Physics is the part of science that deals primarily with the inanimate world and is concerned with identifying its fundamental and unifying principles, setting a foundation for engineering and other sciences. In physics, the basic concepts, laws and measuring techniques have been developed in broad areas such as mechanics, heat, thermodynamics, wave motion, acoustics and optics.

At Clarkson, the physics undergraduate bachelor's degree program will give you a strong understanding of these concepts, laws and techniques and give you the skill set to apply them to many different knowledge areas and disciplines. 

The physics major has a student to faculty ratio of around 5:1, promoting an informal, relaxed atmosphere for learning. With the small class sizes, you will gain hands-on experience with large scale computing, photovoltaic devices, biosensors, optical and electronic signal processing, computer interfacing, data acquisition and much more. Plus, the technical skills you will acquire by using our incredible, state-of-the-art facilities will boost your competitive advantages in the job market.

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Physics Careers

With your undergraduate bachelor's degree in physics from Clarkson, you can choose a career in business, industry or government, working in

  • design
  • research
  • quality control
  • development scientist
  • engineering

Clarkson graduate physics majors have been employed by IBM, General Electric, General Dynamics, Hewlett Packard, Texas Instruments, Intel Corp., Eastman Kodak, U.S. Air Force, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory and the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Some of our recent graduates have gone on to graduate schools such as Cornell University, Stanford University, the University of Illinois, Duke University, Boston University, the University of Rochester, Georgia Tech, Rice University, Carnegie-Mellon University and Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

You may choose to pursue a teaching profession. If you want to continue on to higher education, you can enter graduate school not only in physics, but also in mathematics, chemistry, engineering and business administration, or you can continue in a professional program, such as in medicine, dentistry, physical therapy or law.

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Physics Curriculum & Academic Options

Major in Physics

The core physics undergraduate curriculum is 35 credit hours, flexible and allowing for multidisciplinary studies. Our physics majors take courses such as:

  • Physics for Life Sciences
  • Fundamentals of Modern Physics
  • Physical Models of Living Systems
  • Experimental Physics
  • Quantum Physics
  • Theoretical Mechanics
  • Relativity
  • Optics
  • Thermal Physics
  • Solid State Physics
  • Electromagnetic Theory
  • Biophysics
  • Intro to Astrophysics
Physics Major Curriculum

The physics program consists of 35 credit hours in physics, 18 credit hours in mathematics, 8 credit hours in chemistry, 3 credit hours in biology electives, and 18 credit hours in other electives. 19 credit hours are in free electives, which is enough to complete a minor or second major if you so choose.

Click here for a sample curriculum schedule

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.


Clarkson Common Experience

The following courses are required for all students, irrespective of their program of study. These courses are offered during the fall semester, with FY100 First-Year Seminar being required of only first-year students. Both FY100 and UNIV190 are typically taken during the fall semester of the first year at Clarkson.
FY100 First-Year Seminar (1 credit)
UNIV190 The Clarkson Seminar (3 credits)


Physics Core Requirements

Students are required to complete the following courses:


  • PH121 Physics Freshman Seminar (1 credits)
  • PH131 Physics I (4 credits)
  • PH132 (Physics II (4 credits)
  • PH221 Theoretical Mechanics 
  • PH231 Fundamentals of Modern Physics
  • PH232 Modern Physics Laboratory (1 credits)
  • PH325 Thermal Physics 
  • PH327 Experimental Physics I (1-3 credits)
  • PH331 Quantum Physics I
  • PH380 Electromagnetic Theory 
  • CM131 General Chemistry I (4 credits)
  • CM132 General Chemistry II (4 credits)

Professional Experience

Students are required to complete one of the following Professional Experiences:
PH445 Senior Thesis I
or PH478 Directed Research in Experimental Physics
or PH479 Directed Research in Theoretical Physics
or PH480 Internship/Co-op in Physics


