Red X iconGreen tick iconYellow tick icon

Study Physics at Otago

Physics is a search for and an application of rules that can predict the evolution of the world around us.

This includes planetary motion, quantum jumps in atoms and the propagation of light.

Through central concepts such as energy, force, particles and waves, Physics attempts to answer fundamental question about Nature, while at the same time providing solutions to technological problems.

Ready to enrol?

Get Started

Why study Physics?

Learning how the physical world works is fascinating. It is also useful. Physics will hone your thinking ability, and help you to develop high level analytical and problem solving skills. In Otago's Physics department you will get to study with some of the country's top physicists. Our research informed teaching draws from a broad spectrum of expertise areas including geophysics, optics, energy science, atomic physics, electronics, and quantum theory.

Career opportunities

An Otago degree in Physics will give you multiple future options. You could work in high-tech areas such as electronics, laser technology, smart materials, healthcare, analytics, or telecommunications.

You might find yourself working for a company developing new products or services, relying on your know-how to come to grips with the complex physical problems of the real world. By combining your study of Physics with another subject you could move into any number of specialist fields. For example, a Physics degree with particular emphasis in acoustics, combined with a music degree, might lead you to becoming an acoustics expert for a construction or architectural company.

You might move into medical physics, working on such techniques as radiotherapy and solar phototherapy. You could work at a hospital, becoming involved in important health initiatives, such as improving or evaluating a public health screening programme. If you choose to continue in Physics and physics research, you might move into areas such as atomic and laser research or energy management.

You may find yourself at sea off Antarctica, studying the effect of waves on the break up of sea ice. Such pursuits could see you working for a university, a research institute or a company specialising in a particular area of physics and its application. Once established in a particular field, you might find yourself suitably experienced to be a high-tech management consultant.

Large international organisations depend on consultants for much of their contracted work. Such positions offer great variety and, in many cases, fantastic opportunities for travel. Physics teachers are in hot demand, both here and overseas. There is an ongoing shortage of secondary school physics teachers, particularly at the higher levels. Being able to teach physics will make you a much sought after employee.

Physics at Otago

Teaching style

All courses involve a mixture of lectures and practical laboratories, so you will have plenty of opportunities to gain hands-on experience in problem solving. Several of our courses, in particular our first year courses PHSI 131 and 132, make use of “Classroom Response Systems”, where the lecturer poses a multiple-choice questions and each student submits an answer using a handheld transmitter. The submitted answers then forms the basis of engaging in-class discussions centered on pivotal concepts of Physics.

You may also be interested in

Background required

We recommend that students enrolling for a Physics degree have a background in NCEA level 3 Physics and/or Mathematics. We are always very happy to answer any questions you may have about what studying physics involves, where it might take you, and how to get off on the best possible start for your degree.


Physics as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree


Two of PHSI 131, PHSI 132, PHSI 191, or ASTR 101


Three further PHSI papers at 200-level or above, including at least one at 300-level or above. EMAN 201 may be substituted for a 200-level PHSI paper.


Note: (i) A 200- or 300-level PHSI paper can be taken in place of a 100-level paper. (ii) MATH 130 and/or MATH 140 are prerequisites or corequisites for some PHSI papers.

PHSI papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
PHSI131 2024 Fundamentals of Physics I 18 Semester 1
PHSI132 2024 Fundamentals of Physics II 18 Semester 2
PHSI191 2024 Biological Physics 18 Semester 1, Summer School
PHSI221 2024 Classical and Quantum Mechanics 18 Semester 1
PHSI222 2024 Electromagnetism 18 Semester 2
PHSI243 2024 Environmental Physics 18 Semester 1
PHSI245 2024 Electronics for the Sciences 18 Semester 2
PHSI282 2024 Experimental Physics I 18 Semester 1
PHSI307 2024 Special Topics 18 Not offered in 2024
PHSI308 2024 Special Topics 18 Not offered in 2024
PHSI331 2024 Quantum, Atomic and Particle Physics 18 Semester 2
PHSI336 2024 Mathematical Physics 18 Semester 2
PHSI341 2024 Thermal and Condensed Matter Physics 18 Semester 1
PHSI343 2024 Waves in Physical Systems 18 Semester 1
PHSI365 2024 Computational Physics 18 Semester 1
PHSI381 2024 Experimental Physics II 18 Semester 2
PHSI421 2024 Advanced Statistical Mechanics 10 Semester 1
PHSI422 2024 Upper Atmospheric and Space Physics 10 Semester 2
PHSI423 2024 Advanced Quantum Mechanics I 10 Semester 1
PHSI424 2024 Advanced Quantum Mechanics II 10 Semester 2
PHSI425 2024 Advanced Electromagnetism 10 Semester 1
PHSI426 2024 Fluids, Instability and Turbulence 10 Semester 2
PHSI437 2024 Topics in Advanced Physics 10 Not offered in 2024
PHSI438 2024 Topics in Advanced Physics 10 Not offered in 2024
PHSI480 2024 Research Project 40 Semester 1, Semester 2, Full Year, 1st Non standard period
PHSI490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year

More information

Contact us

Department of Physics


Studying at Otago

This information must be read subject to the statement on our Copyright & Disclaimer page.

Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

Back to top