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Cannot get a math major because of technicalities

  1. Mar 3, 2014 #1
    Hello, fellow PFers!

    My university came out with their Fall '14 class offerings today, and I was rather disappointed, as it seems I won't be able to get my second major in math after all. I'm currently a junior, double majoring in physics and math, and really involved in both majors (tutoring, TAing, doing research in both departments).

    I am going to graduate school for physics (my "main" major), but was hoping for a second degree in math. However, many of the math classes I need to take are offered at the same time as key physics classes, both of which are offered in only the fall (or spring), and only have one section. An independent study is not an option - I have discussed this with my advisor. As I am at this university on a four-year scholarship, I simply cannot afford to stay another year and finish up my degree. And since I need 12 credits to remain a full-time student and cannot take math classes due to schedule conflicts, I am stuck with taking unnecessary classes like the one-credit-hour "Humor in Life Situations".

    Perhaps I am slightly bitter, however I am devastated that stupid schedule conflicts will not allow me to get a degree in math! Have any of you experienced this, or have advice for me? It is very dismaying to think that I will graduate with a physics degree but two classes short of a math degree, or some such.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 3, 2014 #2
    See if 1) The university offers it online (I say this because more universities are having distance learning master's degrees), 2) You can get your math research counting as credits. In fact, can you get it worth class credit if you keep up the research this summer, fall, and the last spring? Or 3) see if you can stay this summer if you weren't going to already, if the deadlines haven't passed yet.

    Don't be so upset, though, if you can't manage it. Disappointment may be something you encounter a lot in graduate school for physics, or more specifically after graduate school in physics.
  4. Mar 3, 2014 #3


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    I don't know what university you attend, but if you are nearby another university, some schools allow you to take courses at a different university if you cannot take them at your current university. It's worth considering and seeing if it's an option.
  5. Mar 3, 2014 #4
    I was a physics major 35 to 40 years ago. I qualified for a math degree and I did not even file the paperwork for it. The Bachelors in physics was enough for me. Later when I was looking for a job a career counselor suggested I file for it. I even wrote to the school, five years later. They told me I could still file for it, but I found a job before filing for it. (Probably too late now)

    In retrospect, I am just as happy I never got it. I know in reality I wanted to do advanced study in physics not math.

    By the way I was told before finishing the math department regarded physics majors filing for a math degree dimly. There were only two additional courses from the physics curriculum necessary for the math degree. The math department actually required physics majors to complete (I do not remember I think it was 7 total advanced level math courses) instead of the 6 necessary for math majors to discourage the practice. (I do not even know if this is legal or that it could not be contested today.)

    You are what you are. Go to grad school in physics as you plan. No one should think less of you because you are not a math major (especially under these circumstances). Your math courses completed should prepare you well for advanced study. I cannot imagine any admissions committee will be influenced with or without an additional degree in math. (I think, most schools would rather see an additional 50 points on the GRE, or good letters of recommendation)
  6. Mar 3, 2014 #5


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    If there's scheduling conflicts like that, there's not much you can do other than independent study/nearby college. Maybe take some computer science or engineering courses that interest you to fill in your hours.
  7. Mar 3, 2014 #6


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    Perhaps some perspective will help.

    First off, you're talking about a double major - not two degrees. I realize some universities market these things as such, even to the point of handing you two pieces of paper. But you're going to school for four years. Being able to also claim a major in another subject of that time means that you're getting a two for one deal somewhere.

    Secondly, I would underscore Mpresic's second point. Majoring in physics almost by default qualifies you for at least a minor in math, and some programs will let you get double credit for a single course - a mathematical method for physicists course could be counted as a senior course towards both majors. Maybe that's just another way of saying my first point.

    Thirdly, you need to look at why you want to have the double major. I think the major advantage in getting one is that you're qualified for graduate school in either major. Perhaps it may slightly increase your job prospects, but that's looking at positions that would exclusively hire a math major and not a physics major... not sure how many of those there are. (This of course could be important if you have your eye set on one of those in particular.) Beyond that, it's really just a matter of taking the courses you really want. And you really want them that bad - what's to stop you from taking them a little later when you're in graduate school?
  8. Mar 3, 2014 #7
    Thank you all for the advice. My initial plan was to stay in town this summer and take the one summer class in math, however I got an internship offer from Fermilab and no way am I turning that down. Also, I am counting my research for credit, but that doesn't do much in the way of taking the particular classes I need to graduate.

    Also, many of the nearby colleges do not offer advanced mathematics courses past calculus and linear algebra.

    Overall, it was very heartwarming to hear that some of you had to deal with the same nonsense and found it was for the better!
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