Choosing a Degree?

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  • Thread starter Peter.E
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I withdrew from the RAF (Royal Air Force) with the dream of studying Physics.

The big problem I am faced with, as probably were many of you, was which Degree to choose?

My interests span such a large range of topics, from the Big Bang, to Superconducting, to Space Exploration (i.e. actually helping in designing and discovering new ways to explore our solar system and beyond). How did you guys decide which Degree was right for you? Did it just dawn upon you one day or did you pick at random? :wink:

I know the chances of actually participating in research around the field I wish are small, but it is comforting to know I am working towards something.

At the moment I am studying (in England) Advanced Level - Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Further Mathematics, all at A/B Grade.
 

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  • #2
Pyrrhus
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Well pick whatever you feel, you will like best. I know people who graduated from an engineering branch then pursued a theoretical physicist career and finally ended up as mathematicians... A lot of time studying, plenty of degrees and masters, but they don't regret it.
 
  • #3
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I figure that i'll just have to choose a Degree that I feel will suit me best, but is there any advice anyone can give me that might help me in this decision? Maybe cut my options down a little because of the A-Level subjects I have taken?

How many people Graduate and then study another Degree?
 
  • #4
brewnog
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Peter, with those A-levels you don't need to cut you options down at all. But if it helps, just have a look at a few degree courses in those same academic subjects, and see if anything interests you. Go and visit some universities, see what kind of thing their undergraduates are doing. If you decide you want something with some more practical applications, have a think about engineering.

When I was doing my A levels, I had no idea what to apply for. I had chosen Maths, Physics and Chemistry just because I liked them. Then I realised that I really liked big machines, and taking things to bits, and building things, so I applied for Mechanical Engineering. Nobody can tell you what will be right for you though!
 
  • #5
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brewnog what University do you attend? What grades did you achieve at A-Level?
 
  • #6
brewnog
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Peter.E said:
brewnog what University do you attend? What grades did you achieve at A-Level?
I'm graduating from UMIST, which is now the University of Manchester. I enjoyed a bit too much beer at 6th form, and dropped 3 grades off my university offer of BBB, but got in all the same!
 
  • #7
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I will have a child by the time I go to University, so distance obviously restricts the Universities I will apply for, therefore restricting my course options.

At the moment I am thinking of Durham University, could you tell me what the typical hours are for a "typical" week. I am guessing it is not 9 - 5 every day.

I would really enjoy applying my aquired knowledge, but I also want to be at the cutting edge of research, working on prototype aircrafts. I am really not sure what I want to do, I don't think I could afford to lose a year just because I picked the wrong Degree.
 
  • #8
brewnog
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Typical hours for a typical week vary drastically depending on university and course. A good engineering or science degree will be around 20 hours per week, plus labs. A really hardcore course will pretty much need 9-5 weekdays, if not for lectures for other stuff (labs, tutorials etc), - that's what I found anyway.

If all you want is to be working on research, an academic science type degree might be more appropriate, but if you want to be developing these aircraft then an engineering degree might be more appropriate. Often you'll find it's easy to change between courses of a technical nature such that you won't lose a year, but might have to put in some extra hours instead. Have a look through the other threads here to see other suggestions for ways to help make up your mind!


As for location, well I assume you're Northumberland kind of area. Durham is an excellent university for Engineering and the Sciences, Newcastle isn't too bad either. One of my old schoolfriends is at Durham doing Engineering Science, perhaps that would be an interesting course to look into?
 
  • #9
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learn programming while your at it...but build a strong math bkgd and learn some nano or semiconductors and go into robotics. Study astrophysics only as a hobby(on the side).
 
  • #10
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My uncle got his Computer Networking Degree, and in some ways he regrets it and always wished he had gone for physics; he is not doing a Part-time Physics Degree at the age of 45. I really could not learn physics part-time or as a hobby, but it is really hard for me to pick a Degree.
 
  • #11
brewnog
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Ultimately, only you can decide which degree course to pick. Just ask yourself what your interests and skills are, and work from there.
 
