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Essential classes for physics major?

  1. Feb 15, 2015 #1
    Hello, I'm not yet at the University level, but I was just wondering what core (meaning physics and math) classes are important for someone going into physics. Some background on my education thus far, I took Algebra 1 in 7th grade, Geometry in 8th, algebra 2 in 9th, doubled up on math in 10th (trig and pre calc), calc 1 in 11th grade, and am set to take calc 2 in 12th. For physics I have no advanced classes specializing in physics yet, but am set to take AP Physics next year (senior year).

    Obviously some more calc and such will be necessary, but specifically what order of classes would you guys recommend throughout my undergrad years?

    Thanks for any and all replies!
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 15, 2015 #2


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    Most college/university web sites list the course requirements for their physics majors. Sometimes there are specific recommendations for different "tracks" of students, i.e. those going on to graduate school (Ph.D.), or those going into engineering, or teaching.

    Generally speaking, grad schools expect incoming students to have taken upper-level undergrad courses in classical mechanics, electromagnetism, quantum mechanics and thermodynamics + statistical mechanics, along with some laboratory work above the first-year level, and some research experience. For math, the basic core is a full calculus sequence (usually 3 semesters, sometimes 4), differential equations, and linear algebra; and maybe a computer programming course.

    Add electives to suit your interests.
  4. Feb 15, 2015 #3
    Thanks for the reply! I also heard that Differential Geometry is really important for Relativity and Abstract Algebra and Topology are important too. Is this true, and if so to what extent?
  5. Feb 15, 2015 #4


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    I doubt most undergrad physics students take those courses, but it never hurts to know more math.
  6. Feb 15, 2015 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    I think most all introductory general relativity courses introduce you to the differential geometry that's needed, anyway.
  7. Feb 16, 2015 #6
    I would retake calculus 1 in college with a good professor. You are going to use alot of calculus. Would not hurt to see it again. I took calculus 1 at a cc with a professor who teaches graduate school at UCLA. Most of the kids who take this professor have taken AP calculus, participated in competitions such as math counts and olympiad, and are overall students who take mathematical educational seriously. Sad to say, many of the students who have taken AP calculus 1 and 2 and passed, do poorly in this professors class. This is always the case with this professor. When I took the professor, the class started with 15 students while the other 3 instructors had at least 40 students ending the class. Out of the 15 students, only 6 took the final and 4 passed. I had no exposure to calculus and started with arithmetic in cc. I took this professor 3 times and I am better prepared (note not smarter) Then many of the students that have a good educational background. I received a B in calculus 1 class.

    When students who did not have him for calculus 1 take his calculus 2 class tend to preform poorly.
  8. Feb 17, 2015 #7
    I will certainly keep that in mind Dwarf, thanks.
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