Physics, Bachelor of Arts College of Letters & Science

From the smallest subatomic particles to atoms, molecules, stars, and galaxies, the study of physics is the study of what makes the universe work. Knowledge gained using atomic-scale microscopes and high-energy particle accelerators and nuclear reactors teaches us not only what holds the atomic nucleus together but also how proteins function and why stars shine.

The Program

The Department of Physics & Astronomy offers a Bachelor of Arts in Physics and two Bachelor of Science degree programs: in Physics (which also offers an emphasis in Astrophysics), and in Applied Physics. The A.B. degree provides broad coverage of classical and modern physics while permitting a broader liberal arts education than is possible with the other two programs. The B.S. degree in either Physics or Applied Physics should be followed by the student who plans to enter physics as a profession, and also provides excellent training for a wide variety of technical career options. The B.S. in Applied Physics provides the student with a solid introduction to a particular applied physics specialty. For the student who plans to enter the job market upon completing a B.S. degree, the applied physics orientation would be an asset. Either B.S. program provides a solid foundation in physics for the student interested in graduate work in either pure or applied physics.

Career Alternatives

Careers in physics and applied physics include research and development, either in universities, government laboratories, or industry; teaching in high schools, junior colleges, and universities; management and administration in industrial laboratories and in government agencies; and in production and sales in industry. A major in physics also provides a strong base for graduate-level work in such interdisciplinary areas as chemical physics, biophysics and medical physics, geophysics and environmental physics, astrophysics and astronomy, computer science, and materials science.

Program Variance

Similar courses from other departments may be substituted for courses in the depth subject matter requirements by obtaining prior written permission from the Undergraduate Curriculum Committee Chairperson.


In addition to the introductory Astronomy courses listed, upper division and graduate courses in Astronomy, Astrophysics and Cosmology are listed under Physics.

Graduate Study

The Department of Physics & Astronomy offers programs of study and research leading to M.S. and Ph.D. degrees. Further information regarding requirements for these three degrees, graduate research, teaching assistantships, and research assistantships may be obtained by writing to the Chairperson, Department of Physics, One Shields Avenue, University of California, Davis, CA 95616.

The major requirements below are in addition to meeting University Degree Requirements & College Degree Requirements; unless otherwise noted. The minimum number of units required for the Physics Bachelor of Arts is 81.

Preparatory Subject Matter
Choose a series:19-25
Classical Physics
and Classical Physics
and Classical Physics
and Modern Physics
Honors Physics
and Honors Physics
and Honors Physics
and Honors Physics
and Honors Physics
PHY 080Experimental Techniques4
MAT 021ACalculus4
MAT 021BCalculus4
MAT 021CCalculus4
MAT 021DVector Analysis4
MAT 022ALinear Algebra3
MAT 022BDifferential Equations3
Preparatory Subject Matter Subtotal45-51
Depth Subject Matter
PHY 104AIntroduction to Mathematical Methods in Physics4
PHY 105AClassical Mechanics4
PHY 110AElectricity & Magnetism4
PHY 110BElectricity & Magnetism4
PHY 112Thermodynamics & Statistical Mechanics4
PHY 115AFoundation of Quantum Mechanics4
PHY 122AAdvanced Laboratory in Condensed Matter Physics4
or PHY 122B Advanced Laboratory in Particle Physics
Choose at least one:4
Introduction to Nuclear Physics
Elementary Particle Physics
Introduction to Solid State Physics
Stellar Structure & Evolution
Galactic Structure & the Interstellar Medium
Extragalactic Astrophysics
PHY 102Computational Laboratory in Physics 11
Choose at least one additional fixed-unit upper division Physics course. 23-4
Depth Subject Matter Subtotal36-37
Total Units81-88

PHY 102 waived if PHY 040 taken.


Excluding PHY 160.