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The Breakdown

How did the universe really form? What happens if you get sucked into a black hole? How does the microwave really heat up your day old pizza? If you’re interested in studying the big questions of the cosmos (as well as more tangible feats of nature), then perhaps physics is the major for you!

Physics majors typically receive a sound background in both classical and modern physics. Indeed, many programs begin with introductory classes that cover the origins of the discipline, starting with mechanics and electromagnetism. That is typically followed by coursework in relativity and quantum mechanics. Moreover, some schools also have their majors select a concentration, be it astrophysics, chemical principles or computer techniques. Of course, regardless of where they’re enrolled, all undergrads can expect a combination of classroom and laboratory work.

Additionally, the rumors are true; to succeed as a physics student, you’ll need solid quantitative and analytical skills. Further, many a physics major maintains a (near) limitless curiosity and an aptitude for problem-solving. And perhaps most important, the strongest physics students have an amazing work ethic. After all, the problem sets you’ll be assigned will likely be more time consuming than your Japanese Tea Ceremony homework.

Nuts and Bolts

As a physics major, you’ll be privy to (or required to take) such scintillating classes as: Introductory Astronomy, Classical Mechanics of Particles and Waves, Experimental Atomic Physics, Musical Acoustics, Physics in Every Day Life, Solid State Physics, Introductory Quantum Mechanics, Electricity and Magnetism, Multivariable Calculus, The Physics of Fluids and Newtonian Mechanics.

Decisions, Decisions

An inquisitive bunch, physics majors tend to be curious about both how things work and the make-up of their surroundings. Therefore, they also often contemplate studying biochemistry, astronomy, mathematics, statistics, chemistry, astrophysics, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering, architecture, biology, civil engineering, computer science, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, atmospheric science, environmental science and hydrology.

What's Next

Physics majors on the cusp of graduation can feel confident walking across the dais, knowing that their newly acquired skills are highly transferable. Indeed, with their problem solving abilities honed and technical background developed, physics majors can enter virtually any industry. Of course, grads who want to be career physicists (typically in government labs or university settings) head directly back to school to pursue a PhD. Additionally, both medical and (surprisingly) law school are also common career tracks. Certainly, grad school isn’t mandatory for physics majors. Indeed, a large number head directly into the work force, landing engineering positions or research gigs within the health, energy (esp. nuclear) and ecology fields. Wall Street/financial services is another popular avenue, especially given the quant background physics requires. Really, when you get right down to it, physics majors have the ability to build a bridge (sarcastic wink) to any profession they desire.


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