Astronomy Bookshelf

Astrophysics Degree Sample Programs


Although all astrophysics majors will share some common courses regardless of their specific interests, some courses are recommended according to your particular area of emphasis:

 Program Requirements 4-Year Plan  

Astrophysics majors have the option of graduating with Latin honors. To do so they must join the University Honors Program by the fall of their junior year at the latest. For more information see the University Honors Program website.


Professional Astrophysics I: Astronomy

This degree emphasis is intended to prepare the student for graduate school in Astrophysics. In many respects, this program is not too different than the program for a double major in Astrophysics and Physics. In fact, many students who are successful at getting in to graduate degree programs are double majors. This program emphasizes observational astronomy.

Suggested Additional Courses:

  • Phys 4101 (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Phys 4201 (Thermodynamics)
  • Additional Ast 4-5xxx

Sample Junior Year
FALL SPRING
Physics 4001 Physics 4002
Ast 4xxx or 5xxx Start Ast 4994
Elective Elective
Math Elective Ast 52011

1 Offered alternate years, take in either the Junior or Senior year.

Sample Senior Year
FALL SPRING
CSE Elective (Physics 4101) CSE Elective
CSE Elective (Physics 4201) CSE Elective
Elective Elective
Elective Elective

Note: For double Astrophysics/Physics majors, add the Physics 4051 and 4052 Experimental Physics sequence and Physics 4101 (Quantum) and 4201 (Thermo). Astronomy 4994 (Senior Thesis) is expected to be current research in Astronomy undertaken with a faculty member. Double majors in the Physics Honors program may substitute a Physics Honors Thesis if it has some Astrophysical content. The Sr. Thesis should be started in the Spring of the Jr. year in order to ensure that letters of recommendation to graduate schools written in January of the Senior year will be able to refer to your research work.


Professional Astrophysics II: Computational

This degree emphasis is similar to the one for Astronomy except that it leans more toward computational and theoretical Astrophysics. It is also aimed at preparing the student for graduate school. This program benefits from the superb computing facilities within the Institute for Astronomy, at the Laboratory for Computational Science and Engineering, and at the Minnesota Supercomputer Institute.

Suggested Additional Courses:

  • Phys 4101 (Quantum Mechanics)
  • Phys 4201 (Thermodynamics)
  • Additional Ast 4-5xxx

Sample Junior Year
FALL SPRING
Physics 4001 Physics 4002
Ast 4xxx or 5xxx Start Ast 4994
Elective Elective
Math Elective Numerical Methods (Math, Phys, or Ast depts)

Note: For double Astrophysics/Physics majors, add the Physics 4051 and 4052 Experimental Physics sequence and Physics 4101 (Quantum) and 4201 (Thermo). Astronomy 4994 (Senior Thesis) is expected to be current research in Astronomy undertaken with a faculty member. Double majors in the Physics Honors program may substitute a Physics Honors Thesis if it has some Astrophysical content. The Sr. Thesis should be started in the Spring of the Jr. year in order to ensure that letters of recommendation to graduate schools written in January of the Senior year will be able to refer to your research work.

Sample Senior Year
FALL SPRING
CSE Elective (Physics 4101) Astro Elective
CSE Elective (Physics 4201) CSE Elective
Elective Elective
Elective Elective

Secondary Education in the Physical Sciences

This degree emphasis is designed to prepare students for entrance into the Masters program in secondary science education. Although specifically designed to meet the entrance requirements for the Masters program at the University of Minnesota, it also meets the entrance requirements of similar programs at all State Universities in Minnesota and most institutions outside the state. Most of the Physics requirements are already met by the basic Astrophysics major. You will have to substitute some Astronomy courses for Physics courses.

The requirements are constantly undergoing change. Currently the State program for the Physical Sciences is basically a Physics degree with the addition of a general Psychology course, a Philosophical Foundations course and a History of Science course. For the Astrophysics degree, you will substitute Ast 5201 and Ast 4994 for Physics 4051/52 and two upper division Ast 4-5xxx and/or CSE 4-5xxx courses for Physics 4101 and 4201. (You could, of course, still take Phys 4101 and 4201!) Be sure to visit the Education Office in Burton Hall.

Sample Junior Year
FALL SPRING
Physics 4001 Physics 4002
Ast 4xxx or 5xxx History of Science1
Math Elective Ast 52012
Elective Start Ast 49943

1 Choose from Hst Sci 3814, 4111, or 4121

2 Offered alternate years, take in either the Junior or Senior year.

3 The Education Dept. requires two semesters of laboratory experience. This can be either Physics 4051/52 or Ast 5201 and Ast 4994 IF Ast 4994 has a laboratory component. Ast 4994 (Senior Thesis) need not be Astronomy research, but can be in the area of education, so long as there is a laboratory component. Some examples are: creating a lab in Astronomy for the High School science curriculum, developing a hands-on Astronomy experience for students, constructing an astronomy demonstration, etc.

Sample Senior Year
FALL SPRING
CSE Elective CSE Elective
CSE Elective CSE Elective
Elective Elective
Finish "In Class" Experience by Here!1 Elective

1 In-class experience is required. See the Education Dept. (104 Burton Hall) for information on how to meet this requirement. Visit this office by the Junior year at the latest!


Data Acquisition/Analysis, Laboratory Scientist

This degree emphasis is designed to prepare students for careers in corporate and government labs and research divisions. Examples are programming, image processing, laboratory instrumentation, and general data analysis.

Suggested Additional Courses:

  • CSci 1113 (Introduction to C) Freshman or Sophomore year
  • CSci 2031 (Numerical Computing)
  • Phys 4051, 4052 (Methods of Experimental Physics)
  • Ast 5201 (Methods of Experimental Astrophysics)
  • EE 3005 (Circuits and Systems)

Sample Junior Year
FALL SPRING
Physics 4001 Physics 4002
Phys 4051 Phys 4052
EE 3005 Ast 52011
Elective Elective

1 Offered alternate years, take in either the Junior or Senior years.

Sample Senior Year
FALL SPRING
Elective CSE Elective
Ast 49941 CSE Elective
Ast 4xxx or 5xxx Elective
Elective Elective

1 Note: Astronomy 4994 (Senior Thesis) is expected to be current research in Astronomy undertaken with a faculty member. Research in an industrial setting under a University sponsored or similar program is also acceptable.


Military Reserve Officer

This degree emphasis is designed to facilitate students in the ROTC program at the University. The basic degree program is required for graduation. All of the additional work is through the normal ROTC program specific to the chosen branch of the military. This includes courses in military science, law, and leadership. All students in the ROTC program receive academic counseling through that program. The role of the Astrophysics degree program is to facilitate obtaining a technical degree from CSE. The Air Force and the Navy are the most common branches of service chosen by Astrophysics majors in the ROTC program.

Sample Junior Year
FALL SPRING
Physics 4001 Physics 4002
Ast 4xxx or 5xxx Ast 4xxx or 5xxx
Elective Elective
Elective Elective
Sample Senior Year
FALL SPRING
CSE Elective CSE Elective
Ast 49941 CSE Elective
CSE Elective Elective
Elective Elective

1 Note: Astronomy 4994 (Senior Thesis) is expected to be current research in Astronomy undertaken with a faculty member.

 Program Requirements 4-Year Plan  

Contact Information

MN Institute for Astrophysics

University of Minnesota
John T. Tate Hall, 116 Church St. SE, Minneapolis, MN, 55455

P: (612) 624-4811

E: MIfA@umn.edu