Physics Frequently Asked Questions

What skills do I need to succeed in this major?

If you're considering a physics major at CMU, math skills are essential for success. Strong computer and communication skills, and a willingness to work with others through a "team approach" are also important in physics. Having a background in algebra and trigonometry will give you the basic foundation for working on and finding answers. You should have an interest in problem solving, and a curiosity and desire to discover solutions.

How will I know if this major fits me?

If you are interested in the study of matter and its motion through time and space, then a physics major could be a great choice for you. Physicists are curious about the world around them as they solve problems, which can be engineering problems, medical problems, or even social and political problems.

What can I expect to learn?

As a physics student at CMU, you will approach a variety of problems from a logical and scientific perspective. Physicists' studies range from the most distant galaxies to understanding subatomic particles and everything in between. You will study fields such as chemistry, electronics, computer programming, biology and geology. You'll expand your knowledge in classes from Introductory Physics to Modern and Advanced Physics, and will engage in research before developing, conducting and presenting findings. Faculty members will work closely with you to maximize and demonstrate your abilities during your senior year with a capstone research project.

What technology will I use in this major?

You will have many opportunities to use technology in the lab as you research and analyze data. Most CMU physics experiments require the knowledge and use of computer-based sensors, so you will become familiar with data collection software. For data analysis, you'll use a variety of graphing and analyzing programs. Additionally, you'll take a class that will train you on the way scientific instruments collect data, and you will complete a project to build or interface with various instruments.

Will I have opportunities for internships and hands-on learning experiences?

Hands-on learning is an essential component of the this major. Most physics students have the opportunity to assist faculty with classes and laboratories. In your coursework, you will study real-world problems. Some of the problems will be modeled mathematically and others will be a physical experiment for which you will use measurements and data collection to obtain solutions.

What are CMU students who graduated with this degree doing now?

A physics degree will prepare you to solve difficult problems in an organized and precise way. This translates into many different career path opportunities. The list of possible careers is diverse, and includes engineering, medical and health, technology, and law. Some CMU physics graduates have attended graduate school for physics and engineering, and are working as physics professors, high school science teachers, and studying atmospheric science.

Who can I speak with for more information about this major?

For additional guidance and information about the physics major, contact CMU's Admissions Department at 660-248-6251, toll-free at 877-CMU-1854, or

To read more about this major, visit our Major Resources page provided through CMU's Career Development Center.