Physics Major

The Majors Physics Program is intended for students who wish to learn Physics as part of a general education, or combine physics with other disciplines. There are many options with this degree which include a career in medical physics, education, high technology, business, or science journalism. This program, combined with the proper electives, is suitable as pre-training for a professional degree in fields such as Architecture, Commerce, Education, Law and Medicine. The large number of electives will allow you to obtain significant background in another field; e.g. Computer Science, Applied Mathematics, Physical Geography, Oceanography, Geophysics or Geology. Some students may wish to take a double major which can be obtained by satisfying the degree requirements in two subjects. You may find it attractive to combine a Physics Major with a minor in another subject in Science, Commerce or the Faculty of Arts. Students wishing to enter the one year Secondary Teaching program in the Faculty of Education with a Physics Major should consult the Education section of the Calendar. They will find it to their advantage to have a "concentration" in one more secondary teaching field. There is also a dual degree program that will allow you to receive a BSc in Physics at the same time as a BEd. Please see the dual degree section for more details on this option.

The Science I program as well as the regular first year science stream are excellent entry points for this program. A coop option is also available. Students intending to continue in any physics or astronomy specialization should be competent in MATH and PHYS. It is advisable that a student entering any specialization in physics or astronomy have a minimum average of 60% in first-year PHYS and 60% in first-year MATH. To be promoted to third year in the program you must have better than the minimum passing grade in each of PHYS 200, 216, 219 and 229.

Below is a short description of the specialization. Please be aware the official requirements for the specialization are listed in the UBC calendar - please see the appropriate calendar section for more information. For information on first year registration please go to first year.

Please see also a combination of Physics Major with Minor from another subject.

Year 1 --- Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
Physics 107, 108, 109 (or 117, 118, 119 or 101, 118, 119 or Science I)1,2 Enriched Physics I, Enriched Physics II and Enriched Experimental Physics 7
CHEM 121 (111)2,3 Structural Chemistry 4
MATH 100-level2,4 Differential and Integral Calculus 6 (9)
Communication requirement5,7   6
Electives6,7   4-7
Total Credits Year 1   30

1Advanced Credit or Placement in Physics are both excellent preparation but they are NOT a substitute for these first year Physics courses, which are prerequisities for all second year Physics courses. Students with AP credits should contact the Department for advice. Students without Physics 12 must take PHYS 100 prior to PHYS 101, PHYS 107 or PHYS 117. Students are advised to take PHYS 117 in second year if they did not take it or PHYS 107 in first year.

2First-year physics, biology, chemistry, and mathematics can be replaced by SCIE 001.

3Students without Chemistry 12 must take CHEM 111 instead of CHEM 121.

4One of MATH 100, 102, 104, 110, 180, 184, or 120 and one of MATH 101, 103, 105, 121.

5A total of 6 credits of coursework is required to meet the Communications Requirement. ENGL 112 is recommended. For a full list of acceptable courses see Communication Requirement.

6Students who intend to pursue a major in Physics will greatly benefit from spending some of their first year elective credits on advancing their math and computing skills early on, in order to be better prepared for more advanced courses.  Courses in linear algebra and computing science are available to first-year students from the math and CS departments respectively; a solid grounding in these topics early in the degree will help Physics major students get higher grades and learn more physics in subsequent courses, by avoiding having a first exposure to them concurrently with their application in physics classes.  Physics major students thinking of doing co-op in the future will particularly benefit from computing science courses, as these skills dramatically increase employability and success in job placements.

7Electives must be taken to ensure that all Faculty of Science requirements are met:

  • At least 12 credits must be from the Faculty of Arts, excluding ENGL credits used to satisfy the Faculty of Science Communication Requirement (see Arts Requirement).
  • An additional 9 credits must be from Arts or Science outside the field of major (ie. other than ASTR, MATH or PHYS) to satisfy the Breadth Requirement.
  • Up to 18 credits may be taken from any faculty but students must ensure that they have at least 48 upper-level credits, including at least 30 upper-level credits from the Faculty of Science.

Students without Biology 11 or 12 must take 3 credits of 100-level BIOL. BIOL 111 or 121 are recommended. For students with Biology 11 or 12, at least 3 credits must be a science course in ASTR, BIOL, EOSC, or GEOB (i.e., ASTR 101, ASTR 102, BIOL 112, BIOL 121, EOSC 110, EOSC 112, EOSC 114, GEOB 102, or GEOB 103). See the Faculty of Science Requirements for further details. Students interested in senior chemistry courses or who are planning to enter a career in teaching are reminded that they should take a second course of introductory chemistry. Some course alternatives have different credit value. The number of elective credits in each year is chosen to balance the total number of credits (i.e., make the yearly total equal to 30). Since the number of available elective credits in each year may not be a multiple of three, students are permitted to move elective credits between years.

Year 2 - Term 1 Description Credits
PHYS 2008 Relativity and Quanta 4
PHYS 219 Intermediate Experimental Physics I 2
PHYS 2109 Introduciton to Computational Physics 3
MATH 20010,11 Calculus III 3
MATH 22110 Matrix Algebra 3
Electives7,8   0
Year 2 - Term 2 Description Credits
PHYS 229 Intermediate Experimental Physics II 1
PHYS 2168 Intermediate Mechanics 3
MATH 215 Elementary Differential Equations I 3
Electives7,8   8
Total credits Year 2   30

8Students may opt to take PHYS 200 or PHYS 216 in third year, in order to take an additional 3 credits of electives in second year.

