Physics is the most basic science. Physics covers the universe from the smallest sub-atomic particles to the largest supernova. The study of physics is the quest to understand the laws that govern everything we see (and many things we don't) and how those laws can be used to make new devices.
The WWU Physics Department focuses on hands-on physics, with a machine shop designed specifically for undergraduate students in the department. As a physics major at WWU, you'll spend significant time in advanced labs and doing practical work with faculty. You will be encouraged to participate in undergraduate research programs—many of which will pay you to work in the summer. Most WWU physics majors take a summer to do research at other facilities—including trips to Asia or Europe as part of summer work.
As a WWU physics major, you can have confidence in your education—all but two of our physics graduates from 2010–2021 who applied were accepted into graduate schools with tuition and living expenses covered.
- Industry – research and development, software, management, etc.
- Teaching – high school and university
- Patent law
- Medical research
What do Physicists do?
Everything. A Physicists is the high-tech "Jack-of-all-Trades". Some jobs that WWU teachers or graduates have held are computer drafting at a semi-conductor equipment manufacturer, teaching at the high school and college level, managing in a high-tech company, programming at a phone company, researching on a quantum computer project, processing financial data, and managing a factory.
You may even have heard of some of the more famous physicists. Einstein, Fermi, and Feynman are still studied in history books for their work on atomic weapons and power. Gorden Moore, co-founder of Intel, holds a Ph.D. in Chemistry and Physics. Angela Merkel, current Chancellor of Germany, has a degree in physics.
What do Physicists earn?
Salaries depend on the type of job you take and on the education level you have. Salaries for a bachelors degree range from $50k to $70k per year. If you teach high school, your salary will be on the lower end of that range. If you work for the government, it will be in the center. If you work for a company like Intel, Google, AMD, TI, or Applied Materials, it will be on the higher end of that range. Completing a Ph.D. in physics increases this amount considerably. Starting salaries in the private sector range from $95k to $125k per year. This salary increases further with experience.
Research Experience for Undergrads
Students are encouraged to participate in a Research Experience for Undergrads (REU) during the summer between their junior and senior years. REU programs are conducted at many universities and national labs throughout the United States.
In the last few years WWU physics majors have completed REU sessions at Kansas State, the Laboratory of Atmospheric and Space Physics, Loma Linda University, Oregon State, Princeton, Purdue, University of British Columbia, University of Florida, and the University of Washington.
Research at WWU
Each summer, research projects are conducted on the WWU campus.
The construction of the Kretschmar Observatory has allowed Walla Walla University to take a leading role in supporting students in an age when they are being challenged to learn and integrate tremendous advances in the understanding of our universe. This is an opportunity that should not be missed.
The observatory is situated on the roof of Kretschmar Hall and is accessible via stair from the third floor of Kretschmar Hall and via elevator from Chan Shun Pavilion. It is currently equipped with a 16" Schmidt-Cassegrain telescope and an external observation deck for use by smaller telescopes.
The observatory is open for majors in the department and is used in several classes including Physical Science and Astrophysics.