Physics Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) Degree On-campus

About Physics

Benefit from in-depth learning to fulfill your career ambitions.

The Bachelor of Arts in Physics degree program at PennWest California merges a liberal arts education with the preparation you need for graduate study and/or a career as a physicist in private industry, governmental agencies or secondary education.

This undergraduate program focuses on helping you develop a firm understanding of the principles, concepts and methods of physics, effectively employ the scientific method, and apply the concepts of physics to real-world challenges. You and your faculty adviser will work together to develop a four-year program in physics and related areas that allows you to successfully pursue future career goals and ambitions.

Gain a career advantage with PennWest California's top undergraduate program in physics.

Career opportunities in physics include government, academic and industrial positions ranging from space programs to the electronics industry to materials science and engineering, in addition to university teaching and research. Some PennWest California physics graduates have chosen to continue their education in graduate school in order to pursue careers in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy, management and higher education.


Specialized study:  Our B.A. in physics offers you intensive instruction in classical and modern physics. Successful students will have advanced analytic and mathematical skills, particularly as they pertain to physics applications. Our program provides you with a strong foundation that's in demand by employers in the private and public sectors. You'll also be ready to go on for advanced professional or graduate study.

Distinct experience: Our program uses the Studio Physics approach to teaching and learning in introductory-level courses. In this format, first instituted at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, lecture and laboratory experiences are integrated for an active, hands-on experience. Physics students benefit from opportunities to use instrumentation. Physics faculty members are focused on student research and on ways to enable students to present their research at national conferences.

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Student-to-faculty ratio at PennWest California.
Credit hours for the bachelor's degree in physics, which can be completed in eight semesters or four years.
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Degree Benefits

Our physics studio facility is equipped with 22 computer stations, each with probes and automated data capture to enable real-time collection and analysis of data. The facility delivers our introductory physics courses and allows the integration of lecture topics with experiential learning. In studio courses, you'll make daily use of the computer stations, probes and software to discover and reinforce the fundamental principles of physics.  The physics program offers a new laser optics course, and students also have the opportunity to explore the emerging field of nanofabrication.

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Graduate Outcomes

Career opportunities for graduates with physics degrees are expected to continue to be plentiful, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.  Many physicists teach and pursue research opportunities in college and university settings. Others work in consultation, quality control, industrial production or inspection. Career opportunities also are available within the federal government, especially in the departments of Defense and Energy, and in NASA. Most physicists specialize in one or more branches of physics, such as elementary particle physics, nuclear physics, atomic and molecular physics, physics of condensed matter, or optics, acoustics, and the physics of fluids. As a result, many work in subdivisions of these branches in ceramics, crystallography and semiconductors. Growing numbers of physicists are specializing in fields combining physics and geophysics, and physics and engineering. Many recent PennWest California graduates have accepted positions in industry or continued their education at the graduate level.

Physics (B.A.)
Physics lab equipement.

Research  Focus

The physics curriculum includes a full year of research for senior-level students. They conduct research with individual faculty members and present their research findings at local, regional and national meetings.

Students walking outside of Old Main on PennWest California campus.

Campus Connections

Physics students can take advantage of such campus organizations as the Society of Physics Students and Women in Science. Physics students are eligible for special scholarships and awards, including the J. Robert Craig Scholarship, a first-semester scholarship that is awarded to an incoming freshman or transfer student exhibiting excellence in the natural sciences. The Calvin Fleming Scholarship is awarded to an outstanding student majoring in the natural or physical sciences, with preference given to students with a composite SAT of 1200 or more.

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Career Opportunities

Over the years, physics graduates have obtained industrial jobs both locally in western Pennsylvania and outside the region. Among the employers of our physics graduates: Bayer Corp.; Duracell; Eli Lilly; state crime labs in Erie, Greensburg and Charleston, S.C.;  and the Allegheny County Coroner's Office in Pittsburgh. Our graduates have successfully completed their Ph.D.s at West Virginia University, Iowa State University, University of Maryland, Arizona State University, and University of South Carolina.


B.A., Physics Courses


Course Credits
General Education Courses 42
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100  First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
Any Public Speaking Course
Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy
MAT 281 Calculus I
Health and Wellness
Any Health and Wellness Course
Technological Literacy
CSC 120  Problem Solving and Programming Constructs
Any Humanities Course
Fine Arts
Any Fine Arts Course
Natural Sciences
CHE 101  General Chemistry I
Social Sciences
Any Social Sciences Course
General Education Options
  • Any Ethics and Multicultural Awareness Emphasis Course
  • CHE 102  General Chemistry II (4 credits)
  • Additional General Education Courses (two courses)
Required Major Courses 39
MAT 282  Calculus II 3
MAT 381  Calculus III 3
MAT 382  Calculus IV 3
MAT 406  Differential Equations 3
PHY 101  College Physics I 4
PHY 202  College Physics II 4
PHY 203  College Physics III 4
PHY 321  Intermediate Mechanics 4
PHY 301  Intermediate Elect. & Mag. 4
PHY 331  Modern Physics I 3
PHY 495  Physics Seminar 1
Adviser-approved 300- or 400-level PHY Elective  3
Free Electives 39
Total 120

Additional requirements, not counted toward the General Education requirements, include:

  • Special Experience Course (1 course required): Any Special Experience Course
  • Writing-Intensive Component Courses (2 courses required): PHY 301 Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism AND PHY 495 Physics Seminar
  • Laboratory Course (1 course required): PHY 101 College Physics I

Program Notes: 42 total credits must be at the 300 level or above. At least 18 credits of "General Education" and "Free Electives" must be at the 300 level or above to meet this requirement.

B.A., Physics - Minor and Concentration

  • Physics - Minor
  • Nanofabrication manufacturing technology (concentration)