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Entering Grad. Sch. w/o Bachelor o'Science

  1. Nov 11, 2005 #1
    Hi,
    Is there any circumstance whatsoever where it is possible to enter grad school in physics without a bachelor of science. I am an unmarried security guard w/history degree and lots of time on hands. I am teaching myself calculus and physics with help of a friend Physics professor. He says I am catching on exceptionally fast. I am really loving this new path I am taking. But my problem is that i do not have the resources to go through a whole bachelor of physics program just to be able to go to graduate school. Is there conceivably any way one can enter grad program in physics (assuming a bachelor level proficiency) with an undergrad degree in Humanities. This is also assuming that one could take and do well on the physics subject GRE. Also assumed is that one would have all the resources normally available to an undergrad in physics necessary to insure a solid self teaching track.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 11, 2005 #2

    ZapperZ

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  4. Nov 11, 2005 #3
    that was a good thread but it really didn't answer my question. Can a history bachelor demonstrate in some way qualifications for entering grad program in physics without having a bachelor of science of any kind. Again this is assuming that prospect could demonstrate command of material by scoring appropriately on subj. gre and/or with some other other testing agency. Let me make it more clear. Lets assume I have all the proficiency of a grad level physics student. But no science degree. Would I be told, "Sorry, you have to have a degree in the sciences", even if I could demonstrate through some paper and multiple testing agencies that i am more qualified than the average physics graduate.

    it is a very hypothetical question but there it is
     
  5. Nov 11, 2005 #4

    ZapperZ

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    First of all, you will have to overcome the skepticism that you can do physics at the graduate level. I'm one of those who is skeptical.

    You cannot expect a concrete answer based on a series of hypothetical situations. You're assuming (i) that you do get a very good score on your GRE and (ii) you somehow are are able to "demonstrate through some paper and multiple testing agencies" that you are "more than qualified", without telling me what these are.

    These two are VERY tough assumptions. If I play the same game, I would say that as an admission officer, I have all these qualified candidates that (i) have physics degrees (ii) most even from respected educational institutions (iii) a few even have shown extra research work, even published a paper or two (iv) have solid letter of recommendations from people who are also in the field of physics.

    If I am faced with such comparision, I am more inclined not to accept yours. If I am an unethical admission officer and my school needs the money, I'll accept yours and get your tuition money even though I know you will probably not make it pass the qualifier.

    For your info, beyond the GRE's, there are no other "testing" done other than your degree in demonstrating your qualification for admission into graduate school.

    Zz.
     
  6. Nov 11, 2005 #5

    jtbell

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    Policies and practices in this area probably vary from one school to the next, so you should contact the physics departments of the schools that you are interested, and ask them directly. You may have to deal with the graduate school's administration as well, but start with the department.

    For what it's worth, I've never heard of anybody doing this, but I don't know that it's absolutely impossible, either.
     
  7. Nov 11, 2005 #6

    ZapperZ

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    It's not impossible. Most schools sometime don't even say that you need to have a physics degree to get into a physics grad program. But there's way to much assumption being done here, especially in terms of the competition for admission, especially at respectable schools. He's assuming that he can get better than average "test scores" when compared to other candidates. This isn't a given, even for a physics major.

    Zz.
     
  8. Nov 11, 2005 #7
    you have to understand i am not saying i currently fulfill any of the hypotheticals i mentioned. all i was wanting know is what is required to be able to enter grad school in physics with only a humanities degree.

    i am just toying around with the idea. it is an extreme scenario but hopefully this is the right place to get feedback on it.

    shifting gears. anybody ever run into a problem where you were being asked to prove something, so you try for while or maybe think you've done it, then peek at the answer in back of book and find a proof far more elaborate or different than anything you could have imagined coming up with on your own. supposedly there is only one "solid elegant" proof for any theorem. what are the chances the average student is going to be able to nail it? I am anxious to do more word problems involving this kind of thing. neophytely speaking.
     
  9. Nov 11, 2005 #8

    JasonRox

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    I'm with ZapperZ.

    When you say you are teaching yourself, I am very skeptical at what level you are teaching yourself. I highly doubt it is near what you would receive at a university. If it is first year stuff, well then every Physics major will fly through that, so that's nothing new or spectacular (the curriculum is slow, not the students).

    If I were you, atleast do some courses in Mathematics (Calculus, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra) and some courses in Physics (Mechanics, Thermodynamics, etc...), since that will assure you that you know what's going on, and seeing test scores will really show what you can do.

    You might say that it will take too long to take a course that is worthwhile, like a 3-4th year course, but I can assure that's not the case. You can take any course (for most schools) as long as you have the pre-requisites OR OR OR the professors permission. If you think you got it, talk to the professor to get his permission. I warn you that he/she will be very skeptical and will most likely test you on the spot. So, make sure you know EVERYTHING prior to that course, for example if you are going for Calculus III, make sure you know everything about Calculus I and II. For this case, the professor will probably ask what is the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus, then prove it. If you can't do that, you are doomed!!!

