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Fields of Theoretical Physics.

  1. Jan 27, 2015 #1
    I'm in high school, thinking about what I want to do in college. I am aiming to get some sort of PhD in Theoretical Physics. I would love to just get one in general theoretical physics, but I am unsure if that is offered. I know that I can go into specific areas such as particle or field theory, but I am unsure of which one I would want if a general program is not offered. I am looking to hopefully create or solve theories about "the theory of everything". I am unsure of the field that that is associated with, or if it is ultimately associated with all of it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 27, 2015 #2
  4. Jan 27, 2015 #3
    Every field of physics has theoretical and experimental (except some ToE stuff) aspects. From what I know, a lot of the Theory of Everything people are particle/high energy/cosmologists.
  5. Jan 28, 2015 #4


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    Education Advisor

    There's really no such thing as a PhD in General Theoretical Physics. A PhD is basically about becoming the worlds foremost expert on a single, tiny little topic. The phrase "theoretical physicist" has taken on a bit of colloquial definition that isn't quite true. People like to equate it with things like string theory, the multiverse, black holes, or the "Theory of Everything." Truth is, there aren't really many physicists (either theoretical or experimental) that are 'working on' the ToE. They're working on topics that may pertain to such a ToE in a very big way, but their specific research topic isn't going to be "The Theory of Everything."

    Theoretical physics constitutes the theoretical perspectives of any branch of physics you could name. In any branch of physics, there are theorists and experimentalists. Some fields have considerably more experimentalists, and some fields have more theorists. In some fields, there's really very little distinction between the two. It really just depends.

    On a side note, you're still in high school. It's far too early to be committing yourself to a PhD in physics. It's good to have big goals, but you haven't yet really been exposed to physics in any real capacity. Make sure to keep your options open, and get as much math done as you possibly can.
  6. Jan 28, 2015 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    In the US (things may be different in other countries), PhD's are formally not awarded for specific fields of physics. I did mine in experimental particle physics, but my diploma says simply "Doctor of Philosophy (Physics)". When/if you look for an academic position after finishing your Ph.D., people will consider your dissertation topic and who you did your research with (i.e. who your advisor was).

    When you apply for graduate schools, if you know what field you want to specialize in, and whether you want to go towards theory or experiment, then you look for schools that have faculty who do research in the areas that you're interested in.
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