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Physics is the most fundamental and exact of the physical sciences. Its laws are basic to deep understanding in all of technology, and in many fields of study, such as astronomy, chemistry, engineering, materials science, photonics, biology, medicine, geology, and environmental science. Physicists often end up in a wide range of leadership positions. Notable examples include Jimmy Carter, Elon Musk, Steven Wolfram, Douglas Hofstadter, and Angela Merkel.

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Background Information

The Department of Physics has growing undergraduate and graduate programs. Yet, its size remains comparatively small, allowing personalized interactions between students with all of its 13 faculty members. Not only do students participate in research projects early on, they often become authors in peer-reviewed publications and present their result in the regional and national conferences and workshops. In addition, our students are highly engaged; they regularly participate successfully in the University Physics Competition and contribute actively to various outreach activities.

The Department of Physics has a strong research focus on three fields: materials (especially soft materials), computational physics, and physics education research. While this represents only a small subset of all existing physics fields, our focus makes us competitive and successful on the national level and beyond. Students can choose among a number of curricular options that prepare them for industrial, governmental, and academic careers. The Fargo/Moorhead urban area contains three colleges with a physics program. Courses can be taken in each college through the Tri-College University. This increases the number of available courses to a level typical for large universities only.

High School Preparation

A prospective physics major is generally expected to have taken physics, chemistry, and mathematics courses. Computer courses can also be useful. Incoming students should normally be ready to start learning calculus. Some of our incoming students have already taken AP courses in physics or mathematics. Note, however, that deficiencies in any of these subjects may be remedied in the freshman or later years at the University.

Curriculum Options

The most popular curricular option in the Department of Physics is the standard physics major. Also popular are our two double major programs in physics and mathematics as well as in physics and computer science. These programs allow well-prepared students to complete the requirements for both majors in four years by taking advantage of the close connections between physics, mathematics, and computer science. In addition, we offer a physics major with a focus on optical science and engineering. The optical science and engineering option, which is the only regional program of this type, includes an interdisciplinary optics/photonics sequence of courses taught by the Department of Physics and the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering using a state-of-the-art optics teaching laboratory. Finally, highly qualified students can earn both a Bachelor’s and Master’s degree in physics by enrolling into the Accelerated Masters program in their junior year.

All of our physics majors (including the double majors and physics majors with the optical science and engineering option) take introductory courses in classical mechanics, computational physics, electricity and magnetism, optics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, and modern physics, as well as selected specialized courses such as photonics, lasers, or condensed matter physics. In addition, all physics majors get involved in research projects with faculty, typically in fields like materials (including bio- and polymer physics), computational physics, and physics education research. Two dedicated courses allow students to receive credit for their research efforts. Any of our curriculum options prepares students for graduate work in physics or related fields and subsequent employment in industry, government, or academia. Physics graduates have excellent job perspectives because they are widely valued as creative and persistent problem solvers who are often able to step into leadership positions.

Career Opportunities

A great variety of employment opportunities exist for physics majors who wish to pursue careers after obtaining a bachelor’s degree. Some find positions in industry or government. Many technical industries seek physics graduates for work in software development, engineering, science and lab technician positions, management and sales. A survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers of starting salaries offered by campus recruiters shows that students graduating with a bachelor’s degree in physics can make up to $64,000 per year when starting right out of school. More commonly, the survey found that physics graduates can expect a starting salary between $46,000 and $58,000.

As technology continues to develop, there will be a need for skilled people to make new discoveries in the basic sciences. Because of this, talented physics majors are encouraged to pursue the doctoral degree. Outstanding doctoral graduates in physics find research and teaching positions in universities or employment in government laboratories and research-oriented industries.

An education in physics is so fundamental that it provides an excellent preparation for graduate education in nearly every technical field, including engineering. Additionally, North Dakota State University graduates in physics have entered medical schools and have studied law. One past graduate received a doctorate in biophysics and now works at the University of Minnesota Medical School; another is at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. Some of our recent graduates worked on advanced degrees in biomedical engineering, chemical physics, electrical engineering, solid-state physics, meteorology and radiological science. A number of recent graduates have pursued graduate studies at schools such as Cornell University, Michigan State University, the University of Minnesota, Carnegie Mellon University, Ohio State University, University of Illinois at Chicago, State University of New York Stony Brook and NDSU.

