Undergraduate Major

Physics and Astrophysics Major

The Physics and Astrophysics (P&A) major includes specialized coursework in astrophysics (extragalactic astronomy, observational techniques, cosmology, stellar astrophysics, etc.) and is based on the standard, rigorous physics curriculum (including mechanics, quantum mechanics, statistical physics, electricity and magnetism, and more). A B.S. degree in this major opens up a number of career opportunities, including programming, engineering, academic research, secondary and post-secondary education, and management in technical fields. Many FSU students pursue graduate work in physics and continue into a variety of scientific fields.

Undergraduates at FSU study and research with internationally prominent faculty in astrophysics, atomic physics, biophysics, high energy physics, condensed matter physics and nuclear physics. In addition to working with faculty, FSU’s chapter of the Society of Physics Students provides a platform for physics majors to connect with one another, helping to provide a supportive on-campus community and to forge life-long relationships. Since its introduction, the P&A major has averaged 40-50 majors enrolled, roughly a third of all physics majors.

High school students interested in astrophysics

To study astronomy or astrophysics, the most important preparation is to be ready to take Calculus when you arrive at college. This means taking trigonometry and pre-calculus. Without this preparation it is almost impossible to graduate in four years. (If you can take Calculus or AP/IB Calculus in High School, even better!)

The second most important preparation is to take high school Physics. In most cases, students will need retake introductory physics in College, but seeing the material already is a distinct advantage.

Degree Requirements

Note: The above provide the official requirements. Everything else on this webpage is advice. If there is any point in question, or errors below, refer to the above links for the definitive and up-to-date answer.


FSU Physics Advice to Majors Brochure (Click / scroll / arrow for 2nd screen)

Contact info for the STEM liaison in the FSU career center.

Scheduling Classes

There is some flexibility, but it is most important to take AST 4211 (Intro to Astro) as soon as you can (usually in the Fall of year 2) along with PHY 3101 (Int. Modern) and PHY 3045 (Physics Problem Solving). These are the prerequisites to the upper-level courses (see flow chart below). PHY 3221 (Mechanics), usually taken in the Spring of year 2, is also prerequisite for many courses.

Course offerings are determined one semester ahead of time. Almost no class at the 3000-level or above is offered every semester.

Recently, Astro classes given in Fall have included: Intro to Astro, Observational Techniques, Hydrodynamics, and Advanced Analysis Techniques (every other year). Astro classes given in Spring have included: Ex Gal, Astro Lab, Cosmology, Physics of Stars (every other year), and Radiative Processes (every other year).

Other useful classes include: COP 3014 or COP 3363 - Intro to C++ programming (for Majors); ISC 3313 - Introduction to Scientific Computing; COP 3353 - Intro to Unix.

Note on Chemistry: For student starting in Fall 2018 and later, note that you do not need to take Chemistry. For students starting prior to this, only Chem I is required: CHM 1045, 1045L (3,1) General Chemistry I and Laboratory or CHM 1050, 1050L (3,1) Honors General Chemistry I and Lab. The registrar's requirement document is confusing on this point.

Prerequisite flow-chart

zoomable pdf version

pre-2022 version for earlier cohorts

Please inform Prof Huffenberger of any errors in this chart.

Preparing for research

Background reading

Summer internship Opportunities

American Astronomical Society https://aas.org/learn/careers-astronomy

American Physical Society https://www.aps.org/careers/guidance

AIP Physics Trends: statistics on hiring, graduate school, industry salaries, etc. https://www.aip.org/statistics/physics-trends

Careers for numbers people http://www.learnhowtobecome.org/careers-for-numbers-people/

Graduate school planning (and beyond)

American Astronomical Society https://aas.org/learn/planning-your-education

Honest advice for the astronomy grad school application process from FSU astro undergraduate alumnus Miles Currie (now in graduate school at the University of Washington).

Academic Advising

Students who are interested in the Physics and Astrophysics major, or current P&A majors looking for academic advising should contact Dr. Huffenberger who is the advisor for the P&A major.

Summer Classes at Other Schools in Florida

To enroll in Summer classes elsewhere as a transient student go to: http://www.floridashines.org

  1. Scroll down about halfway to the banner that says “Get Started” and click on the middle image that says “Take a course at another school.”
  2. At the bottom of that next page, click on the link that says “Start or check the status of your Transient Student Admission Application now.” That will take you to a page where you'll log into your FSU account.
  3. After you’ve done that, fill out the forms and include
    • the school you would like to attend over the summer
    • the course[s] you’d like to take.
  4. Once you've submitted the form, the undergraduate office (Brian Wilcoxon in 307 Keen) will get an email asking to approve your application; when that is done (and after the registrar's offices at both schools approve the application) you will be given additional information about actually registering for those courses.

If you need to change anything at any time, you should be able to do so, without any problem.

Simultaneous Enrollment

We have what is called a “Co-Op Program,” in which students who are mostly enrolled in courses at either FSU, FAMU, or TCC, but need to take a course at one of those other cooperating institutions, may do so. As appropriate go to

for instructions on navigating this system. Essentially, you’ll need to contact the Registrar at FAMU/TCC to obtain the forms necessary to do this.

Note that one of the policies of this program is that “Courses taken at the host institution must not be offered at the home institution.” In other words, if a student is enrolled in FSU, but wants to take a course at TCC, that course can't be offered at FSU. This is rarely a problem since there is usually a legitimate reason why a student would need to take a course at one of the cooperating institutions (as long as there is some documented need for the student to take a course at another institution.)

Contact the undergraduate coordinator if you need help.

Also note you would have to pay fees to the other school for that course, assuming you are approved to take it there.