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Can an applied physics graduate be a theoretical physicist?

  1. Aug 28, 2015 #1
    Hello, can an applied physics graduate be able to be a theoretical physicist? Our school only offers applied physics major in instrumentation but they do send students to do interns/ojt (on the job training) to CERN and various universities all over the world. I know applied physics is more like engineering, but i want to be a theoretical physicist. So can I a degree in just Physics (not applied nor engineering) in graduate school with a bachelors degree in applied physics? Btw i also love high energy/particle/nuclear physics in fact it's my favorite branch of physics, another question, can I work as particle physicist with a bachelors degree in applied physics + future PhD degree? I want Theoretical Physics, QFT, Astrophysics and Particle Physics and i can't choose between any of those :( i'm sorry if i have so much question i just don't know what i really want to do in life :( thank you and have a nice day!:)
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 28, 2015 #2
    I am from the philippines btw not from usa :)
  4. Aug 28, 2015 #3


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    I don't know much about the educational system in the Philippines specifically, but generally speaking it's best to avoid too much specialization in undergrad. The point of an undergraduate degree in physics is to give you a foundation in physics. I'm usually suspicious of specialized programs - not that they're necessarily bad, but it brings up the question of what components of the typical foundation are they sacrificing for the specialization.

    Most graduate programs in physics will look for students who have this foundation.

    One thing to look into is where the graduates of your current program are ending up. Are at least some of them getting into decent graduate schools? Are any of them entering the fields you're interested in.

    The other thing to consider is that you seem to be looking at the situation backwards. You're saying "I go to this school and the only program I can take is one that is not what I'm specifically interested in" whereas it would seem more appropriate to ask "I want to do this kind of program, what schools offer it." Of course, that assumes that you have a choice in the matter. Not everyone does.
  5. Aug 29, 2015 #4

    Meir Achuz

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    Whether you can go into theoretical physics will be determined by how well you do in graduate school. For now just try to do the best you can in the courses you are taking, so you can get into a decent graduate school.
  6. Sep 4, 2015 #5


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    I had an applied physics BS and am now a theoretical physicist, so its not impossible at all. Hell, I got accepted into graduate school thinking i was going to do more applied/materials physics and switched to theory my first semester.

    The field is currently saturated with PhD's though, so be forewarned.
  7. Oct 8, 2015 #6
    Hello thanks for all your answers! :D
  8. Oct 9, 2015 #7
    Hi. When discussing with my doctorate colleagues in a Laser institute, they (some of them having studied theoretical physics with QFT and the like in their Master) said, that it strongely depends on your specifications (the more math and theory the better) and its much more easy the other way round, meaning going from theory to applied physics.
  9. Oct 9, 2015 #8
    I think it might depend on the actual contents of the degree for example the only applied physics degree I know of is one where you study for a regular degree in physics + an extra year for specialization in optics so you might want to take a look at the curriculum itself instead of looking at the title
  10. Oct 9, 2015 #9
    Exactly! A climate physicist might(!) have it harder than a particle physicist or astrophysicist.
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