  • #12
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Here in Finland Engineering physics is a usual hard core choice for those who like math and physics, but who don't know exactly what they want. At my university you can major in math, physics, information technology, systems analysis - and their sub-fields from the Engineering physics program. I bet there is plenty of similar programs in UK.
 
  • #13
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At Durham University I am able to choose from these:

Physics Degrees:
Physics BSc (Hons)
Physics MPhys (Hons)
Physics and Astronomy BSc (Hons)
Physics and Astronomy MPhys (Hons)
Theoretical Physics MPhys (Hons)

Engineering Degrees:
General Engineering MEng
Civil Engineering MEng
Mechanical Engineering MEng
Electronic Engineering MEng
Aeronautics MEng
Manufacturing Engineering with Management MEng
General Engineering BEng

The Physics Degrees feel like more my taste, Engineering is too serious :smile:
 
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  • #14
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I choose a lot of things at random, (when in doubt let fate decide.. :tongue2: ) but chose my degree that I am currently studying as a natural progression of the interests I had most dear. Ignore the limited space for researchers in your field that exist in the here and now and remember that just one discovery could turn it into a playing field big enough for more of us than there are.

Follow your heart, the door will open up to the place you really want to be.

o:)
 
  • #15
brewnog
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Well out of those physics degrees, then you should be able to start first year on ANY of those courses, and if you change your mind then they'll happily let you switch. I'd bet that all of those physics courses are identical for the first year, and perhaps for the second year too. Check though!
 
  • #16
ZapperZ
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Peter.E said:
The big problem I am faced with, as probably were many of you, was which Degree to choose?

My interests span such a large range of topics, from the Big Bang, to Superconducting, to Space Exploration (i.e. actually helping in designing and discovering new ways to explore our solar system and beyond). How did you guys decide which Degree was right for you? Did it just dawn upon you one day or did you pick at random? :wink:
Peter.E said:
At Durham University I am able to choose from these:

Physics Degrees:
Physics BSc (Hons)
Physics MPhys (Hons)
Physics and Astronomy BSc (Hons)
Physics and Astronomy MPhys (Hons)
Theoretical Physics MPhys (Hons)
I didn't stick my nose into this till now because I don't completely understand the UK higher educational system (if there is one). My question is, at the undergraduate level, are you REQUIRED to actually make a choice on the specific area of study within physics? You initially noted your interest in various areas of physics and want to obtain a "degree" in them. Is there such a thing at the undergraduate level in the UK?

As far as what I understand, those things only make sense after your first baccalaureate degree. One of course CAN take classes in specific areas of physics in advanced undergraduate classes, but one certainly does not have to be locked into any particular field of physics, does it?

If my impression is true, then aren't you worrying about things that you shouldn't be worrying about at this stage? Your undergraduate studies should cover a range of field in physics as your foundation to other things. I would strongly advice that, while you should keep cultiviating your interests, you should also open your eyes to a large range of physics that you may not be aware of. You are still at the stage where your view of physics may be limited to a small area that has appeared in the popular media, or that appear to be "sexy". There is still a huge realm of physics that you haven't explored or are aware of. It would be a shame if you have already limited yourself to only the few areas that you have already heard.

Zz.
 
  • #17
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Peter.E said:
I withdrew from the RAF (Royal Air Force) with the dream of studying Physics.

The big problem I am faced with, as probably were many of you, was which Degree to choose?

My interests span such a large range of topics, from the Big Bang, to Superconducting, to Space Exploration (i.e. actually helping in designing and discovering new ways to explore our solar system and beyond). How did you guys decide which Degree was right for you? Did it just dawn upon you one day or did you pick at random? :wink:

I know the chances of actually participating in research around the field I wish are small, but it is comforting to know I am working towards something.

At the moment I am studying (in England) Advanced Level - Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Further Mathematics, all at A/B Grade.
Keep in mind that when you go to university to study physics, it will be to a level to match standards of other countries as well. I don't mean it will be the exact same thing as other countries, but it will be to the LEVEL of such.

A-level mathematics/ further mathematics are quite helpful, however, to get a strong mathematical background to back you up while doing any of mathematical sciences, you should indulge more in your free time for private study.

