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Am I too old?

  1. Jul 27, 2009 #1
    Hey yall, I just came across this forum and find it fascinating. I have always loved the science of physics just because it explains so much, and can be applied in so many applications.

    I am however almost 40 years old. I didnt do that great in high school or first year of college (wanted to play to much), but now I am kicking myself in the butt for not doing more earlier.

    I guess my question is, am I to old to get into this field do to the demanding work load it requires. I work for a nuclear pharmacy company that is about to install a cyclotron near our local office, and want to get involved in that aspect of the company. I considered a buisness degree (and still am just due to ease of getting), but something in the back of my head keeps bringing up physics.

    Can someone help this old man?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 27, 2009 #2
    Re: Am I to old?

    Once again YOU need to make a decision: work or play.

    You have the advantage of personal experience..how did your prior choice work out for you?? Only you know what makes you happy.

    I'd suggest finding out within your company what kinds of jobs might be available in the area of your interest, make known your interest, ask for the qualifications for those jobs, and see if you can get started in any while going to school for further education that might be required.
  4. Jul 27, 2009 #3


    Staff: Mentor

    Re: Am I to old?

    Do you have a family that depends on you for income? You are certainly not too old from purely mental considerations, but usually those are not the only considerations.
  5. Jul 27, 2009 #4
    Thanks for the relies. I know what my company requirements are, and why does the family depending on my income have to do with it (just askin)? My wife is about to finish her masters, she teaches high school spanish, and this has really motivated me to get my bachelors. My son is a senior in high school and will soon be out on his own so distractions are few.

    Now that Ive thought about my previous question some I should really be asking how hard is it to get a physics degree?
  6. Jul 27, 2009 #5


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    Science Advisor

    How's your aptitude for advanced mathematics? Physics is all math. If you haven't learned, or don't think you're able to learn, advanced math such as the calculus, you're probably screwed.
  7. Jul 27, 2009 #6


    Staff: Mentor

    Sorry, I thought it was obvious. You will make less as a student than you do now. If your family depends on your income then that is an important consideration.
  8. Jul 27, 2009 #7
    I wont be going back to school full time 2 maybe 3 classes max depending on what they are. I have to work and my wife works so loss of income insnt really an issue.

    As far as mathmatics, I can do upper math I just have to really study. I took pre-calc a few years ago and bombed it, but that was due to my lack of motivation. I will probably start at the beginning with algebra and work my way up so I have a good foundation to build on. I dont want to graduate when Im 100 but I know its going to take me a few extra years to get the degree.

    Thanks yall for your posts.
  9. Jul 28, 2009 #8
    One of my older friends at uni, he must be in his 30s and has a couple of kids...anyway, he's doing a physics/math major with some Compsci thrown in just for fun, and he's getting straight A's.

    I don;t see age as much of a barrier.
  10. Jul 29, 2009 #9
    Yes you will, sooner or later. If your original post asked whether you could get a BS degree in physics, the answer would be yes. It doesn't - it asks whether you're too old to get into the field.

    To get into the field of physics you'll need at least a masters, and likely a PhD. Add on a postdoc, and consider how much core math and science you need to bone up on, and you're looking at at least 10 years before you get a full time job in the field. Your graduate work will probably (there are exceptions) not allow you to work, and certainly won't allow you to work full time.

    The whole process is going to cost you a tremendous amount in time and lost income. At the end, the odds of getting a good job are pretty variable, and you will only have so much control over them.

    You're not too old to learn physics, but you're probably too responsible to try to do it for a living.
  11. Jul 29, 2009 #10
    Thank you Locrian. That post was the answer I was looking for. I love the field but I cant wait till im 60 to get the job. Should have started a little earlier I guess, but water under the bridge so I will go with plan B and see where that leads.

    Thanks all for the posts it really helped out alot.
  12. Jul 29, 2009 #11


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    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    You may find a few universities which have physics departments able to appreciate adults who are working full time and attend courses in Master's degree programs. Maybe some of these departments also arrange essential courses for undergraduate working-adults. Do some checking. Still, earning the course credit could take a few years. One finds the impression that physics departments really like to receive motivated students to attend their courses. Also, at least SOME physics & engineering students like to gather in groups to help eachother study. If you be part of such a group, you may likely find the members to be very intelligent.
  13. Jul 30, 2009 #12
    You're only as old as you think you are. The better question is are you willing to invest 6+ years of hard work to get a physics degree?

    A business degree and a physics degree are not even in the same ballpark. Business is easy and well-suited to part-time students in that it demands time, but not extensive amounts. A physics degree will mean you have to do all the necessary math background over and devote many, many more hours and possible more semesters to studying and attending classes. Do you want it enough to go through all this or do you just want a degree and thought physics would be cool? If you don't want it badly, you'll never get it and this applies to all students, not just adult ones.

    My purpose in saying this is not to discourage you; far from it, I'd actually like to see you succeed. But I have seen many people in your position (undecided, leaning between two drastically different degrees) start out with enthusiasm and then burn out because physics wasn't what they thought it was and it's not a spur-of-the-moment lifestyle.

    And since Locrian and others have already answered your question, this post is more for posterity than anything else. Anyways, I wish you good luck in whatever you choose!
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