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BA physics and BS math, or vice versa?

  1. Feb 5, 2012 #1

    I'm in my sophomore year of college right now, and I want to double major in Physics and Mathematics. The only thing I'm questioning now is whether I should do BS Physics+BA Math, or BS Math+BA Physics. The second option should be a little easier for me, as I'm ahead in math and slightly behind in physics, but both are still possible at this point. It's difficult to decide because I want to do my honors thesis in physics (so that would be BS Physics), but I also want to take as many courses in both majors as possible. Ideally, I'd like to do BS in both, but I just don't have time.

    I'm planning on going to graduate school, but I'm not 100% sure what to study yet. I'm considering a PhD in biophysics, biomedical physics, applied math, high energy physics, or possibly others. And I think I would prefer to work in industry over academia. I realize this is a little all over the place..

    If you have any advice of which route would be more advantageous as far as getting into grad school and being successful there, I would really appreciate it. Thanks!

  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 5, 2012 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    What is the difference between a BA and a BS in physics at your university, in terms of the courses that you have to take? And similarly for math?

    In the USA at least, the distinction between BA and BS is meaningless in the absence of further information, because different universities have different requirements.
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2012
  4. Feb 5, 2012 #3
    For both physics BA and BS I need the intro physics courses, some other non-physics science courses, quantum physics, oscillatory and wave phenomena, and contemporary physics (all 100-200 level). The differences are...

    BS Physics: Advanced Mechanics, Thermal Physics, Advanced Physics Lab, Quantum Theory, Electromagnetic Fields (all 300 level) and 2 other electives over 300 level

    BA Physics: four electives (300 or higher)

    For Math, both degrees have in common the calculus sequence, theoretical math, linear algebra, abstract algebra I, and real analysis. The differences are..

    BS Math: 5 electives (300 or higher), introductory physics courses, a computer science course, and a 400 level math thesis.

    BA Math: 3 elective (300 or higher)

    In both cases with the BA major, I plan to take as many courses as I can over the required
  5. Feb 5, 2012 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    Someone else can address the math side. For physics, the specific courses named are the ones that are important for grad school. Whichever combination of degrees you go for, if you take at least those physics courses, and get some research experience, you'll be OK for applying to grad schools. More physics courses would be a plus, of course, but those four lecture courses are the core that most all grad schools look for first.
  6. Feb 5, 2012 #5
    thanks, that's really great advice! I'll be sure to take those no matter which degree I choose in that case
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