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Other At almost 39 am i to old to study BSc Physics

  1. Jul 13, 2016 #1
    I am 38 yrs old, I have a grade A in A-level mathematics, grade A in both Mathematics and Physics at GCSE, an average IQ (if their is indeed such a thing lol) and have always been interested in Physics but was talked out of pursuing it when I was younger by an arrogant relative who was a Physics grad from Imperial who stated you have to be intellectually outstanding to succeed and find employment in this field, I regretfully listened to his advice, however recently I have got this urge to pursue an Open Uni course in Physics, it will cost a fair bit, yet I would like to know what kind of opportunities if any, would await me if I graduated since the only work experience I possess is working in a Natwest call centre and the family takeaway business.
    Since I have been out of education for many years ,would the work be too challenging for a individual of generally regular ability though somewhat decent mathematical ability.
    IS IT WORTH IT? A response would be much appreciated by those in the know.Kudos
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  3. Jul 13, 2016 #2

    Larry Gopnik

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    It's never too late to study Physics and it is worth it. I'm not sure much about the Open Uni course on Physics but I can destify that mature students can succeed well. At my university (Salford) we have quite a few mature students, one in their 50s and they do just as well as the students of "normal" age. I'm told that in the 1990s, a woman in her 70s took the course (although I don't know how well she did)!

    I know that the mature students have had access into my Uni by doing an access course through their local college as a way to get them up to scratch before going into the first year of the degree - something which may be of interest to you.

    As for the cost - it's a shame that our government makes us pay so much for education. I will personally, after my degree, walk out with £55k worth of student debt, but I know that my need and ambition for Physics means that I am willing to deal with the money fallout afterwards.

    Oppotunities: so many places look into hiring people with a Physics degree, not just going into research or engineering but finance, media, business - they want graduates with the problem solving skills and other skills that the Physics degree gives you. My uncle owns a big telecommunication company and says that he looks for Physics graduates instead of Computer Science graduates as it is much easier to teach the Physicist the programming and computer aspect than it is to teach another person the problem solving skills and other skills that a Physicist learns on their degree.

  4. Jul 13, 2016 #3
    Hi Larry
    Thank you for the prompt response, It is reassuring to know that their are even students in their 50s who are succeeding in their endeavors, certainly gives me some hope.

    An access course or perhaps undertaking A-level Physics may well be the correct course of action, the one thing that certainly deters me from a regular university place is the cost as you pointed out £55k is an outrageous amount however in an Open Uni course you can break it down incrementally over a period of 16 years which would make the course somewhat easier to succeed in yet preclude me from lucrative job opportunities, so if I do decide, I would ideally like to complete a BSc in 5 yrs.

    As you pointed out all the the skills gained in analytical, mathematical and critical thinking will surely hold me in good stead no matter what career path I choose, as they say their is no degree more challenging and intellectually more fruitful than a Physics degree, I only hope my age and lack of experience does not lead to any potential discrimination.
    Once again thank you Larry for your prompt and insightful response. kudos
  5. Jul 14, 2016 #4


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    Age is a number, not a curse. A pro soccer career may not be realistic, but, even granny moses took up painting late in life and did alright with it.
  6. Jul 16, 2016 #5
    You don't say what your goals and expectations are.

    I don't think having 'an interest in physics' is enough for pursuing a degree. I also think that you are sure now you ought to have gone for a physics BSc in the past, that doesn't automatically mean you ought to try it today.

    Can you go get a BSc, an MSc, and a PhD, starting at your age? Sure. Will it be easy or hard? No one can be sure about that.
    Will you be happier in your life by signing up into a BSc physics program? Completely unclear.
  7. Jul 16, 2016 #6
    Well I am not exactly sure on what I should expect from a employment perspective, that is why I made my initial post, I was looking for some feedback in regards to that issue. Even if one did not gain any meaningful employment, a sure benefit may be that one enhances their problem, analytical and critical thinking skill which I presume could help in all spheres of life, is this enough to go for a BSc Physics, perhaps for me it may be enough, but I have to weigh up how challenging the course will be, I hear it is notoriously challenging but then I was told that about A-level maths and certainly did not find it difficult and passed with a grade A, I would need to know on average how many hours do undergrad Phyics students spend on studies per day to ?
  8. Jul 17, 2016 #7
    Is your goal to be employed as a physicist, or is your goal to do 3 years of studying, then move on with your life as it were?
  9. Jul 17, 2016 #8
    I do not necessarily seek to find employment as a physicist as I have heard from many it is an extremely hard field to break into even for able 21 year olds, my goal is to challenge myself in a subject I have always been passionate about and as a bonus perhaps find some work opportunity in finance etc btw I have no plans for full time study, I am thinking of doing a part-time degree perhaps over a period of 6 years, 3 years would probably be too tough for my self as I am a man of average ability who has been out of study for almost 20 years.kudos
  10. Jul 17, 2016 #9
    Does learning the concepts take effort and time? Yes. But it is certainly doable for many, including those of "average ability", of course. I've met people with a wide range of backgrounds during my undergrad; although they were not all savants, the persistent quality I found in many of the successful students is that they wanted to learn. This process may or may not be easy for you, but don't keep knocking yourself down before you've even tried.
  11. Jul 18, 2016 #10
    Motivation and the right mindset is everything. Though it can be disheartening to see fellow students put in no effort and excel.
    Then it hits you just how smart some people can be. But that's all besides the point.

