or in preparing for graduate study.
With an option
To allow students the opportunity to specialize in a related field, several degree options are available. With these options, available only with the B.S. degree program, several general physics courses are replaced by a selection of courses from the related field. To graduate under one of these options, the student must have a plan of study approved in advance by a departmental advisor. Completion of the option is indicated on the student's transcript, which will read "Awarded Bachelor of Science in Physics with Option in...." The options available are: Applied Physics, Biological Physics, Chemical Physics, Computational Physics, Geophysics, Mathematical Physics, Optical Physics, and Physics Teaching. For information about the requirements for these options, see the OSU General Catalog.
B.A. in Physics
The B.A. degree requires fewer physics courses but more courses from the College of Liberal Arts; in addition, second-year proficiency in a foreign language is required for the B.A. degree. There is no foreign language requirement for the B.S. degree.
- Static Fields
- Physics of Contemporary Challenges
- Computational Physics
- Quantum Fundamentals