Requirements for the B.S. Degree

As of Spring 2012

Required Physics Courses

  1. PHYSICS 161D Fundamentals of Physics I and PHYSICS 161L Introductory Experimental Physics I or equivalent*
  2. PHYSICS 162D Fundamentals of Physics II and PHYSICS 162L Introductory Experimental Physics II or equivalent*
  3. PHYSICS 264L Optics and Modern Physics
  4. PHYSICS 361 Intermediate Mechanics
  5. PHYSICS 362 Electricity and Magnetism
  6. PHYSICS 363 Thermal Physics
  7. PHYSICS 417S Advanced Physics Laboratory and Seminar 
  8. PHYSICS 464 Quantum Mechanics I
  9. One physics elective numbered 200 or higher.
  10. One physics elective numbered 300 or higher.

 Required Mathematics Courses

  1. MATH 122L One-variable calculus or its equivalent
  2. MATH 212 Intermediate Calculus
  3. MATH 221 Linear Algebra and Applications
  4. MATH 356 Elementary Differential Equations

A note on the math requirements: for students who have already taken, or started, the Math 216/353 sequence, these courses will be accepted in place of Math 221/356. However Math 221/356 is the preferred sequence for physics majors.

*141L/142L or 151L/152L are acceptable for satisfying introductory physics requirements for physics majors, for students who have already taken these when starting as a physics major. However 161+161L and 162+162L are strongly encouraged, as they provide better preparation for subsequent courses. Calculus-based physics AP credit is also accepted, although in most cases, prospective physics majors are encouraged to take introductory physics at Duke regardless of AP credit.

Students with exceptionally strong experimental research experience (via independent study or other experience) may, with DUS approval, substitute another course for 417S.


Students planning to attend a physics graduate program should also get:

  • Research experience through a research independent study (PHYSICS 493) or through summer research.
  • One or more upper-level physics courses beyond the required physics courses. PHYSICS 465 Quantum Mechanics II, the second semester of the upper-level quantum sequence, is especially recommended but other choices could be astrophysics, biophysics, computational physics, particle physics, and nonlinear dynamics.
  • At least one math course beyond the basic math requirements. If you want to choose a math course that also strengthens your ability to do graduate physics research, some choices could be complex analysis, partial differential equations, abstract algebra, differential geometry, perturbation theory, and numerical analysis.
  • demonstrate substantial mastery of some physics topic by doing enough research to write an honors thesis, see Graduation with Distinction.

Knowing How to Program

All physics majors should know how to write computer programs at the level of an introductory computer science course such as Computer Science 101, and they should learn this skill as soon as possible, preferably by the end of their sophomore year. Knowing how to program greatly increases the opportunities for undergraduate research, theoretical and experimental.