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Computer Programmer going back to school for Physics

  1. May 5, 2009 #1
    It seems there are a lot of posts on here about people pursuing physics degrees without having a CS or programming background. However, I couldn't find any concerning people coming from the CS/Programming world looking to get into Physics.
    This is me. :)
    I'm a computer programmer who's looking to get a degree in physics. I already know computers inside and out and know many different programming languages and pick up on new ones very quickly. Unfortunately, I don't have the math and science knowledge (or bachelor's degree) to apply my IT knowledge and experience to what I really would like do which I believe is some sort of research programming. Although I never had it in high school, Physics interests me because I love solving problems, love math, and love learning new things and feel I could make some sort of positive contribution to this world by applying my knowledge to science. I currently work in a cube writing programs to generate financial reports for a large corporation. This is NOT what I'm interested in! ;)

    Anyway, I've considered computational physics and computer modeling. Both of of these sound interesting and appropriate for me. However, I'm guessing there are many other things out there in the world of Physics for someone with CS experience that I haven't considered. I'm currently taking basic core requirements classes to transfer to another school. I'm now at the point where I need to figure out what direction I want to go.
    Unfortunately, with a family and such, I'm not sure if I would have time to pursue a PhD so I'd probably end up with a bachelors. So here are my questions:

    Do I need a PhD to do research programming? Can I get by with a Bachelor's?
    What other areas of physics might I have overlooked that might be interesting to me?
    Physics or Engineering? From what I've read, it sounds like engineering for me, but I'm not sure.
    I'd welcome any other questions I may have overlooked.

    Any thoughts would be appreciated. I apologize if I missed this type of post while searching through the forums.

    Thanks in advance!

    -Ralph :)
  2. jcsd
  3. May 5, 2009 #2
    I did a physics degree, did some research programming (without the PhD), and then eventually wound up developing educational software for computer scientists -- no physics but it was actually more fun than the physics programming stuff! So maybe you just need a more interesting programming job. Or a change of attitude? Writing programs to generate financial reports involves a lot of the same things as writing physics programs -- you still have to do software design, debugging, etc. If you hate design, programming & debugging then maybe you need to get out of programming. If you like it, then just think about the programming and forget that it's aimed at a rather mundane product...
  4. May 5, 2009 #3
    I guess I forgot to mention that I also LOVE programming. :) Always have since I was a kid. I was that guy in the computer department everyone would go to when they needed help with their programs because 90% of the IT students in my class hated programming.
    Getting a more interesting programming job is what I'm trying to do. I had a few opportunities for more scientific programming jobs, but they all required much more advanced math and/or science skills than I had. I also only have a "specialized" associate degree from a computer tech school which is actually pretty useless when it comes to transferring credits to other schools, not to mention the fact that many employers look for Bachelor degrees or higher only.
    My work is paying for me to go to school so my basic goal is to get a "normal" degree in anything and Physics and Mathematics seemed most interesting to me. I don't want to go the IT route because I already have 10 years of IT experience under my belt in various capacities.
    BTW, developing educational software for computer scientists sounds wonderful!



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