Physics Core Electives

Physics Electives

Students must complete at least 12 credits from the following courses:

  • Physics (PH) electives 200-level and above

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • PH445 Undergraduate Thesis I (3 credits)
  • PH446 Undergraduate Thesis II (3 credits)
  • PH470-473 Directed Study Experimental (3 credits)
  • PH474-477 Directed Study Theoretical (3 credits)

Biology Elective

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • Biology (BY) 3-credit elective


Math Courses for Physics

Students must complete the following four courses:

  • MA131 Calculus I 
  • MA132 Calculus II 
  • MA231 Calculus III
  • MA232 Elementary Differential Equations


Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • MA331 Fourier Series and Boundary Value Problems
  • MA313 Abstract Linear Algebra
  • MA339 Applied Linear Algebra


Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • STAT381 Probability
  • STAT383 Probability and Statistics


Physics Electives

Information Technology Elective

Students must complete 3 credits in information technology electives.

Technology Elective

Students must complete 3 credits in technology electives.

Concentration Electives

Students must complete 9 credits of concentration electives. All of these must be in one area outside of physics; an area need not be a department. Concentration electives allow students to explore another field of interest outside physics.

Knowledge Area/University Course Electives

Students will have at least 15 credit hours available to use toward Knowledge Area and/or University Course electives to satisfy the Clarkson Common Experience requirements.

Free Electives

Students will have approximately 19 credit hours available to use toward courses of their choice.


The Department of Physics also offers a minor in physics, which is open to all Clarkson students except physics majors. Physics majors have the opportunity to explore minors that will complement the physics bachelor's degree. View our recommendations below or learn more about all of Clarkson's minors, concentrations and professional advising tracks.

All Clarkson Minors, Concentrations and Tracks

Physics Minor

If you're majoring in another field but are interested in physics and wish this to be recognized on your transcript, the physics minor program is an excellent option. This 24-credit course of study develops your background in physics considerably beyond the level of first-year physics courses.

A minimum 2.0 average must be maintained in the courses taken for a physics minor, and none can be designated pass/no entry. The minor should be initiated by the beginning of the junior year to allow time to complete the necessary coursework.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.


Physics Minor Core I

Students are required to complete the following courses:

  • PH131 Physics I (4 credits) 
  • PH132 Physics II (4 credits) 
  • PH231 Fundamentals of Modern Physics 
  • PH221 Theoretical Mechanics I 
  • or PH230 Physics III 
  • PH331 Quantum Physics I


Physics Minor Core II

Students must complete the following:

1 Credit Course

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • PH121 Physics Freshman Seminar (1 credit) 
  • PH232 Modern Physics Laboratory (1 credit) 
  • PH435 Physics Senior Seminar (1 credit) 
  • PH470 Directed Study Experimental (1 credit) 
  • PH474 Directed Study Theoretical (1 credit)

300-400 Level Physics Courses

Students must complete any two 300-400 level courses, such as:

  • PH371/CM371 Physical Chemistry I
  • PH372/CM372 Physical Chemistry II
Mathematics Minor

The Minor in Mathematics is open to all students except those majoring in Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, Data Science, or Mathematical Economics. To complete the minor the student must achieve at least a 2.0 grade-point average in seven three-credit courses from the following list:

  • MA131 Calculus I
  • MA132 Calculus II
  • MA200 Introduction to Mathematical Modeling and Software
  • MA211 Discrete Mathematics and Proof
  • MA230 3-D Space and Projective Geometry
  • MA231 Calculus III
  • MA232 Elementary Differential Equations
  • MA239 Elementary Linear Algebra
  • MA277 Elementary Numerical Methods

Any 3-credit MA or STAT course at the 300-level or above.

Any CS course which is double-listed as an MA course at the 300-level or above also counts toward the minor; check with the Mathematics Department for details.

At least one-fourth of the credit hours required must be completed at Clarkson, unless an exception is approved by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

Software Engineering Minor

A minor in Software Engineering is available to students in any degree program with the exception of the Software Engineering and Computer Science degree programs.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.


