Physics @ SOAR

Physics Major Sequences

There are three introductory course sequences that count toward the physics major. These courses also satisfy requirements for nearly all STEM majors. Which should you take and why?

Physics 247/248/249

  • This sequence is preferred but not required for physics majors. It is a calculus-based introduction to physics intended for Physics, AMEP, and Astronomy-Physics majors, and is a more mathematically rigorous and in-depth introduction to physics than the other introductory physics sequences. It starts in the fall semester of each year.
  • It is especially recommended for students who may wish to pursue graduate studies.
  • This sequence is an honors physics major sequence.

Physics 207/208/241

  • This sequence is a good choice for students who are broadly interested in majoring in the non-engineering sciences.
  • Physics 207/208 are taken by some physics majors as well as many biological and chemical sciences majors.
  • This sequence can be taken as an alternative to the 247/248/249 honors sequence. Physics 207, 208, and 241 are offered every semester, providing a flexible route to the physics major.
  • Students who take this sequence and declare a physics major are at no disadvantage compared to physics majors who took Physics 247/248/249.

Physics 201/202/205

  • Students who are in the College of Engineering or wish to be admitted to an Engineering program should take this sequence
  • It is also provides a path to the physics major, including as part of a double major. Each course is offered every semester, providing a flexible route to the physics major.
  • Students who take this sequence and declare a physics major are at no disadvantage compared to physics majors who took Physics 247/248/249

*Although we recommend following one of these sequences, students are allowed to mix between the sequences, with the exception that transfers into the Physics 247/Physics 248/ Physics 249 honors sequence are not permitted. All three sequences have a prerequisite of Math 221 (or equivalent).

Suggested Program

a chart showing paths to the physics major starting in any of the first three semesters. More details can be found in the physics handbook or GUIDE, both linked on this page*After completion of Physics 248, 208, or 202, we encourage students to enroll in Physics 301, Physics Today, as a Physics elective that counts for credit toward the major. This course provides an introduction to research in the department that is typically not covered in other courses, and it helps connect students with undergraduate research opportunities.

Incoming Credits

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Advanced Placement (AP) Credits

  • Physics 1 or Physics 2 with a score of 4-5 awards credit for Physics 103/104; these courses do not apply toward the physics major.
  • Physics C Mechanics with a score of 4-5 awards 5 credits of Physics 207. These students may enroll in Physics 208 (if Math prerequisites are also completed). We encourage these students to talk to a Physics major advisor before enrolling to discuss if they may benefit from enrolling in the Physics 247/248/249 honors sequence instead.
  • Physics C Electric and Magnetism with a score of 4-5 awards 5 credits of Physics 208. These students may enroll in Physics 207 (if Math prerequisites are completed) and then enroll in Physics 241. We encourage these students to talk to a Physics major advisor before enrolling to discuss if they may benefit from enrolling in the Physics 247/248/249 honors sequence instead.
  • Students who earn a 4-5 on both Physics C AP exams and therefore are awarded Physics 207 and 208 credits may enroll in Physics 241 their first semester, if Math prerequisites are completed. Still, we encourage these students to talk to a Physics major advisor before enrolling to discuss if Physics 241 is the right course for them, or if they may benefit from enrolling in the Physics 247/248/249 honors sequence instead.
  • Students may earn credit for either AP Physics 1 & 2 or AP Physics EM & M, but not both.

UW–Madison AP Credit Info

International Baccalaureate (IB), Advanced Level (A-Level), and College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) Credits

IB, A-Level, and CLEP only award credit for Physics 103 and 104; these courses do not apply toward the physics major.

UW–Madison  IB, A-Level, and CLEP Credit Info

Transfer Credits

Transfer credit can be awarded to any admitted undergraduate student who has completed coursework at a college or university. Once you are admitted, the Registrar’s office will begin working on an evaluation of your transfer credits and will email you when your evaluation is available to view in your Student Center.

Please contact a physics advisor for any questions you have regarding specific physics transfer credits apply to the physics major.

UW–Madison Transfer Credit Info