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Undergraduate Education

The goal of the undergraduate physics program is to help students develop a deep understanding of the laws of physics along with the skills to solve related problems and enable further exploration of physical phenomena. Students will develop a high level of mathematical skills and become accomplished at oral and written communications. Laboratory skills are emphasized through dedicated courses with research-grade equipment including four semesters of research under faculty mentorship.

Bachelor of Science in Physics

The curriculum is guided by the vision to provide both, a background in applications of physics for students seeking employment in industry as well as a solid foundation for graduate study in physics or related fields. For the Bachelor of Science, students are not expected to specialize in a branch of physics. However, the curriculum has room for electives. Recommended electives are listed for students seeking employment or further studies in engineering, computational, medical, or atmospheric physics. About half of SD Mines Physics majors continue on to graduate school, with placement typically 100% for students applying. The other half chooses to enter the workforce directly. In 2019 and 2020, the average starting salary of physics B.S. graduates was the highest of any major at SD Mines, and the $80,000 5-year average for starting salaries is also the highest at the school and over $20,000 above the national average for physics B.S. graduates.

Physics is the basis of most engineering disciplines. Thus, a deeper understanding of basic principles of physics will provide students with a broader background knowledge and help them to become highly skilled engineers. Some students choose a double major, consisting of physics plus some field of engineering. Students following this route often succeed in industrial research and development. In a rapidly changing economy where economic success is fluctuating quickly, understanding physics can assist students in moving across disciplines.

Physics majors interested in pursuing a career in high school teaching should double major in physics at SD Mines and education at Black Hills State University. Another option would be to complete a physics degree at SD Mines and after graduation apply to Black Hills State's Master in Secondary Education - Project SECOND. This program prepares students to earn initial certification in the fields of physics, math, chemistry, and sometimes biology.

Minor in Physics

A minor in physics offers SD Mines graduates an understanding of the basis of multiple fields. It can transform any engineer into an interdisciplinary engineer and provide other scientists with the physics background needed to understand their fields more deeply. It prepares engineers and scientists to use advanced technologies based on quantum mechanics or nuclear and particle physics. It teaches computer scientists how to program a realistic world and prepares computer engineers for the near future when quantum computers will be commonplace.

A minor in physics requires a minimum of 18 hours of courses in physics, which must include PHYS 213, and at least 15 hours of physics courses numbered higher than PHYS 213. The physics minor declaration form must be signed by both the physics department and major department heads.