Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Programs 40 year old considering phd

  1. Jun 11, 2006 #1
    hello all. i'm considering pursuing a phd in physics. i love science and always have. i would still have to get my undergraduate degree first. i've got a degree in psych already so i would just need to take the required physics and math courses. my main concern is being discriminated against because of my age when applying to grad schools. it may not even be malicious disrimination. i don't mind being 50 or so when i finish. i'm gonna be 50 anyway (i hope) so i might as well be 50 with a phd in physics!! i'm not concerned with making a lot of money either.
    any thoughts?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 11, 2006 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    I can say, without any reservation, that your age has no bearing on your acceptance into any school, if you qualify. If you can pay for your education, there's no reason why they wouldn't accept you. After all, it's not as if you're going to stay at those schools forever and seek jobs there, you're PAYING to go there!

    What I would be more concerned with is if you have a clear understanding of what is involved in such an endeavor and how long it can take.

  4. Jun 11, 2006 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Do it. I have a friend who just finished Law School at the age of 65, and is enjoying his new career.

    Reilly Atkinson
  5. Jun 11, 2006 #4
    If you want to do it, do it. My mother's fifty and she's planning on getting her PHD. Your age will have nothing to do with you getting into a school, trust me, if you have the grades and money they'll let you in.

    Whoot! Good for you! I know that a lot of my friends that are around that age don't seem to have much ambition anymore, it's really great to see that someone that actually <i>wants</i> to go back to school and such!

    =) Good luck with it, I really do hope you do it!
  6. Jun 12, 2006 #5
    That's a big SHAME to people in Japan, no one is 40 when they go to college here. Japanese students are very young and very intelligent, they can do everything, from science to engineering. They are all patriotic, like my children (my wife is a Japanese). So you can believe that ALL professors are the strongest in THEORY of EVERYTHING.

    What can you do at college when you are already 40,50 ? It's hard to understand what the professors explain even a simple natural phenomenon, but you know you are already skillful enough to read their criticism, hretorics or word attacks especially when you do something irritating them.
  7. Jun 12, 2006 #6
    That point helps me..hmmm..understand where I should live. My country is much better a place to live than Canada. In Japan, we pay only ~$120/year for health insurance, cheaper than other countries. Most of the people are quite much influenced by Budhism's teaching over their behaviors.
    No creationism of course is in Budhism (sp?) only about human behaviors. I didn't have a religion. After moving to japan and getting married, I am now with my wife for Budhism. It's a source of social behaviors to learn.

    Being 40 to college isn't something weird to me because I am not a kid who knows nothing about the world. My grandfather was 32 when he first stepped into high-school. And you know he sat next to a little naughty girl who became my grandmother then.
  8. Jun 12, 2006 #7
    Jon Ruba, oh that sonds not bad, tell me somthng abuot ur area.
    Iam living in Macau, nice to know u know my name :rolleyes:
  9. Jun 12, 2006 #8
    Aka dada for the complete_ness of a play I just turned off all watchable cameras, that would sound more natural, I think.
    I work for a television station here, in Japan. I know ur name because I searched your profile. The social wellfare here is completely much better than Canada. I have some friends from Canada, so I can be sure of that.
    If you have any specific question, feel free to make.
  10. Jun 12, 2006 #9


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Let's make sure we stick to the original post of this thread and not derail it into a discussion of social structure of various countries.

  11. Jun 12, 2006 #10


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    David, I would suggest (actually, this is probably copying advice given by Zz a long time ago) you take at look at something like the Physics GRE sample problems and see if you feel comfortable with any of them. Getting a physics degree involves a lot of math, and it is very little like anything you read in pop-sci books or anything you watch on the Discovery/Science Channel.

    http://www.ets.org/Media/Tests/GRE/pdf/Physics.pdf [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 2, 2017
  12. Jun 13, 2006 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    go for it hoss. what is the downside? the upside is years of challenging and interesting learning and work, possibly followed by a career in an area you love.
  13. Jun 15, 2006 #12
    Possible career and family obligations are downsides. Also, financial issues.
  14. Jul 5, 2006 #13
    Hey Ripper,

    You still around? I would like to talk to you.
  15. Jul 6, 2006 #14


    User Avatar

    I don't see how they should play a role necessarily.

    Career - you should do a PhD for the love of it, not to land a career.

    Family - maybe, if there are children to support.

    Money - see career.
  16. Jul 6, 2006 #15
    this sounds interesting //..i want to know more about this ..if yiu do eventually decide to go ..plz do come back and tell us all about it...
  17. Jul 6, 2006 #16
    IF you have a family to support then the career becomes important to maintain, as a 40 yr old probably has a strong foothold in a career already. The three are obvious issues one faces when considering grad school.
  18. Jul 7, 2006 #17


    User Avatar

    Why maintain a career?

    If the OP feels it will be beneficial for his well-being to do a PhD, he should go for it.

    And, if he has had a good job up to now, he'll probably have enough money to finance the PhD plus his wife may work and bring in the bacon.

    You've got to enjoy life first, work second.
  19. Jul 7, 2006 #18
    40 is the age I'll be when I resume school for an eventual PhD in Physics, so of course I'm biased when I say go for it. In five years, I'll have finished a 20-year career in the Air Force, and I'll have that retirement pay and the GI Bill to fund my "Life, Part 2" as a physicist. I have a 20-month-old son, and by the time he's of an age to ask what his dad does, I'll tell him I'm a student of physics.

    Living outside the norm (or what's expected of everyone, as if we're racing) is really very gratifying and exciting. It used to bother me that I wasn't some top-earner by the time I was in my 30s, but that doesn't bother me any more. That's a youth-driven thing, and shallow at that.

    Don't let age deter you from chasing that dream. Personally, I can't wait to get back to it. I will already have a Computer Science bachelor's degree when I get out of the Air Force, so It's good to have something to earn money with in case things go wrong. Just be prepared for that. I'm sure this won't be easy (for either of us).

    Good Luck! I'm very interested in how you do!
  20. Jul 7, 2006 #19
    I am glad this thread was begun. I left grad school before completing my phd to form my own company. Since then, I have continued my research, but independently. Two years ago I decided to publish some of my work.
    But I was out of the "academic community" and unsure how to proceed.

    The thought of completing my phd did occur to me, but it didn't seem realistic, unless I found a researcher who was really in need of an assistant and would be glad for more mature help.
  21. Jul 9, 2006 #20
    Hi 'Ripper',

    I began PhD studies at the age of 44, after a very busy, full Engineering Consulting career. I had set this as a target on my life's trajectory.

    When I completed my original Undergraduate degree, I was already married & could not afford to continue onto Post-Graduate studies. I promised myself that I would make the switch around mid-life.

    It has been a very interesting experience for me. In the almost 20 years since my Undergrad program, numerical science has made leaps-&-bounds. We are able to perform calculations today on desktop pc's, that were only a gleam in the Prof's eyes 20 years ago. I have focused on learning the Numerical techniques needed to solve CFD-type problems. With an 'older head', it has allowed me to see details that many Profs have glossed over & allowed me to make some breakthroughs.

    Beware though, that you can begin to outrun your advisors as the coursework hones your mental agility. I would advise you to not select a particular adviser until you have spent at least 1 year pre-studying & expanding your mental horizons out of your previous mindsets. I have had to recently re-build my supervision team as the original scope of study began to shift into a novel, new area that the previous advisors simply could not support. There is always the possibility that an adviser may try to 'hold you down' if he/she becomes threatened academically - this was my case. This is where your age can often be a threat to potential advisers.

    Go into the PhD program with the intention of having fun & making discoveries - both in science & about yourself... :wink:

Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook