Skip to main content

Physics Teaching: BS

Physics Teaching

Physics is the study of matter and energy and their interactions. Students study both the theory of physics and experiment using those theories as a guide. Physics teaching majors take classes in thermal physics, intermediate modern physics, wave phenomena, electromagnetism, and quantum mechanics, as well as teaching courses.

The Physics Department is home to an active, national-award-winning chapter of the Society of Physics Students. Its students and faculty have also been recipients of prestigious national awards, including a Rhodes Scholar, Goldwater Scholars, and more.

Education Component:

In order to obtain a secondary teaching license for grades 6-12, students must complete the 35-credit Secondary Teacher Education Program (STEP), which includes one semester of student teaching in a public school. This program is administered by USU’s School of Teacher Education and Leadership (TEAL) within the Emma Eccles Jones College of Education and Human Services. Student must apply to the School of TEAL the semester before taking STEP courses. This is usually the fall of their junior year. Students learn subject content through the Physics Department and spend the last year or two studying education techniques through the STEP program.

Students in the physics teaching program are required to select an approved teaching minor in order to expand their career options.

Students who graduate in physics teaching are qualified to teach physics in middle schools or high schools.

Career Services provides counseling and information on hundreds of job and internship opportunities and even helps students apply and interview.

Admissions Requirements

In addition to Utah State University’s admissions requirements, the physics teaching program has additional requirements:

  • Freshmen: New freshmen admitted to USU in good standing qualify for admission to this major.
  • Transfer students: Transfer students from other institutions need a 2.2 total GPA for admission to this major. Students transferring from other USU majors need a total GPA of 2.0 for admission to this major.
  • STEP Requirements: In order to be accepted into STEP, students must go through an application process, which includes the following:
    • Complete 60 semester credits with a minimum GPA of 2.75
    • Complete certain core courses (see department for more information)
    • Complete a speech and hearing test
    • Pass the Teacher Education Writing Exam
    • Provide an unofficial copy of  your transcript
    • Pass a criminal background check (this should be done one semester before submitting the application)

International students have additional admissions requirements.

Professional Organizations, Honor Societies, and Clubs

American Physical Society: APS is a nonprofit organization committed to the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics. The unit provides opportunities for its members to interact with colleagues that have similar interests and ensure new developments are being used in their specialized fields.  

American Association of Physicists in Medicine: AAPM is a scientific and professional organization, founded in 1958, composed of more than 7,000 scientists, whose clinical practice is dedicated to ensuring accuracy, safety, and quality in the use of radiation in medical procedures, such as medical imaging and radiation therapy. Members are generally known as medical physicists and are uniquely positioned across medical specialties due to their responsibility to connect the physician to the patient through the use of radiation producing technology in both diagnosing and treating people. The responsibility of the medical physicist is to assure that the radiation prescribed in imaging and radiation therapy is delivered accurately and safely.

American Institute of Physics: AIP is a nonprofit membership corporation created for the purpose of promoting the advancement and diffusion of the knowledge of physics and its application to human welfare. AIP supports 10 member societies and provides a spectrum of services and programs devoted to advancing the science and profession of physics. A pioneer in digital publishing, AIP is also one of the world's largest publishers of physics journals and produces the publications of more than 25 scientific and engineering societies through its New York-based publishing division.

American Association of Physics Teachers: AAPT was established in 1930 with the fundamental goal of ensuring the dissemination of knowledge of physics, particularly by way of teaching. Today, the vision of improving physics education is supported by more than 10,000 members in 30 countries around the world.

Sigma Pi Sigma: SPS is a national physics honor society, which elects members on the basis of outstanding academic achievement. This unique two-in-one society operates within the American Institute of Physics, an umbrella organization for 10 other professional science societies.

Get-Away-Special Team: The GAS team welcomes students of all majors. During the fall, the team spends most of its time writing project proposals, researching project options, and volunteering in outreach programs. For the outreach program, GAS members visit local schools to give demonstrations related to its projects, as well as encouraging the students to stay in school and persue science and technology fields. During spring semester, students spend time completing GAS projects and sending a group of members to Houston to operate experiments on the “Vomit Comet.” The Vomit Comet is a microgravity aircraft used to test experiments.

Society of Physics Students: SPS is a professional association explicitly designed to help students become contributing members of the professional community. It helps students develop needed skills to flourish professionally, such as effective communication, leadership experience, establishing contacts, presenting scholarly work, and participating in outreach service. The USU chapter has won the Outstanding Chapter Award for 2006, and a Sigma Pi Sigma induction ceremony grant. USU’s chapter takes hands-on learning experiences into local schools; it participates in Physics Day at Lagoon, offering an educational activity that gives high school and middle school students the chance to explore the reality of physics in a fun way, and Science Unwrapped, a free, monthly presentation series. SPS students interact with about 10,000 pre-college students each year.

Labs, Centers, Research

With the second oldest undergraduate research program in the nation, USU offers students a wide range of opportunities to gain hands-on research experience. USU’s Honors Program prepares students for excellent graduate programs by helping them build relationships with professors, participate in research projects, take smaller, more intensive classes, and develop leadership skills.

Center for Active Sensing and Imaging: CASI uses radar-like, laser-based LIDAR technology to measure distances instead of radio waves for a variety of industrial applications, including sitting wind farms, controlling emissions, and rapid replacement of bridges, runways, and other infrastructure.

Center for Atmospheric and Space Sciences: CASS is recognized nationally and internationally as a progressive research center with advanced space and upper atmospheric research programs. CASS scientists are tackling the adverse consequences of space weather. Undergraduate and graduate students are involved in numerous research projects in CASS that provide opportunities to program computers, analyze data, and build instrumentation.

Center for Integrated BioSystems: The CIB leads a progressive, interdisciplinary effort in research, core services, and education serving agriculture and life sciences. The CIB is where the first hybrid animal, a mule, was cloned, and was named one of “30 Awesome College Labs” by Popular Science magazine. The CIB has a research program with several active projects in diverse areas of life science that encompass plant, animal, and microbe functional genomics.

Energy Laboratory: This lab seeks to develop solutions to America's most intractable energy problems through scientific and technological innovation. It provides a cohesive framework permitting faculty, students, and partnering institutions to focus on contemporary energy-related research issues.

Rocky Mountain NASA Space Grant Consortium: RMNSGC is one of 52 National Space Grant Consortia in the United States. As a member of the consortium, USU has awarded more than 100 fellowships to students interested in aerospace-related education and careers. The majority of Space Grant student awards include a mentored research experience with university faculty and NASA scientists, engineers, and technologists.

Space Dynamics Laboratory: SDL is known for sending 500+ successful experiments into space and brings in $54 million per year in revenue, the majority coming from grants, contracts, and appropriations. SDL’s expertise in the development of sensors and calibration, small satellites and real-time intelligence has made it an internationally known organization in the space arena.

Space Weather Center: SWC is developing innovative applications for mitigating space weather in technical systems. The ionosphere is a key region that affects communication and navigation systems of the space environments that are affected by space weather. The USTAR initiative is developing products to reduce adverse effects of the ionosphere on these types of systems.


Karalee Ransom
Physics Advisor
Office: SER 250 D
Phone: (435) 797-4021

- Physics Department

- College of Science

Submit Edits/Updates for this degree