Major/Minor Requirements

Astrophysics Major

For students interested in attending graduate school in astronomy, a thorough grounding in mathematics and physics is essential. To meet the needs of such students, the Astronomy and Physics departments jointly offer an Astrophysics Major. An astrophysics major consists of the courses required for the physics major (with one of the 300-level courses being ASTR/PHYS 311), along with ASTR 107, ASTR 206, and one additional upper-level astronomy course. All students who wish to consider a major in astrophysics are urged to complete the introductory physics sequence (PHYS 100, PHYS 107 and PHYS 108), as well as ASTR 107, as soon as possible. In planning the major, students should note that some of the courses have prerequisites in mathematics.

Course requirements

  • Astronomy: ASTR 107, ASTR 206, ASTR 311, and any other 200 or 300 level ASTR course (where this may include an independent study or thesis: ASTR 250, 350, 360, or 370).
  • Physics: PHYS 100, 107, 108, 120, 205, 207, 208, 210, 302, and one other unit of physics at the 300-level in addition to PHYS/ASTR 311.
  • Mathematics: MATH 205, and 215. (Note that MATH 115 and 116 are prerequisites.)

Typical schedule of courses

In addition to the physics curriculum listed above, students are strongly encouraged to take their astronomy courses in approximately this order:

  • First year: ASTR 107.
  • Fall of sophomore or junior year: ASTR 206 on astronomical techniques.
  • Any semester: any additional 200-level or 300-level course in ASTR,
  • Spring of junior or senior year:  ASTR 311.

Astronomy Major

For students intending to pursue a Ph.D. in Astronomy, we offer, jointly with the Department of Physics, a major in Astrophysics. For students interested in other pursuits, such as a Ph.D. in Planetary Science or careers in education, data science, scientific and technical computing, and public outreach (e.g., museum staff, journalism), we offer a major in Astronomy. The major consists of 12 courses.   

Course Requirements

  • Astronomy: ASTR 107, ASTR 206, an additional 200-level course, and two 300-level courses (one of which can be in a related field).
  • Physics: 100, 107, 108, 120, 205, 207.
  • Mathematics: MATH 215 (Note that MATH 115 and 116 are prerequisites for MATH 215)

Students interested to pursue planetary science in graduate school are encouraged to supplement their program with courses in the Geoscience department as well as PHYS 210 Experimental Techniques (optics & electronics laboratory; also satisfies the DL requirement). Students interested to pursue careers in education and public outreach are encouraged to complete additional coursework in the Education department and the Writing Program.

Honors in Astronomy

The route to honors in the major is writing an honors thesis and passing an oral examination. To be admitted to the honors thesis program (ASTR 360/370), a student must have a grade point average of at least 3.5 in all work in the major field above the 100 level. Students who do not meet the GPA requirement can still complete a (non-honors) thesis (ASTR 355/365). If the student demonstrates excellence in research during ASTR 355, they may petition to enroll in the honors thesis program. That student would then be eligible for honors in the major. We encourage students to seek out off-campus advisors in the Boston area. Please note that the 355/365 option will become available starting in 2024-2025 academic year.


Astronomy Minor

A minor in Astronomy consists of a total of five courses, including ASTR 107, ASTR 202 or ASTR 206, and at least one additional ASTR course above the 100-level. The final course may be in ASTR or in a cognate field with approval from the minor advisor.