Welcome to Physics at Berkeley and thank you for your interest in our department! As an incoming transfer student there are many things to consider and we are here to help. As you think about declaring a major in Physics, we have put together the following information to get you started. We are available by appointment or drop-in, so please contact us with any questions or concerns you have about the process. There are also current transfer students who would be happy to talk to you about the program and offer guidance as you begin your planning. If you'd like to be connected with a current transfer student, please let us know. We look forward to meeting you!
Kathy Lee, Physics
368 LeConte Hall
Amanda Dillon, Physics
374 LeConte Hall
The Physics Major
The program is designed to give students a solid foundation in physics and to prepare them for work in the field, an adjacent field (such as engineering, finance, data science, or teaching) or a physics graduate program. There are many resources within the department to help as you decide what you will pursue after graduation. We offer workshops for career exploration and help with resume-building and networking. We also host discussionn panels with graduate students and study sessions to help students prepare for the Physics GRE. Don't worry if you've not yet decided what avenue you'll pursue post-bacchalaureate. Often the experiences you have here at Berkeley will help guide you towards your future endeavors.
Prerequisite Courses for the Major in Physics
- Math 1A, Math 1B, Math 53, Math 54*, Physics 7A, Physics 7B and Physics 7C or their equivalents
- For information on California community college equivalent courses, please visit Assist.org**.
* Students who do not complete a Math 54 equivalent before transferring are required to complete Phys 89:"Introduction to Mathematical Physics" at Berkeley.
**Please note: Community colleges may cover the topics in Berkeley's Physics 7ABC series in a different order. Students who transfer before completing courses equivalent to the entire 7ABC series may need to enroll in Berkeley's Physics 49 to complete missing topics such as wave motion (7A) or heat (7B). Additionally, students who complete the Physics 7ABC-equivalent courses at multiple institutions may also need to enroll in Physics 49 to complete missed topics. The Phys 49 requirement will be determined after your first meeting with your Physics Academic Advisor.
Steps to Declaring the Major for Transfers Students
Once you enter UC Berkeley, you will need to formally declare your major. The first step for declaring the major in Physics is to complete the prerequisite classes mentioned. You are also encouraged to attend our department events to meet faculty and staff, learn more about our program and hear about resources available to help you find internships, study abroad, or conduct research. Once you are sure that the major is right for you, please schedule an appointment with Kathy or Amanda via email or feel free to stop by (office locations above). As part of the declaration process, you will need to provide us with an unofficial copy of your transcript(s) showing completion of prerequisites. If all of your requirements are met, we can typically declare you right away. If requirements are not met, or other impediments to declare exist, we will work together to create a path to declaration. This is also when it will be determined if you need to enroll in the Physics bridge course (Phys 49) to complete additional topics.
Physics Courses Available to New Transfer Students in Berkeley's Summer Session
Physics 89 - Introduction to Mathematical Physics
We highly recommend that our transfer students take Phys 89 during the summer before they start at Berkeley (if possible based on your conditions of admission - please check with your admissions advisor). This course will expose you to topics that are often not covered at other institutions. It also serves as a math refresher which is incredibly helpful as you move into the upper division physics courses at Berkeley. If you have taken a Math 54 equivalent before transferring into Berkeley, you may take Phys 89 pass/no pass.
Physics 137A - Quantum Mechanics
Please note: you must have completed all the prerequisites to the major before enrolling in any upper division courses.
Physics 111A - Instrumentation Labratory
Many of our students take Phys 111A during the summer because it is a very time-consuming course and it allows them more time to focus on it. That being said, it is not recommended that incoming transfer students take 111A the summer prior to their start at Berkeley. If you are considering this, please reach out to Kathy or Amanda so you can better understand what to expect during the course.
Recommended Major Classes for Your First Semester
DO NOT overload your first semester. The additional stress of adjustment (both socially and academically) that happens during your first semester at Berkeley should be considered as you plan for your schedule. Keep in mind that many of our students (regardless of when they came to Berkeley) only take two technical courses a semester, which results in 7-8 units. The College of Letters & Science requires students to carry 13 units so the remaining 5-6 units are acheived through classes outside of Physics, such as DeCals or research units. More challenging workloads can always be considered in future semesters. Please consult with Kathy or Amanda as you start to plan your first semester.
- Physics 137A
- Physics 110A or Physics 111A*
- Physics 89 or an American Cultures class or Physics 77 (especially recommended if you do not have programming experience)
- Physics 198** Transfer Course for Physics Majors (strongly recommended)
- Educ 198** - Strategies for Success at Cal for Transfer Students (special section for students in science & math recommended) or
- Physics 198BC** - Berkeley Connect
*Phys 111A is an extremely time-consuming course (as mentioned above). If taking Phys 137A and 111A together, it is recommended that your additional 6 units NOT be technical courses.
** These are 1-unit, pass/no pass courses
A Note About Undergraduate Research
We encourage all of our students to find a research position at some point during their undergraduate career. If graduate school is part of your plan, we encourage you to try to find a research position the summer before you begin at Berkeley. Often these positions can take you to a different state or country, and are a great way to jump-start your research experience. Here are a few resources to use when looking for research:
- National Science Foundation (NSF)
- US Dept of Energy's Community College Internship (CCI) Program
- Space Science Lab - ASSURE Program
Considering a Double Major
While it is possible for transfer students to double major, you will only be able to declare one major during your first semester on campus. Students who declare a double major automatically get an additional semester to complete their coursework. However, given the rigors involved in completing a double major it is strongly recommended that you meet with and start to plan your future schedules with both major advisors as soon as possible so you do not fall behind. Please drop by Kathy or Amanda's office if you're considering a double major.
Special Advice for Incoming Spring Students
Students admitted for the Spring semester can take courses in the fall preceding registration at Berkeley only as described in their "Conditions of Admission" (see your admissions letter). If applicable, Spring transfer students should finish all prerequisites, any remaining breadth requirements, and possibly AC course mataches (see Assist.org).
The Berkeley Transfer Center, Re-entry Center & Student Parent Center are all additional resources available to you and we hope that you'll take advantage of their services. Adjusting to campus life can be daunting, both socially and academically, but the tools for success are readily available. Please use them!