Our Physics B.S. degree program is one of the largest in the nation, with about 175 bachelors degrees awarded annually. Physics bachelor degree recipients go on to follow many different paths including further studies in physics and other areas of science and engineering, teaching careers at all levels, and positions in the private sector wherever analytical, computational, and problem-solving skills are highly valued.
The UW Physics program offers four B.S. degree options, or "tracks," allowing various paths to a degree depending on your interests and goals: Comprehensive, Applied Physics, Biological Physics, and Teaching Physics. Students should choose a degree option when they declare a Physics major, but may change it anytime before applying to graduate.
Comprehensive Physics Track
The Comprehensive track is aimed at students wishing a thorough grounding in physics. If you want to experience the breadth of physics, delve into the mathematics underlying physical theories, and be prepared to participate in a career where you are "doing physics" then you should pursue the Comprehensive Track. If you intend to pursue graduate study in physics, astronomy, or a related field, this is the track for you. To be fully prepared for graduate school you should take as many upper-division courses as you have room and interest for. Most graduate schools will also expect you to have taken full advantage of available research opportunities.
Applied Physics Track
The Applied Physics track is aimed at students who plan to seek a technical job with their physics B.S. This is the most common track for students who have considered an engineering major, but wish to get a broader grounding in physics before seeking employment. This track has fewer required courses and can be less mathematically intense than the other degree options. It allows students to broaden their skills and knowledge in areas such as climate science, data science, electrical engineering, aerospace or entrepreneurship, and it is relatively straightforward to build a double major with another STEM field. Unique requirements of the Applied Physics track include a laboratory with a focus on statistics and error analysis, as well as a computer programming class relevant to data analysis. A variety of introductory science classes and laboratories in related areas may be used to meet elective requirements.
Biological Physics Track
The Biological Physics track aims to give students a thorough grounding in physics, biology and chemistry, preparing them for medical school, graduate school in medical physics, biophysics or bioengineering, or technical careers that combine physical and biological sciences. This is an exciting growth area of science where students can pursue interdisciplinary research. This degree option has the most required courses of the four tracks, but half of these are available at community colleges. The Biological Physics track is thus appropriate for a student who explored biology, chemistry and physics before deciding on a major path, or who wishes to double major in physics and either biology, biochemistry, or chemistry.
Teaching Physics Track
The Teaching Physics track is aimed at those who plan to teach physics, math or other technical fields at pre-college levels. It is also appropriate for students aimed at a science journalism career, or other fields involving the communication of physics to a broader audience. The distinguishing feature of the Teaching Physics track is the Physics by Inquiry sequence, Phys 407/408/409, which aims to give you the conceptual understanding and experience required to explain physics without college-level mathematics. The UW has a renouned Physics Education Research group, and students in this track have the opportunity to benefit from and contribute to this effort.
Last updated: 12/2020