The Major

Requirements for the The Physics Major

Requirements for the The Physics Major
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The Physics program provides a firm foundation for work in a variety of areas, and is flexible enough to allow a student to prepare for graduate study in physics, professional schools (such as business or law), or employment in the public or private sector. The majority of recent graduates have pursued advanced degrees in physics or engineering, but other recent graduates are working in fields such as technical support, computers, finance, and secondary education.

Most students take the core sequence as listed below, but a particular curriculum is fashioned to reflect each student's interests and level of preparation. Beyond the core courses, each student chooses a number of Physics and Divisional electives according to her or his focus of study. Physics students follow the standard Divisional procedure for Moderation and must fulfill the college-wide distribution and First-Year Seminar requirements, as well as completing a Senior Project.

Required Courses

The specifically required courses work are:

Introductory Courses
The introductory courses for the major consist of a three semester physics sequence, Physics 141, Physics 142, and Physics 241; and a four semester mathematics sequence Math 141, Math 142, Physics 221, and Physics 222.

Physics 141 and Physics 142 (Introduction to Physics I and II) are offered as a one-year sequence, and most Physics majors would take both in the first year of classes. Students with advanced preparation might skip one or both of these courses. If a student does not start in the introductory sequence until the sophomore year, completing a physics major is still possible in four years at Bard, but the number of possible upper college physics classes one could take would be limited.  Physics 241 (Modern Physics) is offered every fall and is typically taken sophmore year, although students with advanced preparation may take this course in their first year.

The mathematics sequence consists of two calculus courses, Math 141 and Math 142 (Calculus I & II), followed by two couses on mathematical methods for physicists, Physics 221 and Physics 222 (Mathematical Methods I & II), which contain topics in linear algebra, differential equations, vector calculus, probability, and statistics.  Students may place out of one or both of the calculus courses depending on their previous preparation and the results of their math placement diagnostic.

Advanced Physics Courses
Three of the required advanced-level physics courses Physics 303 (Mechanics), Physics 312 (Electricity and Magnetism), Physics 314 (Thermal Physics), are offered on a one-and-a-half year cycle. Most physics majors will take at least one of these courses before moderation.  The final required advanced-level physics course, Physics 321 (Quantum Mechanics), is offered every spring.

Students interested in experimental work generally take Physics 210 (Introduction to Electronics).

Additional Courses

In addition to the required courses, recent advanced courses and tutorials have included General RelativityCondensed Matter Physics, Nuclear and Particle Physics, and Scientific Programming.  Students are encouraged to take intermediate and advanced courses throughout the Division, depending on their interests and what their post-Bard plans are. In consultation with one's advisor and moderation board, courses in Mathematics, Computer Science, or Chemistry might be recommended for Physics students.


To enter into the upper college and moderate in Physics, a student writes two short papers, one describing the work the student has done in the lower college and the other describing the plans the student has for the upper college and beyond. The student then meets with a moderation board of three faculty (two from Physics) for an in-depth discussion of the work the student has done so and to develop the student's best curriculum for work in the upper college.

Senior Project

All physics majors must complete a Senior Project. This is generally an experimental or theoretical study on a topic of the student's choice. By working closely with the faculty advisor, the student chooses a Senior Project topic is based on her or his interests and background.

Sample Schedule


Fall Semester

   Spring Semester

First Year

  Intro Physics I (141)

  Calculus I (Math 141)
  Intro Physics II (142)

  Calculus II (Math 142)

Sophomore Year  

  Modern Physics (241)

  Math Methods I (221)

  Mechanics (303)

  Math Methods II (222)

Junior Year

  Electricity &
  Magnetism (312)

  Electronics (210)
  Thermal Physics (314)

  Quantum Mechanics (322)

Senior Year

  Advanced Courses,
  Senior Project
  Advanced Courses,
  Senior Project

Engineering 3-2 Program

Dual Degree Engineering Programs

In affiliation with the Schools of Engineering at Columbia University and Dartmouth College, Bard offers programs of study leading to a BA from Bard and a second degree in engineering within five years. Students interested in these programs should consult the pre-engineering adviser, Paul Cadden-Zimansky, early in their Bard careers.

Under the 3-2 program, after three years at Bard a student transfers to the school of engineering and on completion of a two-year program there qualifies for a BA from Bard and a BS (Columbia) or BE (Dartmouth). Dartmouth also offers a 2-1-1-1 configuration: two years at Bard, one at Dartmouth, one at Bard, one at Dartmouth. The Senior Project is waived for the 3-2 and 2-1-1-1 programs.

In addition, there are two 4-2 programs with Columbia: after completing a BA at Bard, a student enters one of two programs at Columbia leading to a BS or MS in engineering in two years.

Starting in 2019 admission to both programs are competitive and contingent on fulfillment of Bard's major and distribution requirement. Recommended guidelines issued by Columbia for admission to their 3-2 and 4-2 undergraduate programs include completion of foundational and major-specific courses with grades of B or higher in each course; achievement of an overall GPA of 3.3 or higher; and 3 positive faculty recommendations.  More details about these programs can be found here.