Software Engineering Minor Core I

Students are required to complete the courses in one of the following options:

Option 1

  • CS141 Introduction to Computer Science I (4 credits)
  • CS142 Introduction to Computer Science II
  • CS344 Algorithms and Data Structures

Option 2

  • CS141 Introduction to Computer Science I (4 credits)
  • EE262 Intro to Object Oriented Programming and Software Design
  • EE363 Software Components and Generic Programming


Software Engineering Minor Core II

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • CS242 Advanced Programming Concepts in Java
  • or EE408 Software Design for Visual Environments

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • EE368 Software Engineering
  • or CS350 Software Design & Developments


Software Engineering Minor Core III

Students must complete one of the following courses:

  • EE465/CS452 Computer Graphics
  • CS455/EE407 Computer Networks
  • EE468/CS460 Database Systems
  • or course approved by the Software Engineering Program Committee.
Statistics Minor

The minor in Statistics is open to all students except those majoring in Mathematics, Applied Mathematics and Statistics, or Data Science. To complete the minor the student must achieve at least a 2.0 grade-point average in courses totaling at least 21 credits.

At least one-fourth of the credit hours required must be completed at Clarkson, unless an exception is approved by the Dean of the School of Arts and Sciences.

All courses are 3 credits unless noted.


Statistics Minor Core I

Students must complete one course from the following areas:


  • MA181 Basic Calculus
  • or MA131 Calculus I
  • or Equivalent

Linear Algebra

  • MA239 Elementary Linear Algebra
  • or MA339 Applied Linear Algebra
  • or Equivalent


Statistics Minor Core II

Students must complete the following course areas:

Introductory Statistics

  • STAT282 Probability and Statistics
  • or STAT383 Probability and Statistics
  • or Equivalent

Statistics or Projects

Students must take at least 12 additional credits from statistics courses or projects including at least two statistics courses or projects from departments other than Mathematics.

"I chose physics as my major because I felt it combines my science and math aptitudes along with my problem-solving skills very well. I then decided to add my electrical engineering major because I wanted to challenge myself and gain more knowledge in different fields."

Experiential Learning

Research Opportunities

Physics majors near the end of their second year identify research projects in their areas of concentration and continue to work on the projects until graduation. Often, their research leads to publication in internationally recognized scientific journals. By participating in research, our physics majors attend regional and national conferences.

Through the network you develop, and also through the large network of our successful alumni, you learn who is interested in hiring people like you. With the recommendation of your faculty supervisor, you may get a chance to spend a semester at one of the prestigious National Laboratories, where you can make more contacts with prospective employers and gain experience that becomes an impressive feature of your resume. In recent years, our physics majors have worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory, Argonne National Laboratory, CERN and Los Alamos National Laboratory.

Faculty research areas in the Department of Physics include astrophysics, biological physics, surface and interface physics, optics, physics education, photovoltaic devices, nanomaterials and quantum computation. As an undergraduate, you have opportunities to participate in the ongoing research activities in these areas.

Internship and Co-op Opportunities

Internship and co-op opportunities for physics majors include the Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) or community projects clearly related to the student’s professional goals. Internships, co-ops and directed research can be used to fulfill the professional experience requirement of the physics bachelor's degree program.

Recent summer REUs and internships by our physics majors include the following, listed as subject (institute/company):

Experimental particle physics REU (Duke University/CERN); software quality engineering (Lockheed Martin Aeronautics); engineering internship (C&S Companies); engineering internship (SP Manufacturing); computational biophysics REU (Lehigh University); advanced fuel cells REU (McNair Program, Clarkson University); nuclear physics REU (Duke University); astrophysics REU (Clarkson University); biological physics REU (Clarkson University); quantum optics REU (Friedrich-Alexander Universität).

What's your purpose? Achieve it here.