    Anyways, we are all skeptical. I'd say it's possible if you do learn on this extra stuff, but then again it will still take atleast 3 years, and even then it will not be at the level of an undergrad. I know this because I have learned things on my own, and the hardest part of doing things on your own is remembering everything.

    Good Luck.

    PS. Make sure you know the Fundamental Theorem of Calculus. :)
     
  10. Nov 11, 2005 #9

    JasonRox

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    If you're good at proofs, you will nail that one and only answer.

    Don't peak in the back of the book. Very very bad habit. :approve: Trust me it is.
     
  11. Nov 11, 2005 #10

    ZapperZ

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    The requirement is actually quite simple - the ability to do graduate level physics work.

    Most students show this ability with a physics degree. Students without a physics degree tend to be the ones having a degree that have a lot in common with physics (such as mathematics, engineering, etc.), i.e. they can show a substantial knowledge of physics and the tools required (mathematics), AND the ability to catch up if they have to take a few undergraduate classes to make up any deficiencies. I have never come across a student from a humanities background going straight into a physics graduate program. So if we use my anecdotal observation alone, such a scenario hasn't happened.

    Zz.
     
  12. Nov 11, 2005 #11

    Astronuc

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    It may be possible, however, a person with a BS in physics is assumed to have the requisite background in physics to enable the pursuit of an MS degree.

    Without a degree, one would have to demonstrate to the faculty that one is competent in physics, particularly in the area one wishes to study.

    If one's background is not sufficient, the department/school may require one to take junior and/or senior level physics courses. A person with a BS in physics would be expected to have a good understanding of statics, mechanics/dynamics, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics, EM theory, quantum mechanics, as well as perhaps two years (4 semesters) of experimental (laboratory) course work. This also assumes the corresponding skill in mathematics - e.g. differential and integral calculus, multivariable analysis, linear analysis, and complex analysis.

    I suggest you contact the physics departments at you local or state university and see what would be expected. Check out the undergraduate (incl. curriculum) and graduate requirements.

    It's not impossible, but it is atypical. Good luck!

    For inspiration - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louis_de_Broglie
     
  13. Nov 11, 2005 #12
    I'm going to go the other way and say yes you can get into a graduate program. Out of all programs out there I'm sure there is atleast one that you can get into. It's most likely will not be a top tier school and it could be in somewhere in the country where you don't want to live.
     
  14. Nov 11, 2005 #13

    jtbell

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    I didn't catch at first that you already have a bachelor's degree, in history.

    Here's a possibility: take undergraduate physics courses at a suitable nearby college or university, as a non-degree-seeking student. I'm pretty sure that the college where I teach, for example, allows people to do this (upon paying a suitable fee, of course). If you take enough courses on that basis, including ones at the junior/senior level, and do well in them, I expect that would help convince a graduate admissions committee that you're worth a shot.

    This way you'll get the support of professors in those classes, and your fellow students, and you'll get some laboratory experience.
     
  15. Nov 11, 2005 #14
    can anyone suggest a good conceptual/intuitive calc I companion to standard calc I text. you know, one of those "seeing the concept" type books.

    man this is a happenin forum. course i've only done gaming forums before.
     
  16. Nov 11, 2005 #15
    calculus made easy by silvanus thompson is extremely non-rigourous but if you keep that in mind while reading it i think it's very good for that. i also like morris kline's calculus: a physical & intuitive approach.
     
  17. Nov 11, 2005 #16
    There is absolutely more than one "solid elegant" proof for many theorems or problems. One way might be easier to come up with, or a bit cleaner (to some people) but proofs on judged not on "elegance" but on whether they are sound. If you use rigorous reasoning at each stage in your proof (as you should) then your proof is good. If the answer in the back of the book shows you that you made a mistake or oversight, then pay attention to those sort of details so you will catch them next time. Eventually you'll be able to tell when you have a solid argument.
     
  18. Nov 12, 2005 #17
    Sort of off the topic, but Calculus for Dummies was the best companion book I found as a beginner. I was at the top of both beginning Calculus courses I took after reading it, and I am not the least bit ashamed to give all my credit to that book. It was unbelievable as a beginner's book in giving you an intuitive grasp of Calculus that related it directly to Algebra. If I can do exceptionally well in my classes after struggling with other books, then it has to be something worth recommending so there you go (I am not the brightest bulb on the tree, you see :wink:).

    As for the topic at hand, you would be a most interesting person indeed if you can tell someone that your Bachelors is in History with a masters in Physics (!). Would defintely raise eyebrows on a resume, but I don't really know how realistic it will be (I don't know anybody who has done it). You won't know until you try, but from my experiences things do tend to be more difficult when you don't take the "traditional" path. A college is a government agency first and paperwork usually wins over individual recognition. Even if you make it in, I would expect the pathway to be rather bumpy.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2005
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