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Programs Can I get a Ph.D. in physics if my bachelor's degree isn't in physics

eri

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

A bachelors degree is a requirement to apply to any graduate program. A major in physics or at least most of the classes of a physics major are required to get into a physics graduate program. They don't start over at the beginning - they assume you have a strong background in physics, and you need to prove to them that you do through grades in coursework and physics GRE scores. They are not going to accept independent study.
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I understand that you need a degree to get into grad school. I will have a degree, but in a totally unrelated field - international relations. I also understand that I will need a strong background in physics in order to do grad work. The question I'm asking is if I absolutely need to get a second bachelor's degree or if I can take courses on my own, at community college for instance or online, and then apply.
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I understand that you need a degree to get into grad school. I will have a degree, but in a totally unrelated field - international relations. I also understand that I will need a strong background in physics in order to do grad work. The question I'm asking is if I absolutely need to get a second bachelor's degree or if I can take courses on my own, at community college for instance or online, and then apply.
i doubt a community college offers senior level e&m or other classes needed to do well on the pGRE . . . you probably need to take most of your classes at a 4-year school, even if you don't get a degree out of it.
 

eri

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Online schools don't offer the labs you need for intro classes (and I really wouldn't trust them to teach any physics, frankly) and community colleges don't offer anything but intro classes. So no, you'd have to attend a college or university.
 

Choppy

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I understand that you need a degree to get into grad school. I will have a degree, but in a totally unrelated field - international relations. I also understand that I will need a strong background in physics in order to do grad work. The question I'm asking is if I absolutely need to get a second bachelor's degree or if I can take courses on my own, at community college for instance or online, and then apply.
Unfortunately the answer is yes, you do need to get another degree.

On graduate admissions web pages where they say "a degree in physics or quivalent" the 'or equivalent' part refers to related disciplines such as engineering physics, mathematics, or physical chemistry with an appropriate subset of coursework. International relations with a couple community college courses won't cut it for graduate admissions.
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

If it's prep alone that I should be concerned with then I can go about it in any way I choose, take classes from here or there and do some independent study. However, if grad programs really need to see a degree, I will have to complete a structured program at a university.
You can complete introductoy classes in math and physics "here or there", from community colleges, at a local state school, or even online. However, there is virtually no way to take advanced undergraduate-level physics courses, the ones that physics majors generally take their jr. and sr. years, without actually being formally enrolled in a 4 year school. Even assuming you studied some advanced topics independently, how will you "prove" that you have this knowledge to the grad schools you apply to? More to the point, physics majors usually spend four long and difficult years mastering physics. It is very highly unlikely that you can pick up the equivalent amount of knowledge "here and there".
 

dpa

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

well, i get that its entirely whether i feel i can/am prepared.
I, however would like to know whether doing a engineering from one of the poorest education system in the world, hinders me from getting into hpsm.
Is there such thing like acceptance rate? Could you write that too.
 

jtbell

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

hpsm? Health Plan of San Mateo? HP Service Manager? Healing Place School of Ministry? :confused:
 

dpa

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

a goldee doesnot know hpsm.
Its harvard, princeton, mit, stanford.
 

jtbell

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Try the forum search. You'll find that our posts are literally the only ones on PF (in eight years or so) that contain the exact "word" hpsm. :smile:

[added] It appears the more common acronym is HYPMS (including Yale). Even that one turns up only three times in a PF forum search.
 
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dpa

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

:smile:
ok! So whats the answer to my question.
would like to know whether doing a engineering from one of the poorest education system in the world, hinders me from getting into hpsm.
Is there such thing like acceptance rate? Could you write that too.
 
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ZapperZ

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

:smile:
ok! So whats the answer to my question.
It would be nice if you type it out rather than use a non-standard abbreviation.

So why can't you use the test that I suggested at the very beginning of this thread?

There are several issues to tackling a question such as this:

1. No one can answer it. The acceptance to graduate schools depends on many factors.

2. The test that I suggested is not a "necessary and sufficient" criteria. In other words, it doesn't guarantee acceptance.

3. Did you try the test?

4. Why do you only focus on these institutions? Is it "HPSM" or bust? This is a very short-sighted view on higher education in the US.

Zz.
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

Hey everyone, this is my first post here, although I've lurked for a little while before. Basically, I'm lumped in to this category and need some advice.

I'm currently a third year business student with a fairly good (3.6) GPA. To be specific, my grades reflect a freshman year mishap, but they're on the 4.0 track until graduation. I know what everyone will probably tell me about being prepared for grad school and have taken it upon myself to self-study, but I'm starting to feel as if I'm either not going to be able to do it well, or that it will be futile in the long run.

The problem, of course, is that my school does not have a physics major and I will not be able to graduate with a physics minor in time, having decided too late. I'm starting to believe (and with good reason) that no matter how well I perform on the physics GREs, grad school in astrophysics would be out of reach without the BA.

Here is where my dilemma comes full circle. I've emailed many schools and they all reply with the same message; get a Bachelor's degree. Being a third year student (going in to senior year), I am considering the option of transferring to a bigger school where I could pursue Astro. I am currently not in debt, as my parents have provided payment thus far. If, however, I was to tell them this was my course of action, I'd probably end up on my own.