''I will have a child by the time I go to University, so distance obviously restricts the Universities I will apply for, therefore restricting my course options.''

I don't know in detail, but you sure are optimistic about getting into a good relationship!

I think a lot of people that go into physical sciences are going in the hope of finding the ultimate theory or whatever, and i hope you are not one of these guys. However, if you find even the (to the common man) unpopular part of science interesting, go nuts on physics.
 
  • #18
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I certainly didn't get into physics because of any popular books, it was more around watching programs like Star Trek and say "that would never work.." and other people sat in the room saying "Shh!". I always enjoyed mathematics in school and got great satisfaction in solving problems, but I also love applying my maths to interesting subjects.

Thanks for all your help.
 
  • #19
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Peter.E said:
I certainly didn't get into physics because of any popular books, it was more around watching programs like Star Trek and say "that would never work.." and other people sat in the room saying "Shh!". I always enjoyed mathematics in school and got great satisfaction in solving problems, but I also love applying my maths to interesting subjects.

Thanks for all your help.
And i wasn't (or any one else) implying that at all. We were just saying to avoid such...things.

=)
 
  • #20
brewnog
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ZapperZ said:
I didn't stick my nose into this till now because I don't completely understand the UK higher educational system (if there is one). My question is, at the undergraduate level, are you REQUIRED to actually make a choice on the specific area of study within physics? You initially noted your interest in various areas of physics and want to obtain a "degree" in them. Is there such a thing at the undergraduate level in the UK?

As far as what I understand, those things only make sense after your first baccalaureate degree. One of course CAN take classes in specific areas of physics in advanced undergraduate classes, but one certainly does not have to be locked into any particular field of physics, does it?
As an undergraduate, you can study to get a very general degree (such as 'Physics' or 'General Engineering') or you can choose to specialise a bit more, still at an undergraduate level. As a graduate, you generally choose a more specialised field for study once you've already got your graduate degree.
 
  • #21
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Does University require a "steeper" learning curve than A-Levels, I guess I am trying to ask... is it harder work? I know it is more advanced.

A lot of people say University is easier than A-Levels.
 
  • #22
ZapperZ
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brewnog said:
As an undergraduate, you can study to get a very general degree (such as 'Physics' or 'General Engineering') or you can choose to specialise a bit more, still at an undergraduate level. As a graduate, you generally choose a more specialised field for study once you've already got your graduate degree.
OK, so that's consistent with what we have here in the US. So there's no reason to worry about having to choose between astrophysics to "superconducting" to "space exploration", etc., at least, not at this level.

I sometime see people worry WAY too much about something they shouldn't be yet. There are other things to worry about at this stage.

Zz.
 
  • #23
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Peter.E said:
Does University require a "steeper" learning curve than A-Levels, I guess I am trying to ask... is it harder work? I know it is more advanced.
Yes it's harder, Physics gets so much more complex than at A Level and it's just so difficult to understand some of the concepts (especially Quantum Mechanics, because it's abstract and just weird).

ZapperZ said:
So there's no reason to worry about having to choose between astrophysics to "superconducting" to "space exploration", etc., at least, not at this level.
You don't have to, but you can. Where I am, you can do "Physics and Astrophysics" or "Physics and Space Research" for example (amongst other things), but in the first two years, everyone pretty much studies the same modules (just core Physics stuff).
 
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  • #24
Gokul43201
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Peter.E said:
The Physics Degrees feel like more my taste, Engineering is too serious :smile:
Most would say just the opposite. Physics is a very serious area and most of the things you will learn (how to solve partial differential equations with boundary conditions; calculating Lagrangians and using them to determine equations of motion; how to work with matrices and vector spaces...etc.) are hardly like anything you see on Star Trek.

I suggest you find out what the syllabi are for typical programs and have a look at the course material. This will give a rough idea of what you're diving into.
 
  • #25
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Peter.E said:
Does University require a "steeper" learning curve than A-Levels, I guess I am trying to ask... is it harder work? I know it is more advanced.

A lot of people say University is easier than A-Levels.
It is much harder work than in A-levels. A lot more mathematical i think.

However, don't get yourself too down about this. If it were easy, everybody would be doing it.
 

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