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

Physics Advice for career switch into physics?

  1. Sep 19, 2007 #1
    So, I've done some research and read other posts (https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=99432) about getting a physics degree without an undergrad in physics.

    Most of the questions and answers are focused around "is it possible" and most of the answers are focused around "it's possible but very very hard", which makes sense.

    My background:
    I'm a few years out of college with a BS in Computer Science. I tested out of a few physics courses (because of AP in high school), took some more (20th century physics, vibrations + waves, etc) and did very well in them. I was also a credit or two short of a math minor (calc 1->4, diff eqs, linear algebra, etc) and did quite well in those as well.

    Now after working for a few years, I'm left wondering "why did I get a CS degree"?

    So let me rephrase the question posed in the linked post a bit:
    What kind of things would you do to prepare yourself to do post-graduate work in physics, if you were lame and got a CS degree instead?

    - Take courses in physics as a non-degree seeking student?
    - Going back to school and getting an undergrad degree?
    - Studying physics in spare time and hoping it sticks, then somehow convincing a department I know my stuff?
    - Take the Physics GRE test?
    - ???

    Thanks for any input!
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2007 #2
    Have you considered computational physics, which involves a lot of complex computer modeling of physics?
  4. Sep 19, 2007 #3
    the best way of deciding you can switch is to probably take the physics GRE, dont do well, then you will have to study more and or take physics undergrad classes.
  5. Sep 19, 2007 #4
    Do you know what field you're interested in?

    You can always try contacting professors who are doing interesting-sounding research to see if your background would give you a compelling application.

    You might also try looking at engineering programs or "applied math" - often there are professors doing physics research under these banners.
  6. Sep 19, 2007 #5
    Hi. I'm lame and have a CS degree but have an interest in physics too.

    My master plan is:
    1. Take enough upper division courses as a non-degree student to be a reasonable MS candidate.
    2. Be admitted to an MS program.
    3. Complete the MS, and take the physics GRE and get an insanely high score.
    4. Be admitted to a Ph.D. program.
    5. Complete the Ph.D. with a Nobel prize winning thesis.

    Currently, I am working on step 3. :smile:
  7. Sep 22, 2007 #6
    Funny, I am in EXACTLY the same position. Graduated with a BS in CS, worked for a couple of years and now want to pursue a Physics PhD. My undergrad was similar to yours as well, taking a few physics classes and quite a bit of math.

    What I decided to do is take a class or two each semester while I continue to work, to learn what most graduate programs expect an incoming student to know, and to prepare for the GRE. I'll be a couple of classes short of a bachelor's in Physics when I (hopefully) head off to grad school. I just started in January and my plan is to take the GRE next year and apply to schools and start a graduate program in fall of 2009.

    This is the path I decided on after talking to an acquaintance of mine that did his undergrad at the same university that I'm at (University of Utah) and went on to CalTech for his PhD. He said there was a lot of material that was just expected to be known when starting the program , which is why I decided to take most of the undergraduate classes before I would be entering the graduate program. Good luck to you, I'm sure it's possible and we can certainly try!
  8. Sep 25, 2007 #7
    I'm also in a similar situation. Went to Auburn University and studied EE. Got a job with Dell Computer and have been in Austin the past 10 years. Now, i'm feeling that my real passion is in Physics. So, i'm in the process of working myself back into academia and a BS in Physics at the University of Texas.

    My situation is a bit different in that I'm 10+ years removed from college. So, going back for a BS before moving on to taking the GRE and grad school is time well spent in myu case I think. Also, it affords me the ability to continue working at my present job while taking 3 classes each semester. Each case is a bit different...

  9. Sep 25, 2007 #8
    Hi people!

    I think my story is similar to yours; I study B.Sc. Electronics Systems Engineering, but I love physics so I started B.Sc. in Physics.

    I finished the B.Sc. Electronics Systems Engineering this past May and I stop the B.Sc. in Physics to get a job.

    Now I am working in a communications company, but I really want to finish the B.Sc. in Physics and then study a M.Sc. and a Ph.D.

    My plan is to save money and continue with B.Sc. in Physics in August 2008 and get a part time job, then continue with the M.Sc. and then Ph.D. maybe is better to save time and do the Ph.D. direct from the B.Sc. in Physics, what do you think?
  10. Sep 27, 2007 #9
    Since all of you loved/love physics....
    Why didn't you all do your B.Sc in Physics from the beginning....
    *laugh out loud*
  11. Sep 27, 2007 #10
    For me, the idea scared me. When I started my academic career I had it in my mind that it was only to get me a decent job when i exited from the other side. I feel that's really the wrong mentality to excel in academia...and my grades reflected that. So, I left college in my senior year after getting an engineering position at Dell. Ten years later, I came to the realization that this wasn't really what I WANTED to do. After some extensive soul searching and asking some tough question of myself, I know that physics is where I want to be.

    Hindsight is 20/20...for me, it was 20 years too late. But, at least I can make up for lost time now.

  12. Sep 27, 2007 #11
    In my case, I was 17 and stupid. :smile: I had been thinking about majoring in physics, but I was seduced to the Dark Side by a summer program in computing, and then I was hooked.

    I finally kicked the habit, but it took a *long* time...
  13. Oct 13, 2007 #12
    May be you guys shud try any of the instutions which offer IntP.hD programme to chk if u can apply, as most of em allow inter disclipenary work...
    Actually try the profs directly..that works faster...
    Myself had been lame duck and graduated with electronics and been working for some yrs and later got "enlightment" and decided to investigate what can i do....

    I took some initiative(actually most of em futile ) and mailed about many , many profs reg my situation and can i be inducted to get a PG/research work under his guidance, most probable most replied with a regret and some offered alt routes ...
    finally i got lucky and a prof has admitted me into his team, to study MS by research (which actually involves 2yrs of coursework) and later maybe if i'm fair enough for a PhD....but the catch is i should qualify JEST/JAM within an year to stay...in the team...and get admitted (now provisionally)....

    May be its never late...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook