The Bachelor of Science with a major in physics requires a minimum of 120 s.h., including at least 58 s.h. of work for the major. Students must maintain a g.p.a. of at least 2.00 in all courses for the major and in all UI courses for the major. A cumulative g.p.a. of at least 2.00 is required for graduation. Students must also complete the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences GE CLAS Core.

Students must complete several required mathematics courses in addition to their required physics core. The department offers a wide range of upper-level electives and students are encouraged to explore different research areas. All students are strongly encouraged to get involved with research.

Listed below are the general categories of coursework required to earn the degree; for more specific information on courses, curriculum, and requirements of the Bachelor of Science in physics, visit the UI General Catalog.

Plan of Study

The plan of study below lists only the core courses required for a B.S. in Physics.  This does not include required GE CLAS Core courses, which may be found here, and electives.  Undergraduates are also strongly encouraged to be active participants in research within the department.

A pdf outlining this sample plan may be found here.


GE  This course satisfies a General Education requirement.
a  Enrollment in math courses requires completion of a placement exam.
b  Students who choose PHYS:3850 (Electronics)as one of their upper-level elective courses are advised to take it before they take PHYS:3756 (Intermediate Laboratory).
 PHYS:3850 is offered in the spring semester only. Check MyUI for course availability since offerings are subject to change.
These courses are offered every other year - ASTR:3771 [even-years only], ASTR:3772 and ASTR:4850 [odd-years only]. Check MyUI for course availability since offerings are subject to change.
e  The course taken to select the Lab Course portion of this requirement may not also be used to satisfy part of the Elective Courses requirement.  A total of three courses must be taken from the list.
 Electronics, Advanced Lab, and Observational Techniques in Astronomy may each only be taken once even though they are listed in both categories.

GE CLAS Core Requirements

The GE CLAS Core has 11 required areas, grouped into three categories. Students must fulfill the requirements in each GE CLAS Core area. The requirements below are for students who entered the University of Iowa during Summer 2023 or after. Students who entered during a previous semester are held to different requirements as indicated on a student's degree audit.

General Education CLAS Core Courses
clas core categoryCore arearequirements
Communication and LiteracyDiversity and InclusionMinimum of 3 s.h.
 Interpretation of LiteratureMinimum of 3 s.h.
 RhetoricMinimum of 4 s.h.
 World LanguagesRequirements vary by language (0 s.h. - 20 s.h.)
SustainabilitySustainability aMinimum of one course from the next two categories that integrates sustainability (0 s.h.)
Natural, Quantitative and Social SciencesNatural Sciences bMinimum of 7 s.h.; must include one lab
 Quantitative or Formal Reasoning cMinimum of 3 s.h.
 Social SciencesMinimum of 3 s.h.
Culture, Society, and the ArtsHistorical PerspectivesMinimum of 3 s.h.
 International and Global IssuesMinimum of 3 s.h.
 Literary, Visual, and Performing ArtsMinimum of 3 s.h.
 Values and CultureMinimum of 3 s.h.

 A single course may satisfy both the Sustainability requirement as well as another Core Category - either Natural, Quantitative, and Social Sciences or Culture, Society, and the Arts.
The Natural Sciences GE requirements are met by taking PHYS:1701 and PHYS:1702 (Physics I and II) or ASTR:1771 and ASTR:1772 (Intro Astronomy I and II).
The Quantitative or Formal Reasoning GE requirements are fulfilled by taking MATH:1850 (Calculus I).

Double Major in Astronomy

Students are encouraged to explore and pursue a double major in Physics and Astronomy; as such, the courses required for the astronomy portion of the double major are included in the sample plan of study at the top of this page. Students interested in earning a double major should consult with their advisors. See Requirements for a Bachelor's Degree on the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences website.

A pdf outlining a sample plan of study for a double major may be found here.

Double Major in Mathematics

In addition to the coursework listed above for the B.S. in Physics, a student may elect to pursue a second B.S. in Mathematics.  The following courses are required to pursue this degree:

General Requirements for Physics and Math Double Major
Core Mathematics Courses bIntro to Abstract Algebra I (MATH:3720) a - 4 s.h.
Fundamental Properties of Spaces and Functions I (MATH:3770) a - 4 s.h.
Mathematics Elective Courses cTwo courses numbered MATH: 3600 or higher, but excluding 3700, 3750, 3995-3997, 4010, 4020, and 4120
Upper-Level Mathematics Elective Courses
  • Upper-level math courses are MATH:3900 and MATH courses numbered 4000 or higher except MATH:4010, 4020, and 4120.
  • MATH courses numbered 6000 or above are not allowed unless approved by the Math Department Director of Undergraduate Study in advance.
Plan of Study d
  • Every Program C student must file a Plan of Study before the start of their senior year. With the help of their advisor, a student prepares a list of courses as their Plan of Study according to requirements listed here.
  • With advisor’s approval, this Plan of Study is then submitted to the Math Department Director of Undergraduate Study for approval. Approved Plan of Study will be uploaded and appear in MyUI.
  • If a student needs to change courses, a new Plan of Study must be submitted.
  • Please use this Fillable PDF Form for Plan of Study for Program C.

a  Mathematics requires five core courses, but four of the these courses are also requirements of the B.S. in Physics.  
This core requirement is also satisfied by taking Engineering Math I-V and either MATH:3720 or MATH:3770.
c  Four elective courses from outside of the Mathematics Department are required but this is satisfied by the required PHYS courses for the B.S. in Physics.
All students pursing a secondary or tertiary degree in Mathematics do so as Program C students. More information may be found on the Program C home page.

Teacher Licensure

Students interested in teaching in elementary and/or secondary schools should seek admission to the Teacher Education Program (TEP) in the College of Education.

To qualify for licensure in secondary teaching, students in the TEP complete a degree in education as well as a related College of Liberal Arts and Sciences degree. See Teacher Education Program Application and Admission on the College of Education website for details on requirements and deadlines for applying to the College of Education and about TEP choices of majors leading to licensure.

Degree Requirements

Below is a summary of the total semester hour requirements to earn a Bachelor of Science in Physics.

Degree Requirements
Mathematics Courses16
Introductory Physics Courses8-12
Physics Core Courses25
Upper-Level Elective Physics Courses9-11
GE CLAS Core Courses25-45 a
Elective Courses11-37
Total Hours58-64

 This is the total hours to satisfy all of the GE CLAS Core requirements without including the Natural Science or Quantitative Formal Reasoning requirements, both of which are met with required courses in the major.