The Major and Minor Program

The Major and Minor Program

The Major Program  

The undergraduate major program in physics is under the jurisdiction of the College of Letters and Science (L&S) and is subject to the rules and regulations of the College in addition to the University. Each academic year L&S publishes an announcement covering topics from A.B. requirements, grading regulations to withdrawing (and applying for readmission). The ultimate responsibility of completing requirements to graduating within the parameters set by the University, College and Department rests with the student. Consult the Physics Undergraduate Advisers or an L&S adviser for any clarification.

The program is designed to give students a solid foundation in physics to prepare them for work in the field or a physics graduate program. Prerequisites: Students may declare a physics major after completing the Physics 5 series or the Physics 7 series, Math 1A-1B and Math 53 and Physics 89 (or their equivalent). The Physics 5 series is strongly recommended for physics majors.

Note: Students may declare the physics major when all of the prerequisites for the major have been completed with a minimum 2.0 grade point average in the prerequisites and a minimum 2.0 grade point average in all University courses.

Pre-Major Advising

Pre-major advising is available in 368 or 374 LeConte for all students who would like some academic counseling prior to declaring a major in physics. Although students cannot declare until the lower division prerequisites (Physics 5 or 7 series and Math 1A-B, 53 & Physics 89 or their equivalent) are finished, any student interested in the Physics major should come in for pre-major advising as soon as possible.

Declaring the Major

Students may declare a physics major when all of the prerequisites for the major have been completed. The prerequisites are as follows: minimum of 30 semester units which must include Physics 5A, 5B/5BL, 5C/5CL or 7ABC; Math 1A, 1B, 53 and Physics 89 or their equivalent with a 2.0 grade point average in the prerequisites and a 2.0 grade point average in all University courses.

The Department will consider applications to declare a physics major throughout the academic year. Students declaring (continuing and transfering) must furnish a copy of their grade record or past transcripts which include the prerequisite courses or their equivalents. Students must have their records reviewed and have a departmental file prepared by the Undergraduate Adviser in 368 or 374 LeConte Hall and in order to declare a physics major. Students should be prepared to discuss a tentative schedule of their upper division courses.

Warning: L&S students with 75 or more semester units must declare a major or run the risk of having their registration for the following semester blocked by the College.

Requirements for the Physics Major

Lower Division

Physics 5 and 7 series are designed to give a potential physics major a solid foundation in physics for upper division coursework. Students may declare a physics major after completing the Physics 5 or 7 series, Math 1A-1B, Math 53 and Physics 89 (or their equivalent) with a grade of "C" or better (minimum 2.0 GPA requirement).
Completing Advanced Placement courses or exams in physics is not considered sufficient preparation for upper division work in physics; therefore, it is the general policy of the Department not to waive the Physics 5 or 7 prerequisite. Physics 5A, 5B/BL, 5C/5CL (formerly honors Physics 7A-7C) sequence is recommended for students who feel that the Physics 7 series is not academically challenging enough. The 5 series is strongly recommended for physics majors. 

Lower Division Honors Physics Sequence

The Physics 5 series (formerly honors 7) has been re-designed to implement interactive and peer-learning techniques and to foster scientific curiosity to better prepare our students for careers in science and technology. Topics are ordered in a more logical sequence in the presentation of material. As a result, the Physics 5 series does not directly align with the Physics 7 series. It is possible to switch from the 5 series to the 7 and vice versa but doing so will require mapping assistance with a Physics Adviser, and possibly a number of additional courses to close topic gaps. Consult with Physics Advisers for assistance. We recommend the 5 sequence to potential physics majors, who have the appropriate background - high school physics or an equivalent, Math 1A and concurrent enrollment in Math 1B are the minimum requirements, as it enables students who are interested in physics to work together during their freshman and sophomore years in a small classroom setting.

Physics 89 is required for physics majors (replaces Math 54). Students who are planning a double major or a minor with Mathematics and Physics may use Math 54 in lieu of Physics 89. All other double majors and minors are required to complete Physics 89. Transfer students may satisfy the requirement with the Math 54 equivalent. Transfers admitted prior to completion of Math 54 will be required to complete Physics 89 at UCB.

Physics 77 strongly recommended

Upper Division

Physics students may take the upper division physics courses in a variety of sequences. Analytic Mechanics (105) and Quantum Mechanics (137A-137B) are most often taken during the junior year while Electromagnetism and Optics (110A-110B) is taken during the senior year. Please note: Physics 110B is not required but may be completed to satisfy the upper division physics elective requirement. It is strongly recommended for students planning graduate school in physics. The Modern Physics and Advanced Electrical Laboratory (111) is a variable unit course, six units of which are required for the major. Statistical and Thermal Physics (112) and a Physics elective may be taken whenever you choose.

The following list is one possible four year sequence of required courses in the physics major; keep in mind that all University and L&S requirements must also fit within this program. We strongly suggest that most, if not all University and L&S requirements be completed prior to declaring. Consult the L&S Announcement for more details regarding the University and L&S requirements.

First Semester    
Freshman: Math 1A
Sophomore: Math 53, Physics 5B & 5BL or 7B, Physics 77
Junior Physics: 137A, 111A (3 units)
Senior Physics: 110A or 105, 112

Second Semester
Freshman: Math 1B, Physics 5A or 7A
Sophomore: Physics 89, Physics 5C & 5CL or 7C
Junior Physics: 137B, 110A or 105
Senior Physics: 111B (3 units), Physics elective

The physics major is a challenging program. It is important for students to request assistance and discuss major plans with an advisor. Assistance and resources are available! *The first time you take Physics 111 you must enroll in the BSC portion (Section 1) for 3.0 units.

The Minor Program 

The Department also offers a minor program in physics. Students may petition for the minor in physics only after they have completed all required courses for the minor program. Please read the section, on the Minor for more information.

Petitioning for the Minor

Students may petition for the minor in physics only after they have completed all lower division required courses for the physics minor. Graduating seniors must petition no later than the last day of classes in the term they intend to graduate (ie Friday of RRR week). To petition, students must furnish transcripts (official or unofficial) to one of theDepartment's Undergraduate Advisers (in 368 or 376 LeConte Hall) to show work completed and grade point average in physics and math.

The Minor Requirements

The physics minor program conforms to the College of Letters and Science specifications and consists of the following coursework:


Physics 5 or 7 series (or their equivalent)
Math 1A, 1B, 53 and Physics 89 (or their equivalent)
Each course in the physics series must be passed with a letter grade of "C " or better. The student must achieve a minimum GPA of 2.0 in the seven courses

Minor Requirements

Physics 137A
Physics 110A or Physics 105
Three additional upper division physics courses (to total at least 9 units, for an upper division physics unit total of at least 17 units).

All upper division physics courses must be taken for a letter grade (thus Physics 100, H190, 198 and 199 will not count toward the minor program). A minimum of three upper division courses must be completed at Berkeley. An overall minimum GPA of 2.0 is required in upper division courses applied to the minor program.