Brigham Young University Homepage

Undergraduate Catalog

2012 - 2013

Physics and Astronomy

Ross L. Spencer, Chair
N-281A ESC, (801) 422-2341

College of Physical and Mathematical Sciences Advisement Center
N-179 ESC, (801) 422-6270
1112 TMCB, (801) 422-4214

Admission to Degree Program

All degree programs in the Department of Physics and Astronomy are open enrollment. However, special limitations apply for teaching majors.

The Discipline

Over the centuries physicists and astronomers have studied the fundamental principles that govern the structure and dynamics of matter and energy in the physical world, from subatomic particles to the cosmos. Physicists also apply this understanding to the development of new technologies. For example, physicists invented the first lasers and semiconductor electronic devices.

Physics and astronomy students learn to approach complex problems in science and technology from a broad background in mechanics, electricity and magnetism, statistical and thermal physics, quantum mechanics, relativity, and optics. The tools they develop at BYU include problem solving by mathematical and computational modeling, as well as experimental discovery and analysis. All students gain professional experience in a research, capstone, or internship project, usually in close association with faculty. Together these experiences can provide excellent preparation for employment or for graduate studies in physics, other sciences, engineering, medicine, law, or business.

Most physicists and astronomers work in research and development in industrial, government, or university labs to solve new problems in technology and science. They also share the beauty discovered in our physical universe by teaching in high schools, colleges, and universities.

Career Opportunities

    "More than most other majors, a physics degree is a passport into a broad range of science,
    engineering, and education careers." — Sloan Foundation

A degree in physics or physics–astronomy can provide:

  1. Preparation for those who intend to enter industrial or governmental service as engineers, technicians, physicists or astronomers.
  2. Education for those who intend to pursue graduate work in physics or astronomy.
  3. Education in the subject matter of physics for prospective teachers of the physical sciences.
  4. Undergraduate education for those who will pursue graduate work in the professions: business (e.g., an MBA), law (especially patent law), medicine, medical physics, etc.
  5. Science, technical, and research background for graduate school in engineering, biophysics, or physical sciences.
  6. Physics fundamentals required by the biological science, medical, dental, nursing, and related programs.

For more information about careers for physics and astronomy majors, see

Graduation Requirements

To receive a BYU bachelor's degree a student must complete, in addition to all requirements for a specific major, the following university requirements:

  • The university core, consisting of requirements in general and religious education. (See University Core for details. For a complete listing of courses that meet university core requirements, see the current class schedule.)
  • At least 30 credit hours must be earned in residence on the BYU campus in Provo as an admitted day student
  • A minimum of 120 credit hours
  • A cumulative GPA of at least 2.0
  • Be in good standing with the Honor Code Office

Undergraduate Programs and Degrees

Graduate Programs and Degrees

General Information

  1. It is recommended that a student complete the following courses in high school:
    • 3 units of English
    • 1 unit of physical science, either chemistry or physics.
    • 4 units of mathematics, consisting of algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and calculus. This should qualify students to begin college mathematics with Math 113, Calculus 2.

      Because mathematics provides the foundation for all work in the physical and mathematical sciences, high school preparation in this subject is of particular importance.

  2. Students in physics should take mathematics beginning the first semester of the freshman year. Most physics majors begin with Math 113. If calculus was not studied in high school, students can take Math 112 concurrently with Phscs 121 during the fall semester; then continue with 113 in winter semester.
  3. Students are strongly urged to gain experience in computer programming.