Course Registration Information for Incoming Physics Majors


This page will advise you on: What courses to register for as an incoming major in Physics, Physics 3/2, or Physics Education

For most incoming students, the schedule as a first semester Physics major looks like this:





CSIS120 or ENGL011 or HIST101, etc.

The rationale for these selections, and a list common exceptions, are discussed below. To ensure that you will get into the courses you need, anyone who is a declared physics major has already been registered for the PHYS, MATH and CSIS courses above. If you decide to take other courses instead, you may drop pre-registered courses and add new ones.

If you feel that this document does not address your specific situation, please feel free to contact someone in the Physics Department, such as:

Dr. Rose Finn Physics Education Advisor 518- 782-6764

Dr. Mark Rosenberry Physics Club Advisor 518-783-2445

Dr. Allan Weatherwax 3/2 Program Coordinator 518-783-5089

Nearly all Physics majors begin with PHYS 130, the first semester of General Physics with Calculus. This course includes a lab component; you should also sign up for PHYS132, a special one-hour-per-week class to supplement the usual lecture. Students who have scored a 4 or 5 on the Physics AP exam and feel especially well prepared (both in Physics and Calculus) may select PHYS220, Modern Physics, instead of PHYS130.

The standard Physics major takes three years of college math, so it’s important to start early. Most incoming students begin with MATH 110, Calculus I, for their first semester. Even if you have concerns about your math background, it is probably a good idea to enroll in Calc I now; there will be opportunities during the Fall semester to transfer to a lower-level math course if necessary. Conversely, students who have scored a 4 or 5 on an AP Calculus exam may go directly into MATH120, Calculus II. (Be aware that the Honors section of MATH120 is considerably more demanding than other sections.) Very rare students with a 5 on the AP Calculus BC exam may opt to jump all the way to MATH210, Calculus III.

Still not sure what Math to take? Take a look at Choosing Math Class.  

All Freshmen are required to take FYSM100, First Year Seminar as a third course.

The fourth course is something you can choose. All Physics majors are required to take 1 semester of computer science; if you want to complete that in your first semester, you should enroll in CSIS120. If you would prefer to take a liberal arts course, we generally recommend one of the “core” courses required for all students (e.g. ENGL011, HIST101, PHIL101, or RELG101/RELG121/RELG141/RELG181). Or, if you have an interest in something else, it’s fine to pursue that too; feel free to take a language class, or a creative arts course, for instance.

Whatever you select, you should wind up with 14 or 15 credits, which keeps you on track to graduate in four years.

If you are interested in the Physics/Engineering 3/2 Program, almost everything above still applies to you (the majors are very similar, especially at first). However, you do have to be aware that you have to fulfill all your requirements in just 3 years, so do NOT take an elective as a fourth course.

If you are interested in Physics Education, you should consider taking EDUC 210 as your fourth class. The class is needed for all further education courses, and it also counts as a core requirement. If you decide not to take this, be sure your fourth course is not an elective, as your schedule will be somewhat constrained.

If you are in the Honors Program, be sure to sign up for an Honors section of Foundations. If you want to take a liberal arts course, look for an Honors version (such as ENGL 090 instead of ENGL 011) or section of the course.

If you do wish to take courses outside the norm listed above, be sure and let us know on the “Registration Interest Form:” found on

For more information go to the School of Science webpage or the Physics Department homepage.