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Getting a Physics degree later in life.

  1. Dec 20, 2008 #1
    I am an older person (30 +) that has worked in technology for nearly 20 years. I have worked on and with High Performance Technical computing clusters to support NASA and scientist. I have no degrees. I have always has a deep interest and enjoy Astronomy, Physics, Cosmology. I am thinking about going to school to get a degree (MS or PhD) in physics or a related field. How hard is the path I am looking at? How expensive is it going to be?

    I am looking at starting out this way.

    Community college to get basics out of the way.
    then transfer to a 4 year school then possibly on word.

    I also have thought about working in computational physics. Since I have a 20 year background in IT. Thoughts or comments?

    I also will need to support my family and I on this path.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 21, 2008 #2


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    I got my BS taking one or two classes per quarter and it took 9-1/2 years. It's possible to do this way, but it's definately a slog.

    I wouldn't let your age influence you...it's really not the issue. Perhaps you're thinking "I'll be (fill in the blank) years old by the time I graduate!" Well you're going to be that old anyway - do you want to be that old with, or without, a degree?

    It all comes down to how much you want it.
  4. Dec 21, 2008 #3
    I'm in a similar boat, going back for a Physics degree 8 years after completing a degree in Kinesiology....

    I hesitated for too long because of the "I'll be THAT old when I get my PhD."
    What finally made me realize I should go for it is the realization that I do want to do this and EARNING the degree will probably bring me at least as much excitement and joy as HAVING the degree.

    If you do enjoy it and plan to do it for the rest of your life, you'll be doing Physics at ages much older than the age you'll be when you complete your degree.

    I saw a recent interview with Ed Witten where he is asked for his thoughts on Physicists seeming to make their "best" discoveries in their 20's.
    Ed says that he made his best discoveries in his 30's, until he made his best discoveries in his 40's....and hopefully he'll continue that with his best discoveries in his 50's. (...a very lenient paraphrase of what I remember him saying).
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