The Department of Physics offers majors in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the College of Engineering and Technology. Students who seek the Liberal Arts and Science major can generally be grouped into three categories:
- Professional physicist: these students intend to pursue a graduate degree in physics.
- Professional school preparatory: these students use the physics major as preparation for professional school programs such as medicine, engineering, or law.
- Second major: these students use the physics major to develop problem solving skills and increase their understanding of the physical universe while choosing their primary major in areas such as chemistry, mathematics or computer information systems.
- Secondary education-physics teaching: these students plan to teach physics at the high-school level.
Students preparing to teach physics at the high-school level must complete the requirements for a secondary teaching certificate to be certified in the state of Illinois. These requirements are listed under the Department of Teacher Education (Secondary Programs) and consist of a minimum of 38 semester hours in professional education courses. The courses used to fulfill the General Education requirement must also be chosen to fulfill certification requirements. Secondary Education-Physics Teaching majors are also required to take courses that will qualify them to be certified in a second teaching area. This will require that from 6 to 15 semester hours be completed in the second area chosen. Students must consult with advisors from both the Physics Department and the College of Education and Health Services. In addition to the courses required of all physics majors the students selecting this variation in the physics major must complete two courses from the following: PHY 320, 361, 480 and 568.
The engineering physics major is offered through the College of Engineering and Technology. Engineering physics majors must meet all the requirements of the University and College of Engineering and Technology in addition to taking the required courses in physics and mathematics as indicated. Faculty advisers from both physics and engineering advise students who major in engineering physics.
The department also offers a physics minor. Students who wish to minor in physics must take three introductory physics courses (PHY 110, PHY 201 and PHY202) and three additional elective courses at the 300 level.