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Consecuences of leaving a CS major for physics

  1. Mar 5, 2015 #1
    Hey, there.
    I am reading this forum for close to a year and it seems to have knowlagable people.

    I am in a little academic crisis right now. I'll start by saying I was enrolled in a CS/Physics double major. I actually started University 7 years ago, and returned just now, at age 26. I was hoping to
    finish my degree (I finished a few courses before I left) but unfortunatly the CS department head in
    my University was very strict with me about a course I failed in (it is the only course I have left to finish first year), and because of this I am forced to leave the CS department and get my
    B.S in only physics.

    Before I left I managed to take and pass Intro to CS, Intro to Object Oriented Programming, Discreet
    Math, a course in computer systems, and I took but not passed Data Structures.

    I decided to focus on Physics for now, but while I am interasted in Physics and want to get a Master's
    in the subject, I always liked computers and am still interasted in Computer Sceince. It's just
    that the deparment head forces my hand here.

    My question is - in people's experiance - would I ever need the more advanced CS courses I won't be taking?
    If I want to go into computational physics - would I be at a disadvantage?
    What areas of Physics have computers play a big role?
    If I do get a Master's in Physics and do resarch that rely heavily on computers - Will I be competative
    for jobs CS majors useally do? What about a Ph.D? I ask because I understand most people on
    the forums here agree most physics majors useally end up working in fields other than physics rather than stay in resarch.

    I would love to hear people's advice here. Any advice might be helpfull. I just feel like I'm in
    the dark about the consecuences of this change in studies, and would feel better knowning my prospects.
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2015 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    I think you should make a case to retake the course again with the dean. Having taken it once you're sure to do better. They may be using the course to screen out CS students and you should be able to appeal stressing your circumstances and maturity.
  4. Mar 5, 2015 #3


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    We can't tell you what you will need later in life.

    Lots of people go into computational physics (or physics that involves a lot of computation) without much (if any) formal training in computer science. So you don't "need" the advanced computer science courses to be successful in physics. And lots of physics majors go in into successful careers programming, so you don't "need" the advanced computer science courses for that either.

    More of a concern though, might be the reasons why you struggled with the courses in the first place.
  5. Mar 6, 2015 #4
    Unfortunatly, I can not do this. I failed this course 7 years ago, and failed it last year. My university gives two chances to pass and the department head is unresponsive to my reasoning that the last time was 7 years ago. As I said she's pretty strict. It is partly my fault, I took too high a course load last year and my study habbits were bad, but at the same time that first try from 7 years ago doesn't really count. As I said, because of this
    I will probably have to drop the major (and minor. This course is a requisite for both) even though I did not struggle that much in CS (I passed everything else). But, the department head made her descision, so there isn't much I can do but go on.

    Choppy's response is comforting, knowing it won't hurt me in physics. When he said I could get a job programming. What about if I ever see the need / want a job that requiers sofisticated algorithems or anything like that, that is normally given to people with a B.S in CS? If I were to self learn
    the material I missed at a later point in life (There isn't that much more - just a course in algorithems and aa course in computation) - how would I be looked at if I also have an advanced degree in Physics? Is the degree in CS that important?
  6. Mar 6, 2015 #5
    If it takes you 7 years to pass a BSc CS course, what has changed that will allow you to get a PhD in physics and then make a career at the doctorate level?

    Just take the course at another university and get a job in CS as you never expressed a dislike for it.
    No offence, but your backup plan for failing a BSc CS is to get a physics PhD and go into computational physics sounds backwards.

    Say nothing has changed, which is natural, and it will take you 5-7 more years to get a BSc in physics. Only then you can start graduate school. which is when it starts to get hard.

    In fact, if you can code well, show your portfolio and try to get a job that way. Then see if you can complete some more ECTS online or part time learning so you at least have a degree so it won't hurt you later in life.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2015
  7. Mar 6, 2015 #6
    Almeisan: Your entire premise is wrong. I took one year in Uni then I spent the last 7 years outside of school due to cicumstances I do not wish to discuss. It's not like I spent 7 years trying to get a BS.c. As to why I think I can do well in physics: I already am. Right now i'm on track to graduate with a physics major in 2 years.

    Please, don't make this about weather or not I should stay in physics, I am not asking for advice about this. I ask for people's experiance in fields
    relating to CS and physics.
  8. Mar 6, 2015 #7
    If you want to hear advice only to confirm a decision already taken, word it better. Don't criticize someone giving better advice than your decisions or criticize someone for giving good advice based on deceptive information.

    Whatever path you take after your BSc, it doesn't make sense to redo 2 years of school because you neeed one more course.
  9. Mar 6, 2015 #8


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    Programming positions are not regulated in the way that a lot of other professions are, and there is as much art as there is science to good programming. What that amounts to is that for many programming positions employers are more interested in the practical skill set that you bring to the table rather than the list of courses you've completed. That's why you find situations where employers are interested in seeing a portfolio of projects that you've completed, or where the interviews may include practical taskes such as writing a short program. The real trick is learning the skills in the first place. If you struggled through a course - are you going to be successful when trying to do such programming on your own?

    To answer the other part of your question, in some cases an advanced degree in physics can be marketed because it comes along with the ability to use numerical methods to solve sophisticated problems. And often the ability to write code is not the bottleneck for someone looking to employ a programmer - rather, it's the ability to solve the complicated problems. What a lot of physics graduates encounter however is a problem in figuring out how to communicate this problem-solving ability to people who don't understant the problems, but are in charge of finding someone who can solve them.
  10. Mar 6, 2015 #9
    Thank you, this was helpfull to me.
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