Choice of Master's degree program, Physics vs. Applied Math

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  • Thread starter obstinatus
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Hi All,

I finished my BS in physics last year and currently work full-time in engineering. I want to pursue my dream of being a research physicist, but I wasn't a stellar undergraduate student, so I'll have to be a self-funded, part-time masters student at first, and I chose to live near the campus of a decently-ranked state school to accomplish this, and I plan to take 1-3 courses this fall as a non-enrolled student to make sure this is the path I want to take. However, I've just discovered that the physics program doesn't offer evening courses, but the applied mathematics program does. My pros & cons of doing the mathematics program are as follows:

Pros:
-I did a senior capstone project on numerical simulations of the heat & laplace equations, which is very much in line with applied math, and enjoyed it.
-I'm also very interested in classical mechanics, fluid dynamics, hydrology, etc. which a math program might give me the flexibility to pursue.
-The school's graduate offerings in general are oriented towards working engineers, so I would potentially have institutional support in that way.
-There are several physics Phds on the school's math faculty.
-The philosophical questions around the relationship between math & physics and the degree to which models correspond to the world are very interesting.
-In my career so far I've been very adept as 'selling myself' and my skills despite lacking a lot of experience & credentials, so the generality of math would add to that.

Cons:
-When I do apply to physics Phd programs down the road, I'm not sure how much value-added this will be; why would they pick the applied math MS over a physics or even EE MS?
-I didn't have many opportunities to do experimental work in undergrad, and it's possible I would like it, but as a math student that possibility will be foreclosed on.
-Something that attracted me to physics originally was the ability to use approximate solutions/ guesses to achieve results that resemble reality (and the fact that rootedness in experiment/ observation allows this), where mathematics is much more rigorous and abstract. Maybe the applied/engineering orientation of this particular program would obviate this concern.

All of this is based on my own speculations, so I'm wondering if anyone can shed more light
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
PhanthomJay
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what sort of full time engineering job do you have? You might be better off staying in engineering. Please explain why you want to leave engineering besides fulfilling your dream . Your dream might become true, or perhaps never become true.
 
  • #3
Dr Transport
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1-3 courses this fall as a non-enrolled student
And work as an engineer full time.... when will you sleep and get your real work done. Think about 1 course at the most and as a newly hired (i suspect) you'll be spending more time at your paying job to learn that than you think.
 

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