Courses Away from Duke

Summer Vs. Non-Summer (Full Semester) Courses

Before deciding to take a summer intro physics course, please appreciate that you will master physics more thoroughly if you learn physics over a full 14-week semester at Duke rather than try to learn the same amount of physics in less than half the time during a 6-week summer course. For this reason, the Physics, Chemistry, Biology, and Neuroscience Departments strongly recommend that you take physics during the school year, not during the summer.

For life-science students, the Physics Department also strongly recommends that you take a calculus-based intro physics course. Some of the most fundamental concepts in physics such as velocity and acceleration are defined via derivatives, and your understanding will be fuzzy and unsatisfying if you try to learn physics in an algebra-based course. Fortunately, only a modest amount of calculus is required for most intro physics courses for life science students, corresponding to about one page of formulas. For most students, it is not calculus that makes intro physics challenging but the large amount of material covered together with various abstract physical concepts (force, momentum, energy, torque, electric fields, magnetic fields, flux, etc) that take time and practice to understand.

Obtaining Course Credit

Please follow these steps to obtain credit for a physics course that you took away from Duke:

1.  Obtain approval IN ADVANCE of your course by the Director of Undergraduate Studies and by your academic dean (see the Registrar's instructions for transfer courses). Please appreciate that the Physics Department is under no obligation to look at your transfer request if you take a summer course first and then try to get approval — you have been warned.

Your course must be taken at an accredited four-year college or university. Community college courses are not acceptable. 

When requesting approval from the Physics DUS, please give the following information with your transfer credit request form to the Physics DUS Assistant in Room 131 of Physics (Spring 2020: while campus is closed, please email PDFs of each document to

  • The title, edition, and author of the textbook used.
  • A detailed list of the lecture topics. A brief paragraph description from a college bulletin or a list of chapter numbers from some text is not acceptable. A full syllabus is preferable.
  • A list of the titles of the labs done as part of the course.

It is not acceptable to provide this information in the form of web addresses. You need to provide each document requested as an email attachment. Also please note, DUS approval is based on course content and is provisional. The course must also satisfy a 70-contact-hour requirement and other requirements given here to be counted by Trinity as equivalent to Duke credit.

2.  Obtain a grade of C- or higher in your course.

3.  Arrange for the institution where you took your course to send a transcript to Duke's Registrar's Office.

What will appear on your transcript?

If you took a calculus-based introductory physics course, with a laboratory component, and if you got a C- or better grade, and if the Physics DUS approves the course as being sufficiently similar to one of Duke's introductory physics courses in content (lectures and labs), then you will get a PHYSICS XXX on your transcript, where XXX will be 141L or 142L for life science majors, and will be 151L or 152L for engineering students.

Any physics course that is determined by the Physics DUS as not being sufficiently close to a Duke course will show up as a PHYSICS 100L on your transcript for an intro course, or as 200L for an upper-level course. In particular, any algebra-based intro physics course (with a lab) will show up as  PHYSICS 100L on the transcript, since all intro physics courses at Duke use calculus. Courses without labs, whether calculus-based or not, will show up as PHYSICS 100.

Be aware that some majors require calculus-based physics. Be sure to check with your major advisor about requirements.