If you have a technical career objective, examine it closely. You will find that a major in physics, with one of the options at NDSU, will give you the preparation you need to achieve your goals.

Financial Aid

Financial aid at NDSU is available in the form of loans, grants, scholarships, and work-study. Students who qualify for federal college work-study may be paid for work on department research projects. Highly qualified students may be hired through the Department of Physics or the College of Science and Mathematics as undergraduate Research Assistants (RA) or Learning Assistants (LA).


The Cooperative Education Program provides students the opportunity to earn money and gain valuable experience by spending one or more semesters working in industrial or government laboratories. Students may also apply to participate in research projects through the Department of Physics or Research Experience for Undergraduates program at NDSU or other institutions.

Sample Curriculum


General Education Requirements
    First Year Experience
1     UNIV 189 - Skills for Academic Success
3     COMM 110 - Fundamentals of Public Speaking
3, 3     ENGL 110, 120 - College Composition I, II
3     English Upper Level Writing Course
    Quantitative Reasoning
4     MATH 165 - Calculus I
    Science & Technology
5     PHYS 251, 251L - University Physics I and Lab
5     PHYS 252, 252L - University Physics II and Lab
6   Humanities & Fine Arts
6   Social & Behavioral Sciences
2   Wellness
-   Cultural Diversity
-   Global Perspective
41   Total
Credits   College and Department Requirements
6   Hum/Soc. Science Electives (B.S. Degree)
12   Hum/Soc. Science Electives (B.A. Degree)
-   Second Year Language Proficiency (B.A. Degree)
6-12   Total
Credits   Major Requirements
4 or 3   CSCI 160 - Computer Science I or
    ECE 173 - Introduction to Computing
4   CSCI 161 - Computer Science II
2 or 3   MATH 129 - Basic Linear Algebra or
    MATH 429 - Linear Algebra
4   MATH 166 - Calculus II
4   MATH 265 - Calculus III
3   MATH 266 - Introduction to Differential Equations
1   PHYS 171 - Introductory Projects in Physics
1   PHYS 251R - University Physics I Recitation
1   PHYS 252R - University Physics II Recitation
4 or 3   PHYS 330 (MSUM) - Intermediate Mechanics or
    PHYS 455 - Classical Mechanics
3   PHYS 350 - Modern Physics
3   PHYS 360 - Modern Physics II
3 or 4   PHYS 361 - Electromagnetic Theory or
     PHYS 370 (MSUM) - Electromagnetic Theory
3   PHYS 370 - Introduction to Computational Physics
4   PHYS 411, 411L - Optics for Scientists and
       Engineers and Lab
3   PHYS 462 - Heat and Thermodynamics
3   PHYS 485 - Quantum Mechanics I
3   PHYS 486 - Quantum Mechanics II
3   PHYS 489 - Physics Projects
6   400 Level Math Electives
8   General Chemistry Sequence with Labs
6   Physics Electives
74-78   Total

MSUM=Minnesota State University Moorhead

This sample curriculum is not intended to serve as a curriculum guide for current students, but rather an example of course offerings for prospective students. For the curriculum requirements in effect at the time of entrance into a program, consult with an academic advisor or with the Office of Registration and Records.

South Engineering
Room 218

South Engineering is located on Albrecht Boulevard, just south of the Memorial Union (Campus Map)

Contact Information

Department of Physics
North Dakota State University
South Engineering 218
Dept #2755, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-8974 / Fax: (701) 231-7088

Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Ceres 114
Dept #5230, PO Box 6050
Fargo, ND 58108-6050

Tel: (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802



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Office of Admission
North Dakota State University
Phone: +1 (701) 231-8643 / Fax: (701) 231-8802
Campus address: Ceres Hall 114
Physical/delivery address: 1301 Administration Ave., Fargo, ND 58102
Mailing address: NDSU Dept. 5230 / PO Box 6050 / Fargo, ND 58108-6050
Page manager: NDSU Webmaster

Last Updated: Wednesday, September 06, 2017 2:10:21 PM
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