The Colorado State University Physics major is designed to give each student a good basic background in physics, but allow flexibility in course selection so students can prepare for diverse careers. The Physics major is offered in two “concentrations”, Physics and Applied Physics, which have most requirements in common and lead to the same degree (B.S. in Physics). The former is the standard concentration, and is recommended for students planning to apply to graduate programs in Physics or related disciplines. The latter requires the student to select a specific “field’: there are a variety to choose from, and each has its own menu of associated electives. The Applied Physics concentration is ideal for students who are double-majoring in other technical disciplines, or who anticipate further education towards a career in health professions (including, notably, Medical Physics).

All physics majors are required to take a core set of courses in Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics, and Communications. To round out your curriculum, you select courses that fit your personal interests and long-term goals. There are also University breadth requirements (the All-University Core Curriculum) that give your education greater diversity.

Substitutions for departmentally required courses can be made upon written approval of the Key Adviser. Waivers of departmental requirements can be authorized only by the Department Chair. Both of these concentrations can be completed in four years, as long as the student starts physics coursework in their second term.

Physics Concentration

  • The Physics concentration provides a broad background in physics, that serves as a base for later specialization.
  • The Physics concentration prepares for a career in industry, government, and/or advanced study at the graduate level.

The requirements for the physics concentration are listed in the University Catalog.

Applied Physics Concentration

The Applied Physics concentration combines fundamental coursework in physics with selected courses in another field. There are seven fields available, plus the opportunity to create a custom applied physics concentration through working with the department advisors.

  • The Electronics, Semiconductors, and Optics field and the Materials and Fluids field are designed for students interested in rapidly changing technology or in areas that overlap the boundaries of traditional engineering disciplines.
  • The Computers field provides a foundation for the application of modern computer technology to problems in physics, the development of new types of computers, and jobs in computer programming.
  • The Chemistry field combines knowledge of both chemistry and physics, useful in such interdisciplinary areas as materials science, surface science, and physical chemistry/chemical physics.
  • The Medical Physics field and the Biophysics field prepare students for further study in medical physics, health physics, or biophysics, and are also appropriate for students planning careers in traditional health professions.
  • The Geophysics field prepares students for further study in geophysics and careers involving application of physical methods in geology.
  • The Data Science field provides students with the tools to analyze large data sets using contemporary statistical methods.
  • With this concentration, it is also possible for students to design a custom field (in consultation with departmental advisors) to meet their specific needs.

The requirements for the applied physics concentration are listed in the University Catalog.

Changing Majors and Double Majors

For students transferring into Physics from other majors within CSU or double-majoring, the following substitutions are generally acceptable if grades of C or higher were obtained: M155 for M160; EE 202 for PH 245; EE 341 and EE 342 for PH 351. Other substitutions are considered on a case-by-case basis.


Transfer students entering CSU in a Fall term with an A.S. degree from a community college and appropriate coursework (two semesters of calculus-based physics and three semesters of calculus) can generally expect to complete a Physics major at CSU in five semesters (with one semester of planned undergraduate leave, in the spring of the second year).

Students who have completed an A.S. from a Colorado community college and satisfied all the requirements for the Colorado community college articulation agreement need only 60 credits at CSU. Graduation is possible in four semesters.

Minor in Physics

Students in other fields may find that some upper division courses in Physics are valuable, and a Minor in Physics is offered to recognize their efforts. Beyond the introductory Physics sequence, the Introduction to Modern Physics (4 credit) course and 8 further credits in upper division Physics or Astronomy courses are required.

Accelerated Master’s Programs

The Department of Physics offers Accelerated Master’s Programs in partnership with other CSU departments. Students majoring in Physics, in the Applied Physics Concentration, can take up to nine credits of graduate coursework that applies towards both B.S and M.S. degrees. With normal progress and careful planning, students can complete both undergraduate and master’s degrees in 5 years. Currently, we have partnerships with the department of Electrical and Computer Engineering, leading to a M.S. in Electrical Engineering, and with the School of Advanced Materials Discovery, leading to a M.S. in Materials Science and Engineering. Other partnerships are planned.

For more information, please contact Prof. Gelfand (