Major Requirements (aka Major Checklists)




To uphold the standards of the physics degree program, ensure the integrity of the academic curriculum, and ensure student success throughout and beyond the undergraduate years, strict enforcement of the major requirements and enrollment policies will be implemented. Informal Exceptions are incorporated to maintain the continuity of existing degree programs and are most often needed to address changes in faculty and/or course availability.

Exceptions to the Major Requirements

Effective Starting W24:

  • PHYS 41 has been added to the list of lower-division programming course options for all physics majors and specializations. The Degree Audit system has already been updated to reflect this change.

​​​​​Effective Starting SP24:

  • PY34 majors can use MAE 180 in place of MAE 180A for the PHYS UD REs for the PY34 major.

​​​​​Effective Starting FA24:

  • Physics majors can use ASTR 123 and ASTR 150 as PHYS 163 and 164, respectively, for all existing physics majors/specializations. 
  • Physics majors can use PHYS 122, 124, 133, 164, 173, or ASTR 150 as the PHYS UD LAB requirement for all existing B.S. physics majors/specializations.

The Degree Audit system has been reprogrammed to reflect these changes so students will not need to petition for these exceptions to apply. However, Physics majors filling out Completion Plans, Double Major Packets, and/or plans as part of other types of request packets (eg. Max Unit Appeal, Financial Aid Appeal, etc.) will need to use the new course names, numbers, and scheduling info. if planning to take these courses FA24-forward (see Background section, below, for more information).


MAE 180A "Spacecraft Guidance I" (4 units) will be MAE 180 "Orbital Mechanics" (4 units). The course will continue to be exclusively offered by the Department of Mechanical & Aerospace Engineering (MAE). Students must check the MAE Department website for the tentative schedule of annual MAE course offerings; the scheduling of MAE courses is at the sole discretion of MAE.

PHYS 41 "Scientific Computing with Python" is a new course aimed to train physics majors in programming useful for physics courses and research (click here for more details). 

PHYS 133 has extremely limited seating due to equipment challenges. 

PHYS 163 "Galaxies" (4 units) will be ASTR 123 "Galaxies" (4 units) and PHYS 164 "Observational Astrophysics Research Lab" (4 units) will be ASTR 150 "Observational Optical Research Lab" (5 units). Both courses will be exclusively offered by the Department of Astronomy & Astrophysics (A&A). Students must check the A&A Department website for the tentative schedule of annual A&A course offerings; the scheduling of ASTR courses is at the sole discretion of the A&A.

PHYS 173 has been removed from the annual schedule of course offerings while the course goes under significant redevelopment (a multi-year process).


Major Regulations

The Physics 4 series is designed to prepare students for the upper-division program and is required for all physics majors. Students who are exempt from Physics 2A (Mechanics) and/or Physics 2B (E&M) based on AP/IB/A-Level exams are not exempt from these topics in the Physics 4 series.

The honors math series (Math 31AH, 31BH, 31CH) can replace the standard math courses (Math 18, 20C, 20E, respectively). For students following the four year plans, please note that Math 18/31AH must be completed by the end of summer of year 1 because it is a prerequisite for Physics 4C in fall of year 2.​​​​​​

It is recommended that the programming requirement be completed as early as possible, but the requirement may be completed anytime during the undergraduate years.

Check Courses sections of the General Catalog for the prerequisites to all listed courses and note that, due to the campus’ catalog publication schedule, prereqs may change before the changes appear in the General Catalog. See our policies on prereqs and WebReg for term-specific prereq information.

Permissible only by approved petition to the department. For more information, click here.

A course that is listed in several areas cannot count towards more than one area and can satisfy only ONE of the major requirements.

Not allowed for any courses applied to the major (the exceptions are courses completed via AP/IB/A-Level and a single 4-unit Physics 199/199H that may only be applied as an upper-division restricted elective, as well as the special COVID-19 related exceptions discussed here). 

If you take a major requirement for P/NP credit and earn a P, you will not be able to use the course for the major and will be required to complete more advanced coursework on the same topic(s) that is not already applying to the major requirements in order to make up the coursework taken for P/NP grading. In addition, the Department will also add 12 additional units of core physics coursework at the upper division and/or graduate level to the requirements for the major for the student and will select which 12 units of additional coursework the student must complete; the student’s time-to-degree may need to be extended to account for the overall 16 units of additional coursework.

A grade point average of 2.0 or higher in the upper-division major program is required for graduation. Students must receive a grade of C– or better in any course to be counted toward fulfillment of the major requirements.

At least 60 percent of the upper-division courses in the major must be taken while in residence at UC San Diego. All core upper-division courses must be taken while in residence at UC San Diego.

