A degree in applied physics provides the foundation for a wide range of career opportunities in high-technology industries, including research and development, product design and testing, sales, and quality control.

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa's Department of Physics and Astronomy offers a renowned faculty and challenging courses on a variety of subjects, with course work emphasizing problem-solving, logical thinking, and technical skills. Advanced classes usually have 15-20 students, allowing for a high level of individual attention.

Applied physics students gain a solid foundation in physics course work and can choose from four areas of concentration (optics, solid-state electronics, computer science, or medical physics).

Outside of class, students have opportunities to do research, apply for internships at national laboratories, and participate in the Society of Physics Students, which coordinates field trips and activities to foster student-faculty interaction and scientific learning. In addition, Iowa students are extraordinarily successful at competing for research opportunities at other top universities and at research laboratories.

For more information about our program and students, visit physics.uiowa.edu.

Course Work

Students in the Bachelor of Science (BS) program in applied physics take several of the courses required for the BS in Physics and choose a concentration in one of four areas.

Areas of concentration:

  • Computer science
  • Optics
  • Solid-state electronics
  • Medical physics

Students also complete a one-semester internship or practicum.

A customized applied physics program also is possible.

Review Applied Physics in the General Catalog for more details.

Admission Requirements

Applied physics majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to having nearly 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Living-Learning Communities, Study Abroad Programs, and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Students in this area of study may be interested in the Women in Science and Engineering Living-Learning Community.

Most undergraduate students in applied physics participate in research projects. Some students work directly with faculty members.

Students may earn course credit for research. Some funding is available for undergraduate research through individually funded faculty projects, the Iowa Center for Research by Undergraduates, and the department's Van Allen Research Grants.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Iowa's program is recognized for its top-notch research. Its 29 faculty members work in astronomy and in nine areas of physics, including atomic and molecular, condensed-matter, high-energy, mathematical, medical, nuclear, optical, plasma, and space physics. Departmental research garners more than $16 million a year in external support.

Several faculty members are fellows of professional associations such as the American Physical Society and the American Geophysical Union. One is an elected member of the National Academy of Sciences. The late James Van Allen, a longtime professor and renowned space researcher, discovered the Earth’s radiation belts—named the Van Allen Radiation Belts in his honor.

The department has two optical telescopes and a radio telescope on the roof of Van Allen Hall and a fully automated telescope in Arizona. The optical telescope facility, run by students, is used for teaching and research projects. The department also maintains a full machine shop and 24-hour computer labs.

Additional resources on the UI campus include microfabrication facilities, the Iowa Advanced Technology Laboratories, and the Optical Science and Technology Center. Varied labs are devoted to plasma, medical, atomic, high-energy, and molecular physics. Several ultrafast laser labs, an III-V molecular beam epitaxy lab, and a high-resolution X-ray diffraction lab also are available.

Iowa City is only a few hours’ drive from the Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory and Argonne National Laboratory.


Iowa graduates have job placement rates ranging from 86-100%, depending on their area of study, and our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Physics and astronomy graduates have mastered skills that are readily transferable to a number of fields, including research, engineering, software development, teaching, finance, biomedical research, and consulting.

About 70 percent of physics and astronomy graduates go on to graduate school. With help from the department’s in-house recruiting office, they win acceptance to some of the best graduate programs in the country. Many of the applied physics graduates with a concentration in medical physics have gone on to medical school.


The Office of Admissions, the Office of Student Financial Aid, and departmental websites are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Several scholarships are available for undergraduate applied physics majors. For example, first-year students may apply for the Shoemaker-Strickler Memorial Scholarship, which offers full tuition, fees, and a book allowance. The Strayer-Rairden Scholarship in Physics provides a renewable $1,000 award to a highly qualified applicant who has declared physics or astronomy as a major. Students also have been recipients of Presidential, Old Gold, and Goldwater Scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Applied Physics (BS)
Areas of Specialization
Honors Courses