Physics Lab


Physics, B.S.

Physics-Teaching, B.A.


Nanoscience and Nanotechnology


(Click major/minor/certificate title to see typical courses for the program)

Degree programs

The Department of Physics offers major programs in two baccalaureate areas: the bachelor of science and the bachelor of arts. All physics students must complete 47 hours of Liberal Arts Core courses in addition to their major requirements.

The physics major (67 to 70 hours) leading to the bachelor of science degree is recommended for students who wish to prepare for graduate study in physics; engineering; and other sciences, such as geophysics, astronomy, biophysics and medical physics.

The applied physics major (65 to 68 hours) leading to the bachelor of science degree is especially suitable for students seeking industrial or other applied employment after the B.S. degree. It can also serve as a background for graduate study in some applied science or engineering areas.

The applied physics/engineering dual-degree major (65 to 68 hours) leads to a B.S. applied physics degree from the University of Northern Iowa and a B.S. engineering degree from the University of Iowa or Iowa State University. This program requires approximately three years of attendance at UNI, followed by approximately two years of attendance at UI or ISU.

The B.A. physics major (53 to 54 hours) is for students (including double majors) desiring a broad background in science or who are taking a substantial amount of work in other areas. With appropriate choice of electives, the B.A. physics major meets the needs of pre-medical and pre-law students and students planning careers in science-related administration, business or technical writing.

The B.A. physics major-teaching program (42 hours) is for students preparing to be physics teachers at the secondary school level. Sufficient work should be taken for licensure approval in a second subject area, as well. Completion of this major will satisfy the requirements of the Iowa Department of Education for physics approval.

The B.A. physics major with environmental emphasis (64 to 72 hours) is designed to prepare students for careers in environmental areas. This degree is also appropriate for students planning graduate work in one of the multidisciplinary environmental fields, such as oceanography, limnology, natural resources, geophysics or global studies.

Common minors pursued

Physics majors are encouraged to complete minors, or do substantial course work, in one or more of the following areas: computer science, chemistry, earth science, mathematics, industrial technology, business and biology.

Completion of work in any of the above areas, along with the requirements of the major, enables graduates to accommodate a wide variety of career goals and be qualified for many types of employment.


Plan of Study

Discover the courses you'll take as a physics major in the Plan of Study.


Physics provides the foundation for our modern technological society. At UNI, we take pride in offering a high quality program of study in physics with several options to suit many different career goals.

Under “Degree programs” on the first page, we have described the career opportunities available to students who complete the B.A. or the B.S. degree options. In general, an undergraduate degree in physics provides a broad background of basic knowledge that can be used to great advantage in many fields:

Applied mathematician

Computer programmer



Energy resources consultant/research

Environmental specialist

Health physics

Industrial hygienist



Museum curator


Patent attorney


Physics teacher


Pollution control specialist

Production supervisor


Remote sensing technician

Safety specialist

Science journalist

Systems analyst

Technical illustrator

Technical/scientific writer/editor

The B.S. applied physics program provides a strong preparation for work in a variety of applied areas. Examples are manufacturing industries, engineering firms, medical facilities and government laboratories. It also offers a good background for graduate study in some applied science or engineering programs. Students acquire a broad-based foundation in physics along with the skills for analyzing and solving a variety of practical problems.

Unique Features: 
  • Early and active involvement of Physics majors in faculty research. The department provides a supportive atmosphere, close student-faculty interactions and a wealth of research opportunities for undergraduates in a variety of funded research projects including applied optics, surface physics, acoustics, solid state physics and spectroscopy.

  • A well-qualified and caring faculty specializing in several areas of physics research as well as in physics and science education.

  • An emphasis on laboratory work.

  • An emphasis on student involvement in projects and research; students report their work at state, regional, and national scientific meetings.

  • Cooperative education program which permits working in industry before graduation.*

  • A department that is small enough to provide the personal attention common to small college programs while having many of the advantages and facilities associated with a university setting.

  • The Department is the home of the internationally recognized physics teaching program known as PRISMS which has had a major impact on teaching of physics in nearly 1500 high schools in the United States and abroad.

  • The Department offers several merit scholarships and many work opportunities for qualified students.

  • One laboratory in low-temperature magnetism and magnetic materials, involving one faculty member

  • Two laboratories devoted to the study of materials and surfaces using lasers and holography, involving two faculty members: Four large research-grade vibration isolation tables and a variety of laser systems are available to support this research.

  • One laboratory devoted to acoustics research, including musical acoustics, involving two faculty members

  • Beowulf cluster for parallel computing

  • Computer-equipped student laboratories and networked computer workstations

Scholarships & Awards: 

College of Natural Sciences tuition scholarships are available. Applicants must compete by test at UNI’s Science, Mathematics and Technology Symposium in the fall for some scholarships.

More information on department scholarships can found at Financial Aid.