College of Engineering, Forestry, and Natural Sciences2015-2016

Department of Physics and Astronomy

Physics, Bachelor of Science

This degree takes students from the core of the atom to the hearts of galaxies, all in an effort to understand how the universe works. This Physics-rich program also grounds the student in advanced math and calculus.


What Can I Do with a Bachelor of Science in Physics?

Have you ever thought about very small things, like the inside of an atom? If you look for patterns in nature's behavior, then maybe you're a physicist in the making. By pursuing a physics degree at Northern Arizona University, you can indulge your scientific curiosity and prepare for a career in a technical field or as a professional scientist.

You will become immersed in the science of physics, which uses mathematics to describe why and how things work. Here, you will be encouraged to think independently and to join in faculty research projects on optics, material science, and quantum mechanics. You'll benefit from close contact with faculty as well as our array of high-tech instruments.

Career opportunities that might be pursued:
  • Industrial researcher
  • Scientific programmer
  • National lab team member
  • Defense industry team member

With further education, one of these paths is possible:
  • University professor
  • Researcher
  • Medical physicist
  • Industrial engineer
  • Optical engineer

University Requirements

  • To receive a bachelor's degree at Northern Arizona University, you must complete at least 120 units of credit that minimally includes a major, the liberal studies requirements, and university requirements as listed below.

    • All of Northern Arizona University's liberal studies, diversity, junior-level writing, and capstone requirements.
    • All requirements for your specific academic plan(s).
    • At least 30 units of upper-division courses, which may include transfer work.
    • At least 30 units of coursework taken through Northern Arizona University, of which at least 18 must be upper-division courses (300-level or above). This requirement is not met by credit-by-exam, retro-credits, transfer coursework, etc.
    • A cumulative grade point average of at least 2.0 on all work attempted at Northern Arizona University.
    The full policy can be viewed here.



In addition to University Requirements:

  • At least 47 units of major requirements

  • Elective courses, if needed, to reach an overall total of at least 120 units

Please note that you may be able to use some courses to meet more than one requirement. Contact your advisor for details.

  • Up to 9 units of major prefix courses may be used to satisfy Liberal Studies requirements; these same courses may also be used to satisfy major requirements

Minimum Units for Completion 120
Mathematics Required MAT 239
Research Optional
University Honors Program Optional
Progression Plan Link View Progression Plan
Student Learning Outcomes

Our B.S. in Physics program is designed to prepare students for a career in a technical field or for graduate studies in physics. Below we describe the learning outcomes our program.
Physics Content: Students will have an understanding of the laws of physics in the areas of:

  • classical mechanics
  • electricity and magnetism
  • special relativity
  • waves
  • optics
  • atomic physics
  • nuclear physics
  • quantum mechanics
  • thermodynamics
  • statistical mechanics

Laboratory Skills: Students will :
  • understand how to take good data with increasingly sophisticated equipment in introductory, intermediate, and advanced physics laboratories
  • know how to identify random and systematic errors, and propagate errors
  • be able to synthesize an appropriate conclusion from an experiment

Computational Skills: Students will:
  • be able to apply mathematical tools such as elementary probability theory, algebra, geometry, trigonometry, differential and integral calculus, vector calculus, ordinary differential equations, partial differential equations, and linear algebra to solve physics problems
  • become proficient in a computing language such as MATLAB
  • be able to write code in a computing language in order to explain or predict the behavior of a complex physical system

Problem Solving Skills: Students will develop problem-solving capacities. In particular, a student will be able to:
  • ascertain the known and unknown aspects of a problem
  • describe the fundamental physical principles in the problem
  • articulate a pathway toward solving the problem
  • successfully follow the path and solve the problem

Communication Skills: Students will be able to
  • clearly communicate and defend their work in verbal, written, and visual formats to scientific and non-scientific audiences


Major Requirements
    • Additional units of upper-division physics and astronomy courses (3 units)
General Electives
  • Additional coursework is required, if, after you have met the previously described requirements, you have not yet completed a total of 120 units of credit. 

    You may take these remaining courses from any academic areas, using these courses to pursue your specific interests and goals. We encourage you to consult with your advisor to select the courses that will be most advantageous to you. (Please note that you may also use prerequisites or transfer credits as electives if they weren't used to meet major, minor, or liberal studies requirements.)

Additional Information
  • MAT 136, MAT 137, MAT 238, MAT 239 are not required for this degree, but are prerequisites for other courses. (You may be able to count these prerequisites toward your liberal studies or general elective credit.)
  • Be aware that some courses may have prerequisites that you must also take. For prerequisite information click on the course or see your advisor.

Campus Availability

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