9Computing skills at the level of PHYS 210 are required in the specialization. With written permission of an undergraduate physics and astronomy advisor, students who already have these skills may replace PHYS 210 with 3 credits of electives.

10MATH 200 and MATH 221 should be taken in the first term since they are prerequisites for PHYS 216. In general it is best to take Math courses as soon as possible since they will make all upper level Physics courses easier. Please note that the requirements for MATH 221 allow first year students to take this course; it may benefit Physics majors students to take this or an equivalent linear algebra course in the first year of studies, to gain familiarity with this crucial topic as early as possible.

11Students with sufficiently high grades in first-year MATH may take MATH 217 (4 credits) and 2 additional credits of electives instead of MATH 200 and MATH 317.

Year 3 - Term 112 Description Credits
PHYS 309 (or 319 in 2nd term)13 Electrical Laboratory 3
PHYS 304 Introduction to Quantum Mechanics 3
PHYS 312 Introduction to Mathematical Physics 3
MATH 31711,14 Calculus IV 3
Electives7,17   3
Year 3 - Term 2 Description Credits
PHYS 20315 Thermodynamics                             4
PHYS/ASTR 300 level and above13,16   3
Electives7,17   8
Total Credits Year 3   30

12Consultation with a Physics departmental advisor is recommended before entering third and fourth year.

13Note it is possible to take both PHYS 309 and PHYS 319 since these are not credit excluded. If both are taken, the extra 3 credits can be used towards the upper level PHYS/ASTR electives.

14MATH 317 may be postponed until Term 2. It is a prerequisite for PHYS 301 and a co-requisite for PHYS 203.

15The combination of CHEM 201 and CHEM 304 may replace PHYS 203.

Year 4 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
PHYS 301 Electricity and Magnetism 3
6 credits from PHYS 348, 409 and 42016,18 Frontiers in Physics/Experimental Lab / Demonstrations 6
PHYS/ASTR 300 level and above13,16,18   6
Electives7,17   15
Total Credits Year 4   30
Total credits to graduate16   120

16Physics Majors must take 9 credits of Physics or Astronomy electives in 3rd and 4th year. A list of suggestions is tabulated below. The courses on the right side of the table can only be taken in the fourth year because of prerequisite requirements. In the case of PHYS 401, 402, 473 and 474 you should seek approval from the Departmental Advisor and then the instructor. PHYS 314, 315, 318, 437, 438 are not offered every year. If you take both PHYS 319 and PHYS 309, one of them counts towards the lab requirement listed on the 3rd year curriculum and the other one can count towards the 9 credits upper-level elective requirement. If you have more than 3 credits in PHYS 409 besides one of PHYS 348 or 420, the excess credits can be used towards these 9 credits. The PHYS 333, ASTR 333, and PHYS 490 cannot be used to fulfill this upper-level selection requirement, but can be used to count as general upper-level science electives.

17When choosing electives keep in mind the following graduation requirements: You need a total of 72 credits in the faculty of Science and 30 of these must be in courses numbered 300 or above. You need a total of 48 credits in courses numbered 300 or above in any faculty.  You need 12 credits (excluding ENGL credits used to satisfy the communication requirement) from the faculty of Arts. You also need an additional 9 credits from Arts or Science outside the field of the major (i.e. other than ASTR, MATH or PHYS) to satisfy Breadth Requirement.

18Note it is possible to take more than 6 credits from PHYS 348, 409, 420 since these are not credits excluded. Excess credits can be used towards the 9 credits of PHYS/ASTR 300 level and above courses. Students interested in teaching are encouraged to consider PHYS 420. PHYS 420 is only offered every 2nd year starting 2012W.

19Requirements related to these courses in the majors program have been revised several times in recent years. Students are reminded that they may follow any version of the program in effect during their years in the program. For example a student entering the Physics Major program in 2012 can complete the program as it appears in the 2012/13, the 2013/14, or 2014/15 calendar.

Suggested Upper Level Physics / Astronomy Electives for Majors

3rd or 4th Year

4th Year

Course #


Course #


PHYS 305

Introduction to Biophysics

PHYS 350

Applied Classical Mech.

PHYS 306


PHYS 400

Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics

PHYS 314


PHYS 401*

Electromagnetic Theory

PHYS 315

Physics of Materials

PHYS 402*

Applications of Quantum Mechanics

PHYS 318


PHYS 403

Statistical Mechanics

PHYS 404

Physical Techniques in Diagnostic Medicine

PHYS 407

Introduction to General Relativity

PHYS 405

Radiation Biophysics

PHYS 408


PHYS 438

Zoological Physics

PHYS 410

Computational Physics

ASTR 300


PHYS 437

Biocellular Structure & Machinery

ASTR 403


PHYS 473*

Applied Nuclear Physics

ASTR 407

Planetary Science

PHYS 474*

Applied Solid State Physics

ASTR 349

Directed Research Project in Astronomy

ASTR 404

Astronomical / Astrophysics Measurement

PHYS 349

Directed Research Project in Physics

ASTR 406

High-energy Astrophysics

*Physics and Astronomy major students who are interested in taking this course, have the appropriate prerequisites and at least a 75% average on their physics and math courses, please contact the Undergraduate Program Coordinator at to discuss registration in this course.

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Fax 604.822.5324

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