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General Education Requirements

The Department offers five courses that fulfill the Quantitative Reasoning component of the Analytical Reasoning Requirement, PHYS 120, 125, 230, 235 and 360; and six courses that fulfill the Abstract Reasoning component of that requirement, PHYS 115,120, 125, 230, 235 and 360. The Department also offers occasional Earlham Seminars.

Planning Ahead

To maintain flexibility in their schedules, students who plan to major in Physics should consider beginning the introductory sequence in their first year. For students who have not previously taken calculus, this may require that they take MATH 180 during the fall of their first year. (It is possible to major in Physics beginning in the Sophomore year, but scheduling is then rather crowded.) It is important that students plan their programs early, after careful consultation with their academic advisers about career aims, to maximize their opportunities for off-campus study or for completing a minor in addition to their Physics Major.

Physicists or astronomers with a doctoral degree can do research in a field of their own choice — working in industrial, academic or government laboratories. Some industrial or government laboratories employ physicists or astronomers with a B.S. or M.S. degree in assisting capacities, and some of these help their employees in working toward higher degrees. Earlham's Physics Department supplies information to students about career opportunities and currently active fields of specialization. Students who are preparing for doctoral graduate work in physics should plan to take PHYS 350, 355, 360, 375, 425, 435, 445, 485 and 488, in addition to MATH 180, 280, 310, 320, 350 and CS 128.

Students planning careers as high school physics teachers should plan their programs carefully in consultation with both the Education and Physics faculty. In their course of study, they should include the introductory sequence and courses selected from PHYS 350, 355, 360, 375, 415, 425 and 445, and the necessary courses in Education.

The Major

  • PHYS 125 Matter in Motion (with Calculus)
  • PHYS 235 Electromagnetism, Optics and Waves (with Calculus)
  • PHYS 345 Introduction to Modern Physics
  • PHYS 355 Advanced Physics Laboratory
  • PHYS/MATH 360 Mathematical Methods of Physics
  • PHYS 480 Senior Seminar
  • PHYS 488 Senior Capstone Experience
  • Three courses (or more if necessary for a total at least 9 credits) from other Physics courses
    numbered 300 – 480. Courses between 481 and 487 may be counted toward the Major
    with permission from the Department.

And these Mathematics courses:

  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • MATH 280 Calculus B
  • MATH 320 Differential Equations
  • MATH 350 Multivariate Calculus

The Minor

  • PHYS 125 Analytical Physics I: Mechanics
  • PHYS 235 Analytical Physics II: Electricity and Magnetism, Optics and Waves
  • PHYS 345 Introduction to Modern Physics
  • One other Physics course numbered 300 or above


  • MATH 180 Calculus A
  • MATH 280 Calculus B

Professional Option Program: Engineering

Earlham's 3-2 Pre-Engineering Option provides a wonderful opportunity for students considering a career in engineering who want the experience of a broad, liberal arts education that is seldom available to students in engineering schools. By combining three years at Earlham with two years at an engineering school, students can emphasize the liberal arts as well as the technical aspects of their education.

The Earlham Pre-Engineering Program permits a student to complete the B.A. degree requirements at Earlham and the engineering requirements at a professional engineering school with the aim of becoming a practicing engineer in industry, government or at a university. Typically this type of program involves three years at Earlham studying fundamental science and the liberal arts, followed by two years of specialization at an affiliated engineering school. At the end of those five years, the student receives two degrees: a B.A. from Earlham in pre-engineering studies, and a B.S. from the engineering program. For more information about this opportunity, contact Assistant Professor of Physics Ellen Keister — the 3/2 Faculty Liaison.

Pre-Engineering requirements in the sciences depend on the engineering program to which the student transfers, but most programs have requirements such as these:

  • One year of Physics (PHYS 125, 235)
  • One year of Chemistry (usually CHEM 111, 331)
  • Mathematics through Differential Equations and Multivariate Calculus (MATH 180, 280, 320 and 350)
  • One semester of Computer Programming (CS 128)

Some programs include additional courses such as economics (required by Columbia) or additional courses in biology, chemistry or electronics (for students with particular interests such as biomedical or electrical engineering).