Physics at Virginia

The Physics BA degree is designed for students interested in physics but planning to enter professional schools in business, education, law, and medicine, and for liberal arts students desiring a strong background in physical science but with career objectives in other areas. It is a highly flexible program that you can customize to support your specific interests, wherever they may lie. Official information regarding the major requirements is available in the Undergraduate Record.

While it is not required, we recommend that prospective physics majors take PHYS 1930 (Physics in the 21st Century), which introduces many of the 'big ideas' in physics, provides an overview of potential career paths, and helps connect students with research opportunities in the department.

Starting in the 2021/22 academic year, we have updated the BA degree requirements. If you take the introductory physics courses in Fall 21 or later, you should use these new requirements:

  • PHYS 1420 or PHYS 1425 - Introductory Physics 1 (prereq: Calc 1)
  • PHYS 1429 - Physics 1 Workshop (coreq: Intro Physics 1)
  • MATH 2310 or APMA 2120 - Multivariable Calculus (prereq: Calc 2)
  • PHYS 2410 or PHYS 2415 - Introductory Physics 2 (prereq: Multivariable Calc)
  • PHYS 2419 - Physics 2 Workshop (coreq: Intro Physics 2)
  • PHYS 2620 - Modern Physics (prereq: Intro Physics 2)
  • MATH 3250 or APMA 2130 - Differential Equations (prereq: Calc 2)
  • PHYS 2720 - Problem Solving (coreq: Intro Physics 2, Differential Equations)
  • Four additional courses chosen from PHYS 2660 and/or 3000-level physics courses

If you took the introductory courses prior to Fall 2021, you should use the old requirements, which have two different options:

Option 1:

  • MATH 1320, MATH 2310 and MATH 3250
  • PHYS 1710, 1720, 2620, 2630, and 2640
  • Three additional courses from PHYS 2660 and/or 3000-level physics courses

Option 2:

  • MATH 1320, MATH 2310, and MATH 3250
  • PHYS 1425, 1429, 2415, 2419, and 2620
  • Four additional courses from PHYS 2660 and/or 3000-level physics courses

If changes in course offerings and scheduling make it challenging for you to satisfy either of these requirement sets, discuss the situation with your physics advisor.

In all cases, required courses must be passed with a minimum grade of C-, and a major grade point average of at least 2.000 must be achieved.

Declaring the Major

You are welcome to declare a physics major at any time, there are no prerequisites or conditions to fulfill. To start the process, please fill out this form to request a physics advisor.


Some of the regularly-offered 3000-level courses that can be used as electives are

  • PHYS 3040 - Physics of the Human Body
  • PHYS 3110 - Widely Applied Physics
  • PHYS 3120 - Applied Physics: Energy
  • PHYS 3140 - Intermediate Lab
  • PHYS 3150 - Electronics Lab
  • PHYS 3170 - Advanced Lab A (prereq: PHYS 3140)
  • PHYS 3180 - Advanced Lab B (prereq: PHYS 3140)
  • PHYS 3250 - Applied Nuclear Physics
  • PHYS 3620 - Introduction to Condensed Matter Physics
  • PHYS 3995 - Research

The following courses can also be used as electives, but are directed toward the BS degree program and may involve additional mathematics prerequisites:

  • PHYS 3210 - Classical Mechanics
  • PHYS 3310 - Statistical Physics
  • PHYS 3420, 3430 - Electricity and Magnetism 1, 2
  • PHYS 3650, 3660 - Quantum Mechanics 1, 2

You may also take 5000-level physics courses as electives, but you should consult with your physics advisor to make sure you have satisfied the prerequisites.

Course Substitutions

A number of substitutions are possible for courses required in the major. Two common alternatives are listed here, but if you have a special circumstance that you think warrants a substitution not listed, you can discuss it with your physics advisor.

  • Students in Electrical and Computer Engineering can substitute ECE 3209 (Electromagnetic Fields) for PHYS 2415 (Intro Physics 2) and PHYS 2419 (Physics 2 Workshop).
  • PHYS 3340 (Mathematics for Physics) covers linear algebra and complex variables. If you plan to take upper-level mathematics courses on these topics, consult with your physics advisor to determine whether PHYS 3340 can be waived. The honors calculus sequence MATH 2315/3315 satsifies the requirements for multivariable calculus and differential equations, and also covers the linear algebra portion of PHYS 3340.

Sample Course Schedule (New Requirements)

Note that only courses related to the physics degree are shown.

Year Fall     Spring  
1 MATH 1310 [4] Calculus I   MATH 1320 [4] Calculus II
  PHYS 1930 [2] Phys. 21st Century*   PHYS 1420 [3] Intro Phys I
  PHYS 1660 [1] Practical Computing*   PHYS 1429 [1] Workshop I
2 MATH 2310 [4] Multivariable Calc   MATH 3250 [4] Differential Eqns
  PHYS 2410 [3] Intro Phys II   PHYS 2620 [4] Modern Physics
  PHYS 2419 [1] Workshop II   PHYS 2720 [2] Problem Solving
3 PHYS 3150 [3] Electronics Lab   PHYS 3040 [3] Physics of the Human Body
4 PHYS 3110 [3] Widely Applied Phys.   PHYS 3120 [3] Applied Phys: Energy

*Note that PHYS 1930 Physics in the 21st Century and PHYS 1660 Practical Computing are optional courses that are not required for the major.

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