So I suppose I'm looking for a few questions answered and any advice that anyone would have for me. Realistically, how far behind would this put me? I really can't stand the idea of staying another year for a business degree (that I really don't want), but I'm so close to graduation, I'm not sure if it makes sense to leave now.

My other question was whether or not I would be expecting another 4 years as a BA student. If that were the case, I would opt for a double major (probably Bio/Physics), but I'm wondering if the degree in physics alone could be completed any quicker than four years?

Any help would be great, because I'm currently in a position where action needs to be taken quickly. Thanks.

Also, I am a good student. While a 3.6 in business isn't exactly indicative of a genius, keep in mind I've never really felt interested or challenged by the work I was doing. Plus I was still in the high school mentality for quite some time and completely disregarded getting straight A's. But when taking in to consideration how quickly a degree can be finished, just understand that I am probably a better student than my grades and major would reflect.
 
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jtbell

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

How much physics and math have you taken already? Which courses?
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I should have mentioned, I have pretty much no prior physics experience other then some self-study in classical mechanics. I'm taking Calculus 1 right now and am expecting an A, but that will be all, other than Physics 101 (which is physics for dummies, no math is even involved). Many of my general education pre-reqs will, however, be filled if I were to transfer.

So to answer your question - calculus 1 is all.
 

lisab

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

I should have mentioned, I have pretty much no prior physics experience other then some self-study in classical mechanics. I'm taking Calculus 1 right now and am expecting an A, but that will be all, other than Physics 101 (which is physics for dummies, no math is even involved). Many of my general education pre-reqs will, however, be filled if I were to transfer.

So to answer your question - calculus 1 is all.
You really should take a year of calculus-based physics before you decide if you really like it.

Regarding your question about how far behind you are: you're at about a freshman level.
 

jtbell

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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

You're going to need a year to go through an introductory calculus-based physics sequence, alongside calculus 2 and 3. Take linear algebra during that year as well. Then you'll be at the level of a "normal" beginning sophomore physics major. At that point, if you do OK, and if course schedules at your new college permit, and you don't have to worry about general-education stuff because you've had it already, you can probably finish a physics major in two more years. That is, you should figure on three years altogether starting from next fall.

To save money, you should consider doing the first year at a community college, then transfer to a four-year school for the second and third years. Or take intro physics and calculus at your current school, alongside a business major, if you can fit the courses together into your schedule. That way you have the business degree as a backup in case you decide you really don't want to stick it out for a physics degree after all.
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

You're going to need a year to go through an introductory calculus-based physics sequence, alongside calculus 2 and 3. Take linear algebra during that year as well. Then you'll be at the level of a "normal" beginning sophomore physics major. At that point, if you do OK, and if course schedules at your new college permit, and you don't have to worry about general-education stuff because you've had it already, you can probably finish a physics major in two more years. That is, you should figure on three years altogether starting from next fall.

To save money, you should consider doing the first year at a community college, then transfer to a four-year school for the second and third years. Or take intro physics and calculus at your current school, alongside a business major, if you can fit the courses together into your schedule. That way you have the business degree as a backup in case you decide you really don't want to stick it out for a physics degree after all.
The way my remaining schedule will work is that I will be taking the intro calculus-based physics sequence as well as calculus 2, but that is all. Assuming I graduate with my business degree, how feasible would going back to complete a bachelor's degree in physics be? After that I would pursue graduate studies, but that's another story entirely.

Where I am right now, I find that I do enjoy physics enough to want to study it full time. The issue, of course is how to go about it. I am also trying to minimize the time necessary to do it, although I understand that it is an extraordinarily complex topic that will require a certain amount of time.

Let me pose a different question instead. I may be able to bypass the necessary classes for a physics minor and instead do two independent studies with a physicist. Assuming that I somehow come away with a minor in physics, how realistic would it be to get admitted in to a graduate program (masters level) with the requirement of having to take two or three higher level undergraduate classes? Do graduate schools typically offer the chance for a non-matriculated student to "prove" themselves?
 
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Re: I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

How do you guys think graduate schools look upon courses taken with informal credit only (I know this will vary from person to person and school to school so I'm just looking for informed opinions here). I'm taking a graduate quantum mechanics class, but, as an undergrad, I'm not allowed by my school to register for it; not even as an "audit" course. I'm sitting for quizzes and completing assignments but I'm not allowed to sit for the exams. What I'll have to show for this course is a recommendation sort of a thing from the professor, stating that I took all the classes. I'm hoping to take two or three more such physics courses by the end of my (mechanical engineering) degree. What would such courses be worth, for applying to physics graduate schools?
 
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ZapperZ

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I continue to get questions and PMs related to this thread, and from the responses and discussions I see going on here, I think many of you missed the point of this thread.

First of all, there are already plenty of threads asking about similar questions, and there have been a lot of responses given. Many of these provide answers from a personal point of view perspective, and often, we disagree on what's what. This thread doesn't intend to be one of those!. This thread does not address how more appealing you are if you took such-and-such class, or if you can get in if you do this-and-that. Answering those will require speculations!

