Physics & Astronomy Frequently Asked Questions

Where can I get more detailed information about the department and its programs?

The department has a canvas page which is accessible by majors and other students enrolled in courses in the department. This page has information compiled in an easily accessible location which outlines various resources that students might need. It also serves to welcome new and prospective students to the department and helps them connect with each other.

Should I take physics my first semester?

Any student interested in majoring in Physics or Astrophysics is strongly encouraged to enroll in PHY 111 their first semester. PHY 111 is the entry point for both of these majors, and is a pre-requisite to all other courses.

For students who already have credit for PHY 111, PHY 112 is also offered in the fall, with some seats typically reserved for first-year students. As a potential Physics or Astrophysics major, you should take PHY 112 in the spring after completing PHY 111 in the fall. Note that MAT 109 is a co-requisite course for PHY 111, and MAT 110 is a co-requisite for PHY 112.

There is some flexibility in the Physics or Astrophysics majors, so an interested student may start the major in their second or third semesters. However, students must start in the first semester if they are planning BOTH a major in Physics or Astrophysics AND one of the following:

- Planning to study abroad,

- Planning to complete pre-health requirements, or

- Planning to complete 3/2 dual-degree engineering requirements.

Questions about physics placement, the timing of courses, or any of the about advice above should be directed to the chair of Physics and Astronomy (717-291-4136).

Should I take astronomy my first semester?

AST 101, which is typically offered in the fall, is intended as a survey course for non-majors, and does not satisfy any requirement of a Physics or Astrophysics major. Students interested in a major in Astrophysics should enroll in PHY 111 in the fall (see above), and wait until the spring to enroll in AST 121, which is an introduction to the subject of astrophysics and required for the Astrophysics major.

What if I have AP, Cambridge A-level, or IB credit in physics?

If you have:

Cambridge International Exam A-levels, the Registrar will award credit for PHY 101 (a general credit which satisfies the Natural Science with Lab requirement).

Cambridge International Exam AS-levels, no credit is awarded.

IB Certificate recipients receive one course credit (PHY 101, a general credit which satisfies the Natural Science with Lab requirement) for each higher level examination passed with a score of 5 or higher

AP credit (score of 4 or 5) for Physics C: Mechanics, the Registrar will award credit for PHY 111.

AP credit (score of 4 or 5) for Physics C: Electricity & Magnetism, the Registrar will award credit for PHY 112.

AP credit (score of 4 or 5) for Physics 1, the Registrar will award credit for PHY 101 (a general credit which satisfies the Natural Science with Lab requirement).

AP credit (score of 4 or 5) for Physics 2, the Registrar will award credit for PHY 101 (a general credit which satisfies the Natural Science with Lab requirement).

(Further information about F&M's AP credit policies can be found at

Note that if a student believes that their preparation in physics might allow them to enter a higher level physics course (e.g., PHY 112) without formal credit for a pre-requesite course (e.g., PHY 111), they should consult with the chair of the department to see if  an override to enter that course would be suitable or not.

What if I am interested in health professions?

If you want to major in physics and are thinking about pursuing a career in the health professions (medicine, dentistry, etc.), you can consider taking PHY 111 and a Calculus course during your first semester.  You would then take PHY 112 and BIO 110 during the spring semester and begin the introductory chemistry sequence during your sophomore year.  Students with an exceptionally strong background in the sciences can consider taking PHY 111, CHM 111, and a Calculus course during their first semester.  If you have questions about pre-requisite coursework for the health professions, plese consult with the Director of Health Professions Advising.

What if I am interested in Engineering?

If you are interested in engineering and the 3/2 engineering program, then to satisfy the affiliate school requirements for admission under the combined degree engineering program, students typically need two years of physics and one year of chemistry. To satisfy the F&M requirements students must complete their major while at F&M. Given its overlap with the engineering requirements, physics is often the most convenient major (but certainly not the only possible major). In order to finish a physics major by the end of your third year, you must either start your first semester or bring credit in. In short, the answer to the "yes or no" question about whether to take physics your first semester is "probably" if you plan to do 3/2 engineering. The combined degree engineering plan also has a four year option in which case you only NEED to take physics your first semester if all three of the following conditions apply 1.) you don't bring any physics credit with you, 2) you plan to major in physics and 3) you also want to study abroad.

Further details about the 3/2 engineering program can be obtained by talking to the engineering advisor. Please contact the Office of Student and  Post-Graduate Development at 717-358-4084 for details on how to get in touch with the engineering advisor.

What if I want to do a joint major?

A joint major in Physics consists of a total of eight courses: PHY 111, PHY 112, PHY 223, MAT 109, MAT 110, and MAT 111, plus one of the following pairs of courses: MAT 229 and PHY 226, MAT 229 and PHY 321, MAT 229 and PHY 323, or PHY 321 and PHY 323.