Academic Track

For those planning a graduate degree in the field


The major in Astronomy and Astrophysics is a math- and physics-intensive path with a research component for those planning a graduate degree in the field. It is designed to help students mount competitive applications for external undergraduate research opportunities and the country’s top graduate programs.

Students generally declare an astronomy major during the second semester of their sophomore year, but are advised to meet with the undergraduate advisor soon as they begin considering it. This helps ensure they’re prepared with the right courses and are taking advantage of all the opportunities the department has to offer.

Course Requirements for the
Astronomy & Astrophysics Major

Courses in blue also meet the requirements for physics majors (on both the Interdisciplinary and Professional Plans).

Math 115 Calculus I 4 FWSpS
Math 116 Calculus II 4 FWSpS
Math 215 Calculus III 4 FWSpS
Math 216 Introduction to Differential Equations 4 FWSpS
Physics 160/161 or (Physics 140/141 and EECS 183, ENGR 101, or an equivalent computing course approved by the Astronomy department advisor) General Physics I; Elementary Lab I 5 FW
Physics 240/241 or 260/261 General Physics II; Elementary Lab II 5 FW
Physics 340 or 360 Waves, Heat, and Light 3 FW
Astro 201 Introduction to Astrophysics 4 FW
Astro 361 Astronomical Techniques 4 F
Astro 399* Introduction to Research 1-3 FWSpS
Astro 402 Stellar Astrophysics 3 F
Astro 404 Galaxies and the Universe 3 W
Astro 429** Senior Seminar (satisfies the senior writing requirement) 3 W
Physics 390 Introduction to Modern Physics 3 FW
Physics 401 Intermediate Mechanics 3 FW
Physics 405 Intermediate Electricity and Magnetism 3 FW
Physics 453 Quantum Mechanics 3 FW
One of the following courses    
Physics 351 Methods of Theoretical Physics 3 F
Physics 411 Introduction to Computational Physics 3 FW
One of the following electives (Students may substitute a graduate astronomy class for an elective)
Astro 403*** Interstellar Medium 3 F
Astro 405*** High-Energy Astrophysics 3 W
Astro 406*** Computational Astrophysics 3 F
Astro 461 Ground-Based Observatories 3-4 Sp/alt

*Introduction to Research (Astro 399) is generally taken junior or senior year. Students are assigned a faculty instructor based on their background and interests, and participate in an ongoing research project. Previous project papers have been published in astrophysical journals. Credit varies by project.

**This course is 3 credits as of winter 2016 pending LSA Curriculum Committee approval.

***These courses are offered on an irregular basis; students interested in taking them should inform the undergraduate advisor of their interest and are advised to register for them when they appear on the schedule.

Additional Recommended Courses

Some optional but useful courses are listed below.


Physics 406* Statistical and Thermal Physics
Physics 402 Optics
Physics 457 Subatomic Physics

Computer Science

EECS 182* Building Application for Information Environments (Python-based)
EECS 183 Elementary Programming Concepts (C++)
EECS 285 Programming and Computer Systems (after 183)

Atmospheric, Oceanic and Space Sciences

AOSS 202 The Atmosphere
AOSS 204 Introduction to Planetary and Space Sciences
AOSS 480 The Planets: Composition, Structure, and Evolution

*Physics 406 and EECS 182 are strongly recommended.

Honors Concentration

Students who are interested in scholarly research in astronomy and have a cumulative GPA of 3.5 or higher are encouraged to consider the honors concentration. (Students with a lower GPA may be admitted at the discretion of the undergraduate advisor.) The program requires a senior honors thesis based on research done with a faculty member. Interested students should consult the undergraduate advisor by the beginning of their junior year.

Physics Double Major

You can double major in physics on one of two tracks – the Interdisciplinary Physics Plan (AB or BS) or the Professional Physics Plan (BS).

The Interdisciplinary Physics degree requires six credits from a cognate department, which are automatically satisfied if you are majoring in Astronomy & Astrophysics. In addition, you need only nine additional hours in physics to complete a double major in Interdisciplinary Physics. This includes Physics 406 plus six hours from Physics 402, 411, 413, 419, 435, 452, 457, 460, 463, or 489.

A double major in Professional Physics requires additional coursework.

For details on the requirements, please see:

If you plan to pursue a double major, please contact the undergraduate advisor at to ensure your course plan meets the requirements for both departments.


Students with a science, math, or engineering major can often incorporate the added dimension of a minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics with only a few additional courses if their degrees already require a significant background in physics.

Click here to see the requirements for a minor in Astronomy and Astrophysics.

For more information

For insight into getting the most out of a major on the Academic Track at Michigan Astronomy, please see an alumnus' Advice to Undergraduates on the Academic Track.