    I have only heard about how hard it is to have a full time job and be a part-time student. I haven't done it. I am a 33 year old full time student.
    When there are many things going on in your life, it is hard to set priorities and it is hard to have enough motivation for your part-time studies.
    For many people that will not be an experience to enjoy, in itself. So if it is the experience you are after, consider that. Life is a journey and you can onyl live in the present. You have to enjoy the moment, or else you'll be disappointed when you put yourself through a hard life, and there's no expected reward at the end.

    I think it is a hard decision. Do you physics mainly for fun, why not learn it informally or casually?
    If you want to work hard and get a job with your new degree, maybe something more applied is better.
  12. Jul 18, 2016 #11
    Just out of curiosity are you studying Physics?
    Motivation and passion certainly are the main ingredients for those of us who certainly are not blessed with brilliance, on that we can certainly agree.
    I am in full-time work and I can imagine how hard even part-time studies will be, the question is will it be worth it, you made some excellent points "Life is a journey and you can only live in the present. You have to enjoy the moment, or else you'll be disappointed when you put yourself through a hard life, and there's no expected reward at the end". The answer to this question for me is studying for a Physics degree will expand my mental horizons, I mean I also have an interest in modern history but that surely will not challenge my brain and develop it in a way that Physics will and can.
    I could learn it casually but then my studies will not be as focused as I will not be adhering to deadlines and if I pay thousands of pounds I will surely put more effort in to getting my moneys worth. In regards to your final point , I will not be looking for a job in an engineering or physics discipline , I am not enough of an optimist for this, I really have to be realistic, I would like a finance job, but prefer to study Physics over finance/accountancy as Physics is so much more interesting and better looking on a CV.
    And if I do not go ahead with a degree program I will without doubt take up both A-level Physics and Electronics and try to gain grade A in both subjects.Kudos
  13. Mar 1, 2018 #12


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    Fueled by a desire to heal some self inflicted wounds, I went back to uni at age 32 with a wife, kid, debt, and few assets in tow. I have no Phd or 6 figure jobs to show for the effort, but, a 'failure is not an option' mentality did foster development of resilience.and creative problem solving skills.
  14. Mar 17, 2018 #13
    I see this was bumped, but that the OP probably isn't reading this.

    To answer the question the OP did ask, I do not study pure physics. I study biochemistry/life sciences with a biophysics specialization. All groups I worked in so far have been led by physics PI's employing multidisciplinary people.

    I graduated with cum laude for my BSc at age 34. Now I am close to my master thesis already. Yes, was in a 'failure is not an option'-mindset as well. I tried to explain this to my fellow students, but they didn't understand. They observed my attitude and mindset, and they found it strange that this was in the back of my mind.

    That said, I don't have a wife or kids. In fact, I had no social network whatsoever as I came from a period of 10 years of depression with nu support from anyone.

    So I am in a situation where my fellow students are enjoying student life, fully. Their student life comes first. Then their studies. They are having the experience of their life. I am not. I am alone, most of the time. I am lazy and not as intelligent, so boredom and loneliness (which I am almost insensitive to) allow me to study.

    And my age peers, they are all getting kids and buying houses, stuff like that.

    And I have neither. Except a 10 year gap in my life, some potential friends, and a cum laude BSc degree with good prospects to finish a PhD eventually.
    I also went back to heal wounds, and in that I succeeded. But the expectations of what I have now fro myself and from life also multiplied maybe a factor 10, (and I say that as a scientist). So I actually have many more desires that are unfulfilled then when I was miserable because now I want to be with the top 1% of successful/cool/interesting people when when I started I wanted to avoid being in the bottom 1% (putting it in black-white words so it at least reflects somewhat the complex feeling I have).

    This is also why I am often skeptical of people who come here and say they want to study physics part time for intellectual curiosity. They do not seem to look forward to the experience. They somehow seem to feel that completing a physics degree will somehow give them some form of enlightenment or ascendancy. Maybe they feel something is missing in their lives, and physics is the answer. Some kind of access to a special way to view the world. Yes, science is interesting. But getting a physics (or chemistry or whatever) degree is also kind of getting a big hammer that you can use to hammer down on small nails you may not care about (ie doing research).
  15. Mar 18, 2018 #14
    Asteropaeus, are you happy with your decision to go back to school or not? It's a little hard to tell from your post. I guess it's always hard to say what "the road not taken" would have been like, but do you think you'd still choose school, if the alternative could have been a job, a house, and a family?
  16. Mar 20, 2018 #15
    Considering I was depressed staying in my room at my parent's (toxic alcoholics) place, yes.

    It was the abyss, or back to school. It's just that now I learned I could have had a associate position, a wife, kids, a house, etc. I never knew I could. But I guess I couldn't, really. But I did have the potential, given other circumstances.

    It is just that I have the type of life that has no analogy in other people's lives. And I guess I see the glass as being half empty because I neither have what my student peers have nur what my age peers have.
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