Frequently Asked Questions for Current Physics Majors

Physics majors are required to follow a plan provided to them by the Physics Department for completion of the major requirements. Click here to see all standard qtr-by-qtr plans and click here to see all alternate qtr-by-qtr plans. Since summer offerings of PHYS 4A-B are never guaranteed, the Physics Department does not post plans that include the summer offerings of PHYS 4A-B. When PHYS 4A-B are offered in summer, students can use them to catch up in the PHYS 4 series on the plans we provide:




Summer Session 1

Summer Session 2


MATH 18*




MATH 20A**

MATH 20B**

MATH 20C**

*MATH 18 may be moved but must be taken no later than Summer Session 2.

**MATH 20A, 20B, 20C can be moved earlier, but not later than is listed.

Please contact Physics through the Virtual Advising Center (VAC) for questions/concerns about qtr-by-qtr planning in Physics.

As the standard academic plans show, there are two pathways through Physics 4:

The standard PHYS 4 pathway is designed for freshman admits:

Fall Winter Spring
Fall Winter Spring

*MATH 18 may be moved but must be taken no later than Summer Session 2 (it is a prereq for PHYS 4C).


The accelerated PHYS 4 pathway is designed for anyone transferring into a physics major from outside of UCSD (i.e. transfer admits), as well as students who declare a physics major after completing most of the PHYS 2 series:

NOTE: Prior completion of "Transfer Major Prep" requirements MATH 18 + 20A-B-C + PHYS 2A-B-C is required to be eligible to follow the accelerated PHYS 4 pathway.

Fall Winter Spring
  MATH 20D  

As the standard academic plans show, there are two pathways through the core UD requirements:

The standard core UD course pathway

Fall Winter Spring
PHYS 100A (BS & BA) PHYS 100B (BS & BA) PHYS 120 (BS & BA)
PHYS 110A (BS & BA) PHYS 105A (BS) PHYS 130A (BS & BA)
Fall Winter Spring
PHYS 130B (BS)    
PHYS 140A (BS)    


The accelerated core UD course pathway 

Fall Winter Spring
    PHYS 120 (BS & BA)
Fall Winter Spring
PHYS 100A (BS & BA) PHYS 100B (BS & BA) PHYS 130B (BS)
PHYS 110A (BS & BA) PHYS 105A (BS) PHYS 140A (BS)
  PHYS 130A (BS & BA)  

Follow these steps to switch to the current requirements:

  1. Log into the VAC
  2. Click "Ask a Question"
  3. In the "Topic" dropdown list, select "Major"
  4. In the "Direct to: dropdown list, select "Physics"
  5. In the "Question" box, type "I'd like to change to the current requirements for my physics major/specialization because ____FILL IN THE BLANK____." Note: We are asking you to explain the reason behind your request so that we have feedback on why students prefer the new requirements over the old ones.
  6. Select your notification preferences (we recommend you always ask for a text message notification).
  7. Submit your VAC message. It can take approximately 7-10 business days for your request to be fully processed and for your Degree Audit to correctly reflect your progress under the current requirements.

Please select your student-type and follow the instructions:

Physics is my only major:

  1. Log into the Major/Minor Tool
  2. Select the full name of the Physics major you want to pursue. Keep in mind:
    • The title of the Bachelor of Arts (BA) majors we offer begin with the word "General" and so they are under the Gs in the alphabetical list of majors, not the Ps).
    • If you already have 150 units completed the campus will require you to fill out a qtr-by-qtr plan based on the current requirements as part of your request.
    • The change will move you to the current requirements.
  3. Submit your change of major request. It can take approximately 7-10 business days for your request to be fully processed and for your Degree Audit to reflect your progress in the new physics major/specialization.

Physics is one of my two majors:
Draft and submit a revised Double Major Packet (DMP). Since the change will move you to the current requirements, make sure your double major form and qtr-by-qtr plan are drafted in accordance to those. It can take approximately 3-4 weeks for your DMP to be fully routed and processed and for your Degree Audit to reflect your progress in the new physics major/specialization

Contact Physics through the VAC to report the error so that we can have it fixed.

Each Department has sole authority over the courses they will/won't accept toward their degree. The PHYS 2 and 4 series are not equivalent (the 4 series is more advanced, has more topics than PHYS 2, etc.). The following should be noted about topics:

  • PHYS 2A is most similar to 4A 
  • PHYS 2B is most similar to 4C 
  • PHYS 2C is most similar to 4B    
  • PHYS 2D is most similar to the combo of PHYS 4D + PHYS 4E

No, the degree audit is not the authority on your degree requirements and/or progress. Per the posted campus information about the Degree Audit, "The General Catalogue is the official repository of the curricular requirements for degree audits. If there are inconsistencies between the General Catalogue and the Degree Audit, the General Catalogue shall be deemed correct. Any errors on the Degree Audit do not automatically grant students an exception to their degree requirements. If you discover an inconsistency, report it to Advising Staff." 

Students are responsible for contacting PHYSICS through VAC to report any suspected errors in the PHYS MAJOR section on the Degree audit. Contact PHYSICS through VAC if you would like the Department to review the PHYS MAJOR section of your degree audit. 


Have a major requirements question not addressed in the information above?

Contact us through VAC to let us know!