The best place to earn your degree in Physics is at a liberal arts college. You receive a background in physics that prepares you either to attend graduate school in physics or engineering, or to get a job in teaching, engineering, or research, among other fields. Unlike more narrowly focused programs, at MCLA you get the tools you need for a successful, fulfilling life by experiencing both sides of the liberal arts - the sciences and the humanities.
A typical sequence of courses for the Bachelor of Science degree might look like the schedule below - not all programs require all the courses listed. Click a year to see details.
Intro to Physics I
Intro to Physics II
The department highly recommends Introduction to Engineering and Programming as freshman electives.
Intro to Physics III
Intro to Physics IV
Classical Mechanics I*
Modern Physics I
Mathematical Physics I
Classical Mechanics II*
Modern Physics II
Mathematical Physics II
Advanced Physics Lab I
Electricity & Magnetism*
Advanced Physics Lab II
* Classes taught in alternating years
Do you want to major in Physics? It's a demanding subject, but it offers great rewards, both personal and professional. It also offers a path to other disciplines such as engineering, medicine, law, and many others.
What you need from the start, aside from commitment and a good work ethic, is an interest in science and math. If you've enjoyed a good physics course, that's a great start but isn't necessary. Minimally, you should be comfortable with algebra and trigonometry, and having a calculus course or two under your belt is very helpful. Backgrounds of individual students vary widely: some need a pre-calculus warm-up course, while others jump into Calculus III.
In your second year you complete the Introductory Physics sequence and continue to build a strong math background. Courses provide the skills and foundation needed for the advanced courses that lie ahead. You also start taking electives to add direction to your studies. If you plan to earn your B.S. or B.A. degree, or take advantage of the 3+2 Engineering program, the basic physics and math courses pertain. If you want to enter an engineering field, either through the 3+2 program or directly from MCLA into graduate school, you should take Introduction to Engineering if you haven't already. Sophomore year is also when, with the help of your advisor, you ensure that you're meeting the Core requirements.
As you enter your junior year, you have already been exposed to most of the fundamental fields of physics - mechanics, thermodynamics, electromagnetics, modern physics, and several of their sub-fields. At the same time, you've attained a considerable level of what we call "mathematical maturity" and have gained some experience in experimental techniques. Whether you plan to earn a B.A. degree or a B.S. degree, your accumulated skills are put to good use.
The course structure is determined by your degree choice, along with your interests. Here are some options.
Bachelor of Science Track
This path prepares you for entrance into graduate school in physics or engineering, or for a career in a technical industry.
Modern Physics I & II - Study atomic and nuclear physics, and get an introduction to quantum mechanics. Advanced Physics Laboratory I & II - Hone research skills through electronics labs and an individual research project.
Mathematical Physics I & II - Develop advanced skills in mathematics, including vector calculus, complex variables, and partial differential equations.
Bachelor of Arts Track
This path is for 3+2 engineering candidates, teaching careers, and students seeking a physics background as a stepping stone to a broad career spectrum.
Classical Mechanics I - Revisit mechanics with far more powerful tools at your disposal.
Modern Physics I & II - Study atomic and nuclear physics, and get an introduction to quantum mechanics. Electives tailored to your individual needs, including dual major/minor options.
Your options as a senior are again determined primarily by your degree choice. For the B.S. program, you need a well structured course sequence to prepare you for the rigors of graduate school or the high expectations of industry. You can explore some personal interests, such as lasers, electronics, or theoretical studies in the Advanced Physics Lab. As a B.A. candidate, your interests guide your course selections. If, for example, you chose the 3+2 Engineering track, you aren't at MCLA - you're off to UMass Amherst! If you expect to become a teacher, you must meet Education requirements for licensure.
Bachelor of Science Track
This track continues to prepare you for entrance into graduate school or a technical industry.Electricity & Magnetism - Electromagnetic field theory provides the beauty of Maxwell's equations and new mathematical tools.
Statistical Thermodynamics (fall) - Study kinetic theory of gasses, classical thermodynamics, and quantum statistical physics. Physics Seminar (spring) - Discuss special physics topics of interest to students and faculty. Advanced Physics Lab I & II - Hone research skills through electronics labs and an individual research project. Quantum Mechanics (fall) - Learn the physics that changed the course of science in the 20th century, and is the foundation of much of today's research.
Bachelor of Arts Track
In your final year you prepare for career options in teaching or private industry, or for entry to graduate school in a broad selection of professional or business programs.
Electricity & Magnetism - Electromagnetic field theory provides the beauty of Maxwell's equations and new mathematical tools.
Advanced Physics Lab I - Hone research skills through electronics labs and an individual research project. Electives tailored to your individual needs, including robotics and dual major/minor options.