Study Physics at the University of Montana
If you think deep and dream big, the physics program at UM is the place to be. You can focus your physics degree in astronomy and learn about the inner workings of the universe, study computational physics and develop the skills required for computational modeling of physical systems, or get the training to become a science teacher in K-12 schools. No matter what you choose, you’ll have exceptional opportunities for undergraduate research and hands-on learning.
There are many ways to extend your learning beyond the classroom as a physics major at UM. You can create and present shows at our planetarium, serve as a guide at the observatory or visit local schools with our portable StarLab planetarium.
You won’t find a more excited, engaged and enthusiastic group on campus than our physics majors. You’ll also benefit from personal mentorship by faculty in a close-knit, supportive program where you’re inspired to think big and be your best.
of physics majors are hired as research assistants
students conduct live planetarium shows every week
estimated average salary of UM physics bachelor’s degree graduates
Other degree options for physics at UM
- Bachelor of Arts in Physics – Astronomy
- Bachelor of Arts in Physics – Computational Physics
- Bachelor of Arts in Physics – Teaching Broadfield Science
What can you do with a degree in physics?
As a physics major, you’ll develop skills in advanced mathematics, high-level problem-solving, critical thinking, data analysis, laboratory instrumentation, electronics and computer programming — making your career possibilities virtually endless. About half of our majors in physics also choose to pursue graduate study after completing their bachelor’s degree, entering programs at Harvard, Ohio State University, Yale, Boston University, Northwestern and other top universities.
What employers hire UM physics degree graduates?
Graduates of our degree in physics are hired by engineering firms, technology-based companies and startups, computer hardware and software companies, national research laboratories, universities and public schools. Some recent examples include the United States Department of Defense, Google, GlaxoSmithKline, Advanced Technologies Group, Anasphere Inc., Sunburst Sensors and other companies here in Montana.
This versatile degree can take you in many directions. Popular careers for a physics major include:
- Systems engineer
- Software developer
- Research scientist
- Lab technician
- Systems analyst
- Light and optics specialist
- Science teacher
- Biomedical engineer
We estimate that, on average, graduates of our bachelor’s degree in physics earn $82,524 annually. Here are average salaries for some of the top physics jobs, based on recent data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics:
- Postsecondary teachers: $80,790
- Biophysicist: $94,270
- Software developers: $110,140
- Computer hardware engineers: $119,560
- Physicists and astronomers: $128,950
Alumni success story: Tony Sergi
“During my time studying physics at UM, I developed several fundamental skills that are rare and valued in the industry. I learned the foundation of evidence and data-based analysis, which has changed how I view the world and make decisions both in and out of work. I also had the privilege of contributing to a research project, where my work was later published in several scientific journal articles. A degree in physics has accelerated my career and allowed me to stand out amongst less technical colleagues.”
— Tony Sergi, UM physics bachelor’s degree graduate
Alumni success story: Carter Webber
"I loved the sense of community within the department! It was always supportive and friendly, and I really felt connected to my professors and my peers!"
— Carter Webber, UM physics bachelor’s degree graduate
Alumni success story: Dan Rogers
“Going to the University of Montana to study physics was one of the greatest experiences of my life. The professors strived to ensure my success every step of the way, and the physics advisor made sure I stayed on course. The physics program, the research opportunities they offer and the welcoming environment provided a space to grow and learn about the mysteries of the universe."
— Dan Rogers, UM physics bachelor’s degree graduate
Beyond the classroom: Experiential learning in the physics degree program
Opportunities to work with faculty on cutting-edge research help make UM one of the best colleges for physics majors. About 70% of our students conduct research, working as paid members on our department’s research team and engaging in graduate-level research as undergraduate students. As part of these projects, many of our majors in physics present findings at regional and national research conferences, gaining valuable professional skills and contacts in the process. Many of our students also participate in Research Experiences for Undergraduates (REU) programs across the nation.
Journey through space and time: UM’s planetarium
Physics and astronomy students conduct live planetarium shows in our Star Gazing Room. Housed in the Payne Native American Center, UM’s planetarium provides live shows throughout the year. Learn how to build your own show, operate the projector and guide your audience on an adventure through space. Learn more about the planetarium.
Starry night skies: UM’s observatory
Situated 6,300 feet above the sea, UM’s Blue Mountain Observatory is used for research as well as public outreach and education. During the summer months, students host evenings of observation for the public a few times each month answering questions and teaching how to use various telescopes. The night sky can be observed here with very little light pollution. Learn more about the observatory.
Career development for physics majors
When you major in physics at UM, you can count on getting the support to help you succeed both in the classroom and in your career. We’re a tight-knit community that works together, learns together and plays together — our students and instructors even compete together on intramural teams. This is a program where your instructors will know your name, and you’ll spend more time collaborating with others than working on your own.
Undergraduate research projects offer incredible opportunities to build professional connections and develop real-world skills that will help you stand out to employers and graduate school programs. Student organizations, such as our Society of Physics Students and the Women in Physics club, offer more great ways to get involved and network with people in your field.
Scholarships for physics
Get extra help paying for your physics degree. Each year our department awards scholarships both to incoming freshman and current physics majors. Learn more about scholarship opportunities in the physics program at UM.
Explore classes for the physics program
The bachelor’s in physics explores quantities such as mass, time, length, force, energy, momentum, electric charge, electric field strength, entropy and wavelength — looking at the relations among them, and how this explains other wide-ranging phenomena. You have the option to concentrate your physics degree in astronomy, computational physics or teaching.