What this thread was meant to do is for you to do you own self-test! That's the whole point! Only YOU can prevent forest fires, and only YOU can do your own self-test to see if you are prepared for a physics graduate program in a US institution! In the First Page of this thread, I believe that I've outlined clearly the two self-tests that you can do on your own, without needing any input from anyone else. I also summarized this point in Part VIIIa of "So You Want To Be A Physicist" essay.

So please note that this thread is not meant for someone else to "evaluate" your chances. It is meant for YOU to evaluate your own chances.

Zz.
 
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Wow, I thought you (Zz) meant that a 75 percentile score is what determines that you're prepared.

Let me add that I'm one of these people in grad school doing Physics after an engineering degree. My GRE score was in the high 70s (percentile). And I found myself slightly underprepared when I started taking the regular courseload here.

The GRE does not test you on very much advanced undergrad knowledge - it mostly tests you on the basics. Of course, if your fundamentals are weak, this is not for you.

how did you shift from engineering to physics?i am an indian 1 year engineering student .please reply
 

jtbell

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I suggest that you look at the date on Gokul's post. :wink:
 
Hey,

I read the first post about whether I'd have a chance at surviving grad school, but what I'd like to ask is whether I'd be admitted to grad school. My situation is that I'm a business major, gonna graduate soon. I know that I can't get admitted to a physics program like this, and that the best thing to do would be to get a BA in Physics. But honestly, starting a Bachelor's all over again doesn't sound quite appealing to me (financing is a question too, though I'm in Europe so it's not entirely impossible).

Rather I was thinking that I would get into an Economics Master's program, because (i) I'm more or less qualified, (ii) I find it interesting (though not as much as physics), and (iii) it's highly quantitative.

If I were to do well (as specified in the first post) in the GRE Physics test after my Master's (thanks to self-study), then would the good GRE Physics scores combined with a quantitative graduate degree in economics be enough for me to get admitted into a physics PhD program?

Honestly, I don't see any reason why I couldn't get admitted in this case, except for one thing: the lack of lab experience. But most schools only specify a "Bachelor's degree" as a requirement (along with the GRE Physics and other usual stuff, but nothing I don't have). So what would my likelihood of getting admitted be in your opinion?

Thanks in advance for the replies!
 

Astronuc

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Please allow me to reiterate:
I continue to get questions and PMs related to this thread, and from the responses and discussions I see going on here, I think many of you missed the point of this thread.

. . . .
and please note that the thread started more than 7 years ago.

In graduate school, there is an expectation that one has achieved a certain level of mastery in the subject, and that is most often based upon completing a baccalaureate (batchelor's) degree in the subject, in this case Physics. At the Master's degree level, one (in general) undertakes supervised research (i.e., one works on research usually decided by, or with approval of, one's faculty advisor) that leads to a Thesis. At the PhD level, one undertakes independent (and hopefully original) research, with support from faculty, which culminates in a dissertation.

It is possible to do a graduate degree in physics, but coming from a program without exposure to the mathematics and underlying fundamentals of physics (e.g., classical mechanics/dynamics, . . . ) would mean that one has to learn that material in order to accomplish an advanced program.
 

ZapperZ

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Hey,

I read the first post about whether I'd have a chance at surviving grad school, but what I'd like to ask is whether I'd be admitted to grad school. My situation is that I'm a business major, gonna graduate soon. I know that I can't get admitted to a physics program like this, and that the best thing to do would be to get a BA in Physics. But honestly, starting a Bachelor's all over again doesn't sound quite appealing to me (financing is a question too, though I'm in Europe so it's not entirely impossible).

Rather I was thinking that I would get into an Economics Master's program, because (i) I'm more or less qualified, (ii) I find it interesting (though not as much as physics), and (iii) it's highly quantitative.

If I were to do well (as specified in the first post) in the GRE Physics test after my Master's (thanks to self-study), then would the good GRE Physics scores combined with a quantitative graduate degree in economics be enough for me to get admitted into a physics PhD program?

Honestly, I don't see any reason why I couldn't get admitted in this case, except for one thing: the lack of lab experience. But most schools only specify a "Bachelor's degree" as a requirement (along with the GRE Physics and other usual stuff, but nothing I don't have). So what would my likelihood of getting admitted be in your opinion?

Thanks in advance for the replies!
As Astronuc has mentioned, you have missed completely the entire point of this thread. Only YOU can prevent forest fires, and only YOU can make your own self-determination on whether you can survive in a Physics graduate school.

Furthermore, you've made two strange points. You have neglected the SECOND part of my self-check procedure, which was the qualifying exams questions. Secondly, you've made a premature assumption that you would do well in the Physics GRE. I hate to burst your bubble, but this is not something you can assume, given your background. If I were to ask you right now for the ground state energy of a quantum harmonic oscillator, can you give me the answer right off the top of your head without looking it up? That is a typical question in one of these GRE tests.

I would also say that I've never come across anyone who has a graduate degree in physics with ONLY a business major undergraduate degree. That, in itself, should tell you something.

Zz.
 

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