United States Air Force Academy

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Conquering the Great Unknowns

Physics

Our modern technological society owes its existence to great physicists. The United States Air Force Academy’s physics major produces expertly educated leaders of character who contribute to this increasingly complex society by providing the knowledge and skills necessary to solve unforeseen, abstract, complex, and ill-defined problems. Our majors enter active duty with great confidence in their abilities to conquer the many “unknowns” for which they’ll be responsible during their first assignment and beyond.

The physics major is the only path to becoming an Air Force physicist (Air Force Specialty Code 61D). Most 61Ds are assigned to work cutting edge research & development projects and next-generation weapon system acquisition programs under Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Space Command, Air Force Special Operations Command and other major commands. These assignments may include experimental design and data analysis, launching new satellites, briefing members of Congress, and fielding state-of-the-art technologies. The Air Force depends critically on 61Ds for their scientific expertise, critical thinking skills, fresh perspectives and new ideas applied to the nation’s toughest (and often highly classified) technical challenges in the pursuit of maintaining the United States’ air, space and cyberspace dominance for decades to come.

Physics majors have opportunities to participate in world-class scientific research and participate in summer research at the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, NASA or other laboratories around the country. Physics majors also have a wide variety of graduate school scholarships and sponsorships available to them.

Potential Assignments
Within the Air Force
  • 61D – Physicist/Nuclear Engineer
  • 63A – Acquisition Manager
  • 13S – Space Operations
  • 15W – Weather
  • 14N – Intelligence
Outside the Air Force
  • Astronaut
  • Research scientist
  • College professor
  • Radiologist/Radiation Oncologist
SAMPLE COURSES
  • Combat Aviation Physics
  • Electromagnetic Theory
  • Laboratory Techniques
  • Nuclear Weapons Engineering
  • Astrophysics
SUGGESTED COURSE SEQUENCE
4th CLASS YEAR (FRESHMAN) 3RD CLASS YEAR (SOPHOMORE) 2ND CLASS YEAR (JUNIOR) 1ST CLASS YEAR (SENIOR)
Beh Sci 110

Chem 100

Com Sci 110

English 111

Engr 101

For Lang 1

For Lang 2

History 100

Math 141

Math 142

Physics 110

Chem 200

ECE 231

Econ 201

English 211

EngrMech 220

Law 220

Math 243

Math 245

MSS 200

Physics 215

Physics 264

Pol Sci 211

Aero Engr 315

BehSci 310

Biology 315

History 300

Math 346

Math 356

Philos 310

Physics 341

Physics 355

Physics 356

Physics 361

Physics 362

Academy Opt

AstroEngr310

English 411

Mgt 400

MSS 415/416

Physics 405

Physics 465

Physics 490

Physics Conc

Physics Conc

Physics Conc

SocSci 412

Sys Opt Physics 421

For full program requirements and course descriptions, download the current Curriculum Handbook.

VALIDATION AND TRANSFER CREDITS

Cadets can validate Physics I through the department placement test or by receiving a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics C: Mechanics exam. Cadets can validate Physics II through the department placement test or by receiving a 4 or 5 on the AP Physics C: Electricity and Magnetism exam.

Cadets can receive transfer credits for Physics I/Physics II if they complete a comparable calculus-based and lab-based physics course at an accredited college or university with a grade of A or B. Other requests for transfer credit will be considered on a case-by-case basis by the department.

CONTACT US

Dr. Heidi Wainscott,
Assitant Professor
Heidi.wainscott@usafa.edu
(719) 333-0128

Want to Study Physics?