Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Deciding what to specialize in for grad school

  1. Aug 20, 2010 #1
    I'm heading into my junior year of a physics degree, which means I have about one more year to decide on what graduate programs to apply to.

    The thing that scares me, though, is that the more I learn, the harder it is for me to narrow down what I want to do.

    So far, I'm more interested in theory than experiment, and I think I've eliminated materials science.

    Some topics I'm interested in include atmospheric physics, climate science, astronomy/astrophysics, particle physics, and nuclear engineering. This is not an all-inclusive list. Things like geophysics interest me, but I haven't looked into that as much.

    For those of you who went (or are currently going) to grad school, at what point did you decide on what programs to apply for? Did you have a good idea by your junior year? Did you kinda just wing it as you went along? Did you apply to a bunch and just specialize in whatever you were accepted to?

    A second question is what are some methods of narrowing it down?

    I don't want to be paralyzed by too many choices.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 20, 2010 #2
    One of the things too consider when deciding which specific field of study to enter into when going into graduate school is which excites you? After years of working in that field will you still be intrigued? If not then you should reconsider what field you wish to enter. You can also gather information on the current research topics and if they fascinate you then that certain study is suitable for you.
  4. Aug 20, 2010 #3
    I think my problem is that everything fascinates me, but I have trouble predicting what will fascinate me for the longest period of time.
  5. Aug 20, 2010 #4
    Look at the papers on arXiv you will get a clearer idea of what is being researched and what is the most active since fascination is a commonality it's better to choose the more active area of research, only an opinon.
  6. Aug 21, 2010 #5
    I think a lot of schools are structured so that you don't get to take a lot of electives and advanced classes in your major until junior and senior years. I had no idea what I wanted to specialize in after sophomore year, but during junior year, taking more advanced classes in my major led me to figure out what I want to specialize in. Of course plenty of people know what they want to specialize in before they formally take any classes in that field, but many don't until they actually see which classes they enjoy and which classes they don't.
  7. Aug 21, 2010 #6
    Thanks, sweetpotato. Hopefully, I'll come up with a better idea in the next two semesters. Right now, I'm kinda torn between wanting to do "pure" physics and doing something that will have a more direct impact on society in one of the many "green" fields.

    If I take a step away from physics into a related field, I wouldn't have had a chance to take any real courses in that field before just jumping into grad school.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook