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Course Majors

Course Majors

Requirements for the Major

Physics major:
PHYS 005, PHYS 007#, PHYS 008#
PHYS 013*, PHYS 015*, PHYS 017*, and PHYS 018 *
Three of PHYS 111, 112113, and 114
A fourth 100-level PHYS or ASTR, or a full credit from some combination of journal club, directed reading, and/or research
PHYS 063*, 081*, 082* (Classes of 2022 and 2023: 082 is not required, though needed to earn a W)†
MATH 015, 025, 027 (or 028), and 034 (or 033)
*Half-credit course
#In some cases, with permission from the department, PHYS 003 and/or PHYS 004 may be substituted for PHYS 007 and/or PHYS 008.
PHYS 083 is an alternative to PHYS 081 and 082 for students to meet the advanced lab requirement if they will also take ENGR 072 ).

Astrophysics major:
Same as physics except:
Additional requirements: ASTR 016 or ASTR 014, and two ASTR 100-level offerings
Not required: PHYS 063, 081, and 082

Astronomy major:
PHYS 005, PHYS 003 or PHYS 007, PHYS 004 or PHYS 008
PHYS 013*, PHYS 015*
ASTR 014 or ASTR 016
ASTR 061
Four ASTR 100-level offerings, or three plus both ASTR 014 and 016
*Half-credit course

For students pursuing graduate study, all four of PHYS 111 through 114 will make the student’s application particularly strong.

Sophomore plan approval
For a physics major application to be evaluated, typically the student must have completed or be enrolled in at least PHYS/ASTR 005 and either PHYS 004 or PHYS 007 before applying.
If applying for an astrophysics or astronomy major, students should also have completed ASTR 014 or ASTR 016, though exceptions can be made for astrophysics if the class is taken in the fall of junior year.

To be accepted as a major, the applicant must have received grades of C+ or better in Physics, Astronomy, and Math courses.

A student applying to the honors program typically should have completed or be enrolled in courses through PHYS 008 and PHYS 017-018. To be accepted into the honors program as a major, the average grade should be a B or better, with comparable grades in math.

Since almost all advanced work in physics and astronomy at Swarthmore is taught in seminars where the student participants share the pedagogical responsibility, an additional consideration in accepting (retaining) majors is the presumed (demonstrated) ability of the students not only to benefit from this mode of instruction but also to contribute positively to the seminars. Grades in prior courses are the best criteria in admitting majors, since they tend to indicate reliably whether or not the student can handle advanced work at Swarthmore levels without being overwhelmed. However, other factors, such as constructive participation in classes and laboratories is also considered.


Independent Research
Physics and astronomy majors are permitted to undertake independent research projects for credit (PHYS/ASTR 094). Many opportunities exist for students to work with faculty members on research projects during the summer or semester.