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    CSU East Bay
  Feb 24, 2018
2017-2018 CSU East Bay Catalog

Physics, B.A.

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Department & Faculty Information  

Physics (B.A.) 180 units

Program Description

In physics, one attempts to discover, formulate, explain, and apply the basic laws of nature. You could be a physicist and work in areas as diverse as astrophysics, relativity, properties of materials, or the standard model of fundamental particles and interactions. Principles of physics provide the foundation for other sciences as well as engineering. Some of the examples of modern technological development from the application of physical principles include radio and television, computers, laser scanners, and communication by fiber optics. In addition, physicists explore problems in astronomy and theories for the origin and evolution of the universe.

At Cal State East Bay students can choose between a Physics, B.S. degree and a Physics, B.A. degree. The Physics, B.S. degree major program is designed to give students an understanding of the fundamentals of physics including concepts of atomic and nuclear physics, classical mechanics, wave motion and sound, electromagnetism and optics, heat and thermodynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, and elementary particles and their interactions.

Whereas the Physics, B.S. degree provides more focus, the Physics, B.A. degree major program is designed to satisfy the needs of students who require greater breadth of study across the sciences than the Physics, B.S. program can provide. Students who might be more interested in the Physics, B.A. degree, for example, would be prospective secondary-school teachers, or students who wish to pursue interdisciplinary study (e.g., in biophysics), or graduate study in professional programs (e.g., in the health sciences), business, or law in technical fields. For those students interested in becoming secondary-school teachers, an option in Physics Education is available which has a larger breadth of science courses required for teaching in California.

Physics Major Learning Objectives

Students graduating with a Bachelor’s of Arts degree in Physics will be able to:

  • Describe the fundamental principles of physics and be able to apply these core ideas to analyze physical processes;
  • Use quantitative reasoning and critical thinking to solve problems, both theoretical and experimental in nature;
  • Learn new technical subjects and skills;
  • Construct, assess and troubleshoot experiments, quantitatively analyze the results using appropriate statistical procedures and tests of systematic errors, and draw meaningful conclusions;
  • Effectively explain scientific ideas, both theoretical and experimental, to diverse audiences through written and oral presentations, both formal and informal;
  • Work professionally, effectively, and inclusively as a member of diverse collaborations to solve problems.

Career Opportunities

  • Astronomer
  • Biochemical Engineer
  • Device Engineer
  • Electrical Engineer
  • Electric Power Administrator
  • Geophysicists
  • Laboratory Assistant
  • Laser Technician
  • Mechanical Engineer
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physics Teacher
  • Pollution Control Technician
  • Professor
  • Renewable Energy Manager
  • Research Scientist
  • Satellite Engineer
  • Security Researcher
  • Software Engineer
  • Technical Writer


With relatively small classes and teaching as a major emphasis of faculty members, the physics major involves a considerable amount of individualized instruction. In addition, research done by faculty members often includes student participation.

Hands-on experience is a central theme of the programs. Upper division students use modern equipment to conduct experiments in such areas as fiber optics, atomic and molecular spectroscopy, nuclear magnetic resonance, and solar cell construction and characterization.

Physics majors have an opportunity to be inducted into the national physics honors society, Sigma Pi Sigma. Additionally, students may join the Society of Physics Students (SPS).


For Advanced Placement course equivalencies, see Registration.

Major Requirements (B.A.) 67-87 units

The B.A. degree requires a total of 180 units.

  • The core major consists of 64-68 units;
    • the electives for the non- Option consists of 3 units;
    • the Physics Education Option consists of 19 units.
  • GE/USHG/UWS consists of 84 units (some courses may double-count units - see your advisor).
  • Free Electives (if any) will make up the remainder units to reach 180 minimum total units (see your advisor). 

Upper Division (27-28 units)

Note: an additional upper division unit is required for the students completing the Physics Education option - see below.

Option Requirements

Students are required to complete the required units for the major by choosing either:

Electives For Non-Option BA Majors (3 units)

Students NOT completing the Physics Education option are required to select three (3) elective units from the following:

Course Descriptions

Use this link to see all Course Descriptions  available throughout this catalog.

Other Undergraduate Degree Requirements

In addition to major requirements, every student must also complete the University requirements for graduation which are described throughout this catalog. These include the General Education-Breadth requirements; the second composition (ENGL 1002 ) requirement; the cultural groups/women requirement; the performing arts/activities requirement; the U.S. history, U.S. Constitution, and California state and local government requirement; the University Writing Skills Requirement; and the residence, unit, and grade point average requirements.

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