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Degree Programs

A curriculum that balances rigor and flexibility.

In addition to fostering your curiosity of and knowledge about the universe, Physics and Astronomy programs of study help you develop the technical and analytical skills that are highly sought after in many workplaces: industry, technology and engineering firms, government labs, academia, law practices, hospitals, and schools. We offer several degree options to meet your goals and interests.

All majors in the College of Arts and Sciences complete at least 124 total credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. The degree programs include highly relevant liberal arts courses that provide a broad base in the essential skills for thriving in the modern world: critical thought, coherent writing, strong research skills, quantitative skills, empathy, working across difference, and leadership. Each degree also requires at least one major, wherein a student hones their training in a particular field. Minors are also encouraged to develop complementary skills and diversify experience.

Majors in Physics & Astronomy

There are four different majors offered by the Department of Physics and Astronomy. All four options have many required courses in common, making it easy for you to switch from one to another if your career objectives change.

This versatile major plan can be tailored to many interests through elective courses and optional concentrations

We have two general course maps, depending on whether or not you want to enter the workforce with Bachelors degree or if you plan on attending graduate school in physics or a related field.

Physics (Bachelors Degree Only) Course Map

Physics (Graduate School) Course Map

In both cases, students must take either 40 credits of physics and astronomy classes, or take at least 34 credits and minor (or major) in one other field. Double majors with other fields are quite common and possible.

This major highlights students’ interest and preparation in astronomy, giving students experience with observational astronomy, astrophysics, and a strong foundation in physics. 

We have two general course maps, depending on whether or not you want to enter the workforce with a BS degree or if you plan on attending graduate school in astronomy. 

Astronomy for BS-Only Course Map

Astronomy for Graduate-School Course Map

For those only interested in a BS in Astronomy, we strongly recommend pairing your astronomy major with another major or strong minor, expanding your skill set. In both cases, students must take either 40 credits of physics and astronomy classes, or take at least 34 credits and minor (or major) in one other field. Double majors with other fields are quite common and possible.

This major is designed for students who have a second major in any other technical discipline (BS degree), or a major or minor in any non-technical discipline (BA degree), but do not have room in their schedules to complete the 34+ credit physics major. This complementary major adds physics skills to a student’s repertoire, enhancing their technical abilities, and expanding their career options. 

Complementary Physics Major Course Map

There’s a strong need nationally for talented physics educators in high schools. Currently, only roughly one-third of high school physics teachers have a degree in physics. You can inspire future generations, and set yourself up with a career, by becoming a high school teacher. The Physics & Astronomy Education major emphasizes 100, 200, and 300 level courses, making it more feasible to take other courses to prepare yourself for an education career. Note that a Physics or Astronomy major can also used to get the physics training you want and need.

Physics & Astronomy Education Course Map

Note: to become a high school teacher you will also need to obtain licensure through a teacher training program. We recommend pairing the physics major with an 18-credit education minor which may transfer into the post-graduate training program, shortening the time and lowering the cost to obtain licensure. 


Minors in Physics & Astronomy

A minor in physics or in astronomy can be a useful compliment to your major in another technical field.

Get some exposure to modern physics and advanced experimental techniques to enhance your skill set, distinguishing yourself and learning some interesting things along the way. 

The physics minor is a great compliment to many technical majors, such as engineering, meteorology, chemistry, biology, and more. We have even had students who majored in drawing, dance, and music who minored in physics to enhance their knowledge of motion, energy and waves.

PHYS 141 & 141L Newtonian Mechanics 4 credits
PHYS 142 & 142L Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves 4 credits
PHYS 243 Atoms & Nuclei 3 credits
At least one course from 

  • ASTR 221: Observational Astronomy
  • PHYS 245: Experimental Physics III
  • PHYS 246: Data Reduction and Error Analysis
At least 1 credit
Electives 3 or 4 credits
Total 16 credits


Love astronomy and want to find out more? If you have a different major and can’t fit in a major in Astronomy, how about a minor? 

PHYS 141 & 141L Newtonian Mechanics 4 credits
PHYS 142 Electricity, Magnetism, and Waves 3 credits
PHYS 243 Atoms & Nuclei 3 credits
Two courses from:

  • ASTR 101: Astronomy
  • ASTR 252: Stellar Astrophysics
  • ASTR 253: Galactic Astrophysics
6 credits
One course from: 

  • PHYS 142L: Experimental Physics II
  • ASTR 101L: Astronomy Lab
  • ASTR 221: Observational Astronomy
1 credit
Total  17 credits

Engineering and Physics Double Major

Why would engineers also dive deep into physics?

Engineering and physics are natural partners for many science and technology-oriented students. Engineering is applied; physics is foundational. A solid understanding of these two legs of modern technology will keep you balanced and help you solve novel problems, do cutting-edge research, and push technology forward. 

Some characteristics of students who would be good candidates to minor or double major in physics:

  • You are curious and like to look under the hood to understand why things are the way they are.
  • You might be interested in going to graduate school in engineering or physics.
  • You want to be more prepared to address novel challenges in your engineering career.
  • You want to distinguish yourself as a person who has extra experience with modeling, mathematical and numerical analysis, and conceptual foundations.
  • You have some college credits as you enter university, so you have more options.

The engineering and physics programs share similar courses at the outset, so it’s easy to get started and work towards a minor or a double major in physics. You can even start off as a double major and then switch to a minor if that turns out to be a better path. In fact, as you work towards a physics major or minor you are also working towards your engineering degree because every engineering program has some elective courses that can be satisfied with physics (or astronomy) courses.

Below are course maps for how to achieve a double major in physics for different engineering programs. These are for illustration purposes; to plan your own personal path, talk to your advisor.

Physics with Engineering Minor

Physicists in the workplace often work in engineering firms or closely with engineers in national labs. Valpo has one of the highest-ranked undergraduate engineering programs in the country. Even if you are not in the Engineering College, you can take part in their curriculum and develop some engineering expertise to help you in your future career. Below are a few examples (more to come).

If you are interested in electronics, including digital circuits, microcontrollers, and robotics, consider this engineering minor. Talk to your physics advisor about how to fit these courses into your 4-year path.