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Can i finish a physics degree in 2 years

  1. May 27, 2010 #1
    I just complete year 1. I am a math major and i am attending a 3-year curriculum university. I want to learn sth more concrete than math so i wish i can major in physics. Can i finish physics degree in 2 years?
    1.In my estimate, i can take all the core courses but will they be enough if i want to apply for grad school?
    2. Can i take back the advanced undergrad courses if i enter grad school?
    3. Can i defer intentionally(say half year) and take the the advanced undergrad courses?
    I think i will pick physics up quite fast as i have the basic math foundations(linear algebra)
    Love this forum.
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. May 27, 2010 #2
    I'm in a similar situation. I have already been in school sometime, and am technically starting the physics program in the fall, and wish to finish in 3 years.

    2 years however, seems like suicide honestly. Have you taken any physics classes at all? If not you'd be going from intro physics to quantum mechanics in 2 years. Professors I have talked to have already warned me about trying to complete in 3 years, so I can't imagine the headache you'd put yourself through trying in 2 years. If you did that, you would certainly have to take at least 3-4 major courses per semester. I guess it depends on the pre req's but at my university they wont even let you take the upper level courses until after a year of calculus based intro physics. If this is the case for you too, which I'm betting it is, you would be forced to take upper level CM, E&M, and QM all at the same time. This is pretty much a guaranteed fail, or at least not very good grades.

    I mean you can try it if your prof's will yet you, but you could just finish your major in math and minor in physics? You could get the basics of physics down, and I'm positive you will have better grades than trying to do the whole physics curriculum in 2 years. Better grades=better chance of grad school.
  4. May 27, 2010 #3


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    I don't know the specifics of your situation, but my knee-jerk reaction is that it will be detrimental to your health!

    You really need to talk to your academic adviser. If achieving your goal would mean that you'd need to load up 20+ credits per semester, then that wouldn't leave much time for eating and sleeping, which are very important. Ambition is double-edged sword; use it wisely!
    Last edited: May 27, 2010
  5. May 27, 2010 #4
    Since you got most of the maths down it should be far from impossible, I did most of it including all the normal maths + extra maths in 2 years.

    I don't get it when people say that you shouldn't study only physics courses parallel, it is what normal students have to do in the rest of the world so why not in the USA? Yes you might have to work your *** off from time to time but is that really a problem?
  6. May 27, 2010 #5


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    Working one's tail off is one thing, not enough hours in a day is another. Without knowing how many credits s/he has to complete to obtain the degree, and what prerequisites s/he has or doesn't have, one cannot assume that hard work will be all it's going to take.

    Sure, the math classes are out of the way, but what does that tell any of us about how many hours per day s/he is going to need to devote to physics courses in this specific program? The only thing we have is that s/he has completed linear algebra and one year of studies in a 3 year program, about which we have little information.

    I'm not saying that there is no truth to your post (I agree with your statements), but it is still prudent to consult an academic adviser with regards to one's academic plans. I meet with mine at the beginning of every semester - it has made my life much easier.
  7. May 27, 2010 #6
    That doesn't mean it's a good idea. There may be a slim chance that you can come through a degree in 2 years, but is it worth rushing yourself to the extent where you are taking a risk? Why not take the courses at a more reasonable pace and allow yourself to get a good grip on everything you're being taught?

    Taking your degree over 4 years is better for many reasons: there is no race. Physics is about practice and experience. Completing everything you can as quickly as possible will mean you're limiting your experience; as well as the fact that I honestly don't believe the regular human mind is suited to cramming this much information into such a short amount of time. Your undergraduate degree is the foundation, hopefully for the rest of your career - make sure it's done properly. If you're positive you can do this in 2 years, then sure, go for it.

    But you also need to remember that success in careers isn't just about smarts - you need to have excellent social skills, especially to survive in grad school. Undergraduate university is a good time to exercise your social muscle, meet lots of people and build up contacts for the future. You'll also get the opportunity to carry out undergraduate projects, get involved in physics outreach as well as the many other things that come along with pursuing a degree.

    Anyway, at the end of the day this isn't my or anyone elses choice. You need to make a decision that you think best suits your needs and wants. Weight everything up and be careful when you're coming to a conclusion - these years are important! :smile:
  8. May 27, 2010 #7
    There is also much more math to learn for physics - differential equations, differential geometry, functional analysis, group theory, noncommutative algebra, discrete math, numerical analysis, complex variables - most math majors don't even get all of this stuff done! You would certainly deprive yourself a lot of these wonderful tools if you were to rush your degree.
  9. May 27, 2010 #8
    He asked if it was possible, not if it was the best thing to do. I'd say that the best thing to do would be to first take all the required physics courses in 2 years and then go on to the more juice stuff for a last fourth one, if he can handle it that is. But why should I assume that he can't handle it without ruining his social life...
  10. May 28, 2010 #9
    :cool:Yes, i know it would be detrimental to my health and i of course have a normal social life. Personally, i think social life is very important.
    More Background: I also took 2 "mathematics in physics" courses which are a intro to the math used in physics,like differential equations,hermitian matrices,etc. I also have much understanding about vector calculus and linear algebra. Unfortanately, i did not take any physics courses in my 1st year as i spent much time on accounting courses(of course i will not take them again).
    More questions: Is it possible i can learn the physics stuff well in this summer before the next semester start? Will grad school accept a student who spend more years than normal undergrad? As when i am in grad school i will be 1 year older than others.
  11. May 28, 2010 #10


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    Have you taken any physics at all?

    I ask this because in the US, we generally don't have 3-year university programs. My understanding is that in countries with 3-year programs, students come out of high school at a level above US high school graduates, in particular they've already had the equivalent of a one-year calculus-based university-level introductory physics course in the US. That is, they are at the level of second-year physics students in the US.

    In that case, you would have two years to do the upper-level physics courses, which I think is possible for a very good student, who doesn't have to take many other courses.

    However, if you have not had a year-long introductory physics course in high school, I don't think it's possible to do that and the upper-level courses in two years. Keep in mind that (in the US at least) the introductory course is prerequisite for all other physics courses.
  12. May 28, 2010 #11
    About that, it might be a huge problem if he actually haven't studied any physics at all, I forget that you don't have to do that in the US. I had taken physics for many years when I started college, probably as far as you can get without using calculus or linear algebra and also had done a lot of calculus up to roughly BC level. But if you haven't done that you are not allowed to even apply for the science degrees, you have to take a special complementary year then.
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