Resources for... William & Mary
William & Mary W&M menu close William & Mary

Courses for Non-majors

Growing dependence on science and technology in all areas of human life makes desirable the familiarity and knowledge with fundamental physics concepts without becoming a physics major. Physics department offers variety of courses for students with different backgrounds, and can be used to satisfy college curriculum requirements.

Physics department typically offers a rotating choice of COLL100 courses (check the Open Course List or Dynamic Schedule), and several COLL200 courses:

  • PHYS 171 Planetary & Stellar Astronomy
  • PHYS 172 Stellar Astronomy & Cosmology
  • PHYS 201 Modern Physics
  • PHYS 213 Introduction to Modern Optics

The first two astronomy courses are designed for students with no previous experience in physics; the last course (Modern Optics) assumes some exposure to physics and calculus, and the Modern Physics course is designed for students who completed the first two semesters on introductory physics sequence.

To obtain a strong foundation in classical physics, we recommend taking a two-semester sequence of either algebra-based general physics (PHYS 107/PHYS 108) or calculus-based general physics (PHYS 101/PHYS 102) with associated lab courses (PHYS 107L, PHYS 108L, PHYS 101L, PHYS 102L). Students with strong calculus and physics background may choose to enroll in Honors sections of the calculus-based sequence (PHYS 101H/PHYS 102H). One or two of these courses may serve as requirements or electives for other science majors: for example, PHYS 101/PHYS 102 is required for chemistry majors. Either PHYS 107/PHYS 108 or PHYS 101/PHYS 102 satisfy physics requirements for medical schools.  

Three semester sequence of two general physics courses, followed by a Modern Physics course (PHYS 201) provide students with overview of basic fundamental ideas and methods used by modern scientists, and is recommended for students wishing to gain solid physics background in addition to their main major. This sequence serves as a foundation for Physics Minor.

For the complete list of requirements, consult the course catalog.