UCSC offers new degree in applied physics

The University of California, Santa Cruz, is offering a new major leading to a B.S. degree in applied physics, designed to prepare students for careers in industry. The other option offered for undergraduates by the Department of Physics is a physics degree that focuses on preparing students for graduate study in physics.

The department created the applied physics option because most physics students end up making their careers in applied areas, said David Dorfan, professor and chair of physics.

"This program will provide outstanding preparation for students wishing to obtain a broad scientific background for entering a fast-changing technological environment," Dorfan said.

According to statistics from the American Institute of Physics, about 70 percent of graduates with bachelor's degrees in physics are employed in industry. Dorfan estimated that about half of the students who graduate from UCSC with bachelor's degrees in physics go directly to work for technology companies. Others may go on to earn a master's degree in engineering. And even among those who pursue graduate degrees in physics, most eventually work in industry, he said.

The new applied physics major differs from the physics major in some of its requirements, such as courses in computer science and chemistry. It also offers students greater flexibility to take courses in applied areas of interest. In addition to applied physics courses offered by the Physics Department, courses in engineering, chemistry, and biology can fulfill the major's elective requirements.

The Physics Department has begun admitting students to the new major this quarter.