Physics Major or Minor: for Prospective or Current UMass Students
Here is an introduction to our program intended for prospective students. The file consists of slides from a presentation with text added.
If you are considering a major or minor in physics, please start with the Physics Majors Handbook. The Physics Majors Handbook is your source of written information about the requirements and options for pursuing a bachelor's degree in physics. It includes information about honors degrees and the physics minor. There you will also find checklists of requirements for the various degree tracks. You can also find the checklists here for the P-track (rev 9/22, fillable), the Applied track (rev 9/22, fillable), and the General track (rev. 1/21; fillable pdf)). For advice on becoming a high-school physics teacher, including courses to take while at UMass, see the "Careers in Physics" section below.
You can declare a physics major or minor (or just talk to someone about the possibility) by first meeting with the Undergraduate Program Director, available by email at email@example.com.
Departmental advisors help majors and potential majors with program requirements, curriculum scheduling, and career planning. If you are not a physics major and considering adding it, please contact the Physics Undergraduate Program Director at firstname.lastname@example.org. One member of the faculty is assigned as an advisor for each student, whether you are a primary or secondary major in physics. In most cases, you advisor will stay with you until you graduate. You are encouraged to schedule a discussion with your advisor at any time, especially before the enrollment period. For students who primary major is physics, you must see your advisor to have your registration hold lifted, and this meeting must occur before you can sign up for courses. Your SPIRE page should list your advisor's name and email address. (You might need to click "More advisor info" to see this information.) If you are a physics major and don't have an advisor assigned, please contact the UPD (email@example.com). If you are new to UMass, please complete the new-student orientation (NSO) process first; your NSO advisor will work with you to sign up for the appropriate classes. Then, a departmental advisor will be assigned near the start of the semester. In the meantime, if you have questions please email the UPD.
Research, Teaching, and Student Organizations
Undergraduate Physics majors are strongly encouraged to participate in many aspects of the Department beyond taking courses. We are a major research center, and our faculty engage in research in a wide variety of cutting-edge topics. We encourage and welcome undergraduates to participate in this endeavor. It's an excellent experience for students, whether headed for research-related careers or not. A partial list of open research positions, as well as a list of previous research projects, can be found under Undergraduate Student Research.Here is a Guide to finding research positions with UMass faculty. These are usually on campus, but with COVID19 there are remote options as well. So wherever you see "on campus," just replace that phrase with "on campus or remotely." Physics majors also get paid internships with companies, national labs, or other universities over the summer: see this Guide to finding off-campus research positions & internships. Additionally, teaching assistantships are sometimes available to undergraduates. A list of teaching opportunities can be found at the Jobs link for the department, especially just before or after the start of each semester. Finally, a number of physics related science clubs and programs may be of interest to majors; these are listed under Related Programs and Organizations in the right sidebar.
Careers in Physics
Physics majors find jobs in a wide variety of settings including companies doing technical research or development, insurance or finance companies doing large-scale data analytics, national labs, hospitals, law firms, engineering firms -- many places where creative thinking, quantitative analysis and model building are needed. Other physics majors teach in schools at K-12 or college levels. Other students go to graduate school first to earn a PhD or Masters in Physics or something close to physics. A PhD in physics opens the door to a variety of research-related jobs and is not at all limited to academic jobs. (Also, students are paid a stipend as their complete their PhD in physics and other sciences; they do not pay tuition.) Here at UMass, we have approximately 85 students working toward their PhD in physics, and interested students should look for opportunities to talk to them, e.g., in lab classes.
For advice on becoming a high-school physics teacher, please see the document: High-school teaching careers for physics majors. The UMass Physics Department and College of Education can help you in this process - you can take education courses here as well as practicum (i.e., teaching in local schools).
UMass has a very effective career center, located within the College of Natural Sciences: https://www.cns.umass.edu/advising/cns-career-center This link has information about general jobs opportunities, companies who might hire you, resumes, cover letters, interviews, etc. You can also make an appointment to talk to an advisor there.
The American Physical Society has a great deal of information about careers for physics students. You could start here:https://www.aps.org/careers/guidance/index.cfm
The American Institute of Physics (AIP) also has a great deal of information about careers (jobs and graduate school). Start here: https://www.aip.org/career-resources
Integrated Concentration in Science (iCons program)
The iCons curriculum integrates scientific expertise across departments and gives students the opportunity to work on real-world problems from the start of their undergraduate careers. This program - embedded with the physics or other major - will give you collaborative learning experiences, discovery-based projects, leadership development, and multi-disciplinary analytical skills. See the iCons page or ask your advisor for more information.