Curriculum

Curriculum

As a physics major, you will first develop a strong background in mathematics and the fundamentals of physics. Later, you will tackle advanced-level physics courses in such challenging fields as optics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, theoretical mechanics, electrodynamics, and solid state physics. In your junior or senior years, you will gain practical experience as you work with a faculty member to develop and complete a physics research project.

Current Students: 

See the Recommended Academic Plans for Computational Physics and General Physics for more detailed course recommendations and refer to the University Bulletin for course descriptions and more degree requirements. Or find other resources on the Current Students page.

Physics Options

  • General Physics is designed for students who want to pursue graduate work in physics or a related field. 
  • Computational Physics emphasizes applied physics and computers; it is ideally suited for students who want to enter industry directly upon graduation.

Prospective Students: 

Below is a typical course sequence for the Physics bachelor's degree program. 

Semester 1

  • First-Year Seminar (1 credit)
  • Calculus with Analytic Geometry I (4 credits)
  • Chemical Principles I (3 credits)
  • Experimental Chemistry I (1 credit)
  • English Composition (3 credits)
  • Arts Course (3 credits)
  • Health and Physical Activity (1.5 credits)

Total Credits: 16.5

Semester 2

  • General Physics: Mechanics (4 credits)
  • Calculus with Analytic Geometry II (4 credits)
  • Chemical Principles II (3 credits)
  • Experimental Chemistry II (1 credit)
  • Humanities Course (3 credits)
  • Health and Physical Activity (1.5 credits)

Total Credits: 16.5

Semester 3

  • General Physics: Electricity and Magnetism (4 credits)
  • General Physics: Fluids and Thermal Physics (2 credits)
  • General Physics: Wave Motion and Quantum Physics (2 credits)
  • Matrices (2 credits)
  • Calculus and Vector Analysis (4 credits)
  • Social and Behavioral Sciences Course (3 credits)

Total Credits: 17

Semester 4

  • Introduction to Modern Physics (3 credits)
  • Introduction to Programming Techniques (3 credits)
  • Ordinary and Partial Differential Equations (4 credits)
  • Effective Speech (3 credits)
  • Humanities Course (3 credits)

Total Credits: 16

Semesters 5, 6, 7, and 8

A range of Penn State Behrend courses is available to you in your third and fourth years. Your schedule will depend on your areas of focus and your interests.

  • Upper-Division Required Courses
    Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism; Theoretical Mechanics; Thermal Physics; Research Methods in Physics; Intermediate Optics; Physics Research Project
  • Upper-Division Supporting Courses
    Electronics for Scientists; Intermediate Programming; Introduction to Numerical Analysis I; Introduction to Numerical Analysis II; Scientific Visualization; Data Structures and Algorithms; Operating System and Systems Programming; Signals and Systems: Continuous and Discrete-Time; Fundamentals of Digital Signal Processing; Heat Transfer; Applied Computational Fluid Dynamics; Introduction to Quantum Mechanics I; Solid State Physics; The Year in Physics: A Seminar on the Latest Research; Electronics for Scientists; Complex Analysis

This represents a typical course sequence; your schedule will vary depending on your interests. It is recommended that you consult your academic adviser before scheduling any courses. See bulletins.psu.edu for detailed degree requirements and course descriptions.