Aim for a career with astronomical possibilities
Do you look up at night and dream of distant galaxies? Do you wonder about the origin of the universe? Explore your curiosity with a Physics and Astronomy degree from Waterloo.
Complement your foundational studies in physics and math with courses in astronomy. Interested in research? Waterloo's Centre for Astrophysics hosts aspiring young researchers and students, helping them to unlock the mysteries of the universe. Researchers will collaborate with some of the top astrophysics agencies in the world.
The program’s strong ties to Waterloo’s Institute for Quantum Computing provide additional opportunities to get involved in research. Meanwhile, if you opt for our co-op program, you’ll gain valuable résumé-building experience on your work terms.
Join a program that fosters curious minds to question the smallest particles, the largest forces, and everything in between. Where you'll get the support to possibly win a Nobel Prize in Physics (like Waterloo professor Dr. Donna Strickland) or be part of the team to take the first image of a black hole (like professor Avery Broderick).
Once you complete your degree, you’ll have what it takes to pursue specialized graduate programs or to launch directly into a career in fields like aerospace, astrophysics, or remote sensing.
Waterloo ranks 4th in Canada for physics
Earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Honours Physics and Astronomy
Physics and Astronomy admission requirements
Ontario students: six Grade 12 U and/or M courses including
- English (ENG4U) (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Advanced Functions (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Calculus and Vectors (minimum final grade of 70% is required)
- Two of Biology, Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, Mathematics of Data Management, or Physics (Chemistry, Earth and Space Science, and/or Physics are recommended)
Admission averages: Low 80s
We recommend completing the Admission Information Form once you've applied.
Not studying in Ontario? Search our admission requirements for Physical Sciences (which includes the Physics and Astronomy major).
How to apply
Apply to Physical Sciences and choose Physics and Astronomy as your major.
Physics and Astronomy at Waterloo
What will you learn?
Programs/majors in the Faculty of Science start right in first year. To select your program with confidence, here’s some handy info to get you started.
Skills you'll develop with this major
- Applied programming and data analysis
- Image analysis and manipulation
- Building and working with detector technology
- Statistical analysis techniques applicable to a wide range of disciplines
- Telescope operation
This isn't an exhaustive list – rather a glimpse into the skills a Physics and Astronomy major can provide.
Your experience will be unique, and the skills you develop will depend on your goals; which courses you take; and your involvement with any clubs, jobs, or research projects.
Types of courses you'll take
This is a general guideline. The ratio of courses may change slightly from year to year.
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Questions? Ask a student!
Contact a Science student ambassador to learn about their experience.
Ask them questions such as why they chose their program, what the classes are like, and how you can get involved on campus.
First-year courses and beyond
September to December
January to April
After first year
View a list of all the courses required for your degree.
Sample upper-year courses
Customize your Bachelor of Science degree
You can specialize with a minor in astrophysics or biophysics or choose to add additional areas of interest from across campus by including a minor or option as part of your degree.
Co-op = relevant paid work experience
By alternating school terms and paid co-op work terms throughout your degree, you can explore careers in astronomy and work for different types of employers as your career interests evolve.
Sample co-op job titles
- RADARSAT operations support assistant
- Sun-earth development program assistant
- Science & math tutor
- Undergraduate research assistant
- Software development & testing coordinator
Sample co-op employers
- Canadian Space Agency
- Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics
- CERN - European Organization for Nuclear Research
- National Research Council of Canada
What can you do with an astronomy degree?
With a Physics and Astronomy degree, you can use your passion for physics and space to pursue careers as an astronomer, aerospace scientist, or a researcher in theoretical physics, astrophysics, as well as data analysis for space and atmospheric institutes.
You can start preparing for your career during your undergrad, visit our Beyond Ideas website to learn about how Harmohit got a head start to his career with all the resources offered in Physics and Astronomy.
- Astronomer - The National Research Council's Herzberg Institute of Astrophysics
- Aerospace Scientist - NASA
- Researcher - Canadian Space Agency
- Hazard Analyst/Modeller - National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research
Learn about the future of careers in science.
Common questions about the program
What's the difference between astronomy and astrophysics? Which of the two does the program focus on?
Astronomy is more about observational physics: what you can see and observe within an entity (including our vast universe). Astrophysics uses observational physics to propose new theories and tests them through mathematical modeling. In Physics and Astronomy, you'll learn both but will focus more on observational physics.
What kind of things do you do in the astronomy labs? Do you use the observatory?
You'll use telescopes, star maps, and other instruments in your astronomy labs, and yes, one lab does use the observatory, which you can also use when it's open to the public.
Live with other Science students in a Science Academic Cluster
Offered by the Faculty of Science
Apply to Physical Sciences and select Physics and Astronomy as your major
Ready to learn more?
- Visit the Department of Physics and Astronomy website
- Related programs
As well as small class sizes, you’ll enjoy great teaching. This is a department that has racked up an impressive eight Distinguished Teaching Awards. Check out some of the research being conducted by faculty in this major on our Waterloo Stories website.