1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Double majors

  1. Jul 11, 2006 #1
    I heard that some ambitious people can pursue a double major in college. I think I would want to do something like that and do Math and Physics. Since these are closely related to each other, would I only need to take a few extra courses to do it, depending on the University I attend?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2006 #2
    Math and physics actually share few requisites in college. For the first year, it will probably be very much the same (Multivariate calculus, linear algebra, etc), but starting sophomore year, and especially junior/senior year, the classes required for each are very different. There's a lot of focus on mathematical proof in the math major, and almost no focus on it in physics.

    Physics and engineering majors tend to overlap a lot better.
  4. Jul 11, 2006 #3
    freshman year there will be overlap with calculus, linear algebra, DE and the basic physics courses.

    later on, there will be little to no overlap.

    if you're going to do a math/physics double, do it now
  5. Jul 11, 2006 #4
    I'm also doing a math and physics double major. I just got out of High school and I'm not too familiar with the Physics requirements. I have Differential Equations, Calculus I, and Calculus II credit so far. What sort of courses are usually taken by physics students for undergrad?
  6. Jul 11, 2006 #5


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Physics undergrads take courses on statistical mechanics, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, nuclear and particle physics, electromagnetism, and so on.

    Math undegrads take courses on differential equations, proofs, real and complex analysis, and so on.

    The last two years of each program certainly have no overlap, but the first two will share a few courses.

    - Warren
  7. Jul 11, 2006 #6
    I will be heading into college this fall, and I'm thinking about double majoring in physics and math. And there is not much overlap in the last two years. I was pretty hard pressed to figure out a four-year plan for myself. I think I have maybe 3 elective classes in my four years.

    But as long as you love both subjects and are willing to work hard, you should do fine. I know I am excited about going to college.
  8. Jul 11, 2006 #7
    I disagree, Physics/Maths has alot of overlap throughout all years I think. For example I'm a maths/physics major in my second year, and I've taken a course on advanced calculus, with manifolds, lie groups, etc...

    This pops up again in my theoretical physics classes...
  9. Jul 11, 2006 #8


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Can you post the curriculum for both degrees at your school? What classes overlap in the third and fourth years?

    It's rare that physics students have to take, e.g., proofs, and it's rare that math students have to take, e.g., electromagnetism.

    - Warren
  10. Jul 11, 2006 #9
    I think chroot is right..and..even if a physics program needs lost of math its different then what math majors usually take. In third year I have to take complex variables..math majors take complex analysis...physics majors take Introductory real analysis..math majors take "Real Analysis I". The only things that overlap at UofT is the introductory differential geometry and topology.
  11. Jul 11, 2006 #10
    Alright, what I was thinking was that the same classes were required in both majors. But topics in the upper level math courses are found in physics, and in that way overlap.
  12. Jul 12, 2006 #11
    In my school, Physics and Maths share over one third of their classes. It is very hard to finish them in 4 years with regular time table. Though, a lot of people follow this path and become mathematical Physicist (or Physical Mathematician...lol )
  13. Jul 12, 2006 #12
    I know a guy who is dual BS Physics/BS Math in 4 years, plus some graduate physics and math courses along the way. It makes some sense considering that professors with joint appointments in physics and math (due to their theoretical research into things like string theory, which are arguably both math and physics) are becoming more common.

    Suprisingly it's easier when you are able to waive those classes that are in common (like Calc I and II, etc) because you've had them in high school, so you have more time to devote to core major stuff.
  14. Jul 13, 2006 #13
    But, it is at least a feasible course of action isn't it? I have one more year until I enter college, I just want to make sure that it is possible to do such a thing. As I understand it, alot of universities also have 5 year plans where you can get a double major or degree.

    Are there joint degree plans at a graduate level as well?
  15. Jul 13, 2006 #14


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Actually, many universities require you to do a specific number of units in order to receive a double major -- simply doing all the classes for each major won't cut it. The reason? They don't want you to get two degrees in two very closely related fields without actually taking a significantly larger number of classes (and thus paying them a significantly larger amount of tuition). Many schools will require you to do an additional year to get a double.

    - Warren
  16. Jul 13, 2006 #15
    I would talk to other physics majors at your school. At the school I attend almost every physics major I know is double majoring in Physics and Applied Math, but the applied math program here has a lot of freedom, and there are only two "proof" classes required for the applied math degree, one of which is already required for physics majors. Depends on the school.
  17. Jul 13, 2006 #16
    See if your school offers special programs within being a math major. I knwo that at our school, a math major can focus their math education in combination with electrical science, physics, and a few others.
  18. Jul 13, 2006 #17
    I find one major hard enough!!
  19. Jul 14, 2006 #18
    It'll be easier if you join a school that offers Math and Physics dual major degree that can be completed in 4 years.
  20. Jul 14, 2006 #19
    Okay, I will be sure to do that. Thanks for the input
  21. Jul 14, 2006 #20
    I don't mind doing more than 4 years of school for a double major if I have to, I enjoy school. It helps me keep life organized.
  22. Jul 14, 2006 #21
    Having completed a double major in math and physics at UCLA, there is little overlap of actual classes, but a great deal of overlap in how topics relate to each other. I took DE and PDE before taking QM, and sailed through QM. Both usually require some kind of complex analysis. Real analysis has some use in physics, but not a lot until you start to generalize real analysis vis a vis functional analysis. Upper division algebra is more useful when you get into graduate physics and deal with group theory in physics. Linear algebra is always useful.
  23. Jul 19, 2006 #22
    i am a double major. i have found that, though there are significantly more math classes in the math major, it is not so diffcult to do. this is primarily due to the fact that any major leaves room for electives. if you take your electives in math, then you are still killing two birds with one shot, though the same core classes may not overlap. furthermore, if you are intending on attending grad school, you will find that the math classes will help you tremendously. group theory is of the utmost importance in theoretical physics, but requires knowledge of modern (abstract) algebra, which is typically not required of a physics major. hope that helps.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook