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 106, 108, 119 (or 117, 118, 119 or Science I) + 129 is recommended1,2 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 131, PHYS 106 or PHYS 117. Students that took PHYS 131 (formerly PHYS 101) may enter the specialization but will need to take PHYS 106, 117, or 170 before the required PHYS 216. Students must complete PHYS 119 lab before they can take PHYS 129 Enriched lab. The PHYS 129 Enriched lab is recommended for all PHAS program specializations.

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

3Students who do not have B.C. High School Chemistry 12 (or its equivalent) must write the UBC Chemistry Basic Skills Test and may be required to take CHEM 100. Students interested in senior chemistry courses or who are planning to enter a career in teaching should take a second introductory chemistry course as an elective.

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.

7Elective credits together with required courses must fulfill the Faculty of Science’s:
a) Foundational Requirement;
b) Laboratory Science Requirement;
c) Science Breadth Requirement;
d) Science and Arts Requirements;
e) Upper-level Requirement;
f) General Degree Requirements.

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 the Undergraduate Advisor, students who already have several CPSC courses may be granted permission to replace PHYS 210 with PHYS 410.

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.

15CHEM 304 may replace PHYS 203.

Year 4 - Terms 1 and 2 Description Credits
PHYS 301 Electricity and Magnetism 3
3 credits from PHYS 348, 409 and 42016,18 Frontiers in Physics/Experimental Lab / Demonstrations 3
PHYS/ASTR 300 level and above13,16,18   9
Electives7,17   15
Total Credits Year 4   30
Total credits to graduate16   120

16Physics Majors must take 12 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, 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 12 credits upper-level elective requirement. The 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.

18Note it is possible to take more than 3 credits from PHYS 348, 409, 420 since these are not credits excluded. Excess credits can be used towards the 12 credits of PHYS/ASTR 300 level and above courses. Students interested in teaching are encouraged to consider PHYS 420.

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 Title 4th Year Title
PHYS 305 Introduction to Biophysics PHYS 350 Applied Classical Mech.
PHYS 306 Mechanics PHYS 400 Introduction to Elementary Particle Physics
PHYS 333 Energy & Climate PHYS 401* Electromagnetic Theory
PHYS 315 Quantum Physics of Materials PHYS 402* Applications of Quantum Mechanics
PHYS 318 Acoustics PHYS 403 Statistical Mechanics
PHYS 404 Physical Techniques in Diagnostic Medicine PHYS 407 Introduction to General Relativity
PHYS 405 Radiation Biophysics PHYS 408 Optics
PHYS 438 Zoological Physics PHYS 410 Computational Physics
ASTR 300 Galaxies PHYS 473 Applied Nuclear Physics
ASTR 403 Cosmology PHYS 474* Applied Solid State Physics
ASTR 333 Exoplanets and Astrobiology ASTR 404 Astronomical / Astrophysics Measurement
ASTR 349 Directed Research Project in Astronomy ASTR 406 High-energy Astrophysics
PHYS 349 Directed Research Project in Physics ASTR 407 Planetary Science

*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.