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Going back for second degree in Physics with some questions

  1. May 24, 2012 #1
    Hello all. I am a long time lurker and I have recently run into a snag in my academic career. I was wondering if y'all could be of some help. First the background:

    I attended a very small university in Georgia and obtained a degree in mathematics last May (2011). I graduated with a 3.8 GPA (entirely due to the fact of adapting to college freshman year. After freshman year, I had a 4.0). Anyway, I feel entirely ripped off by the institution and feel my degree is essentially worth nothing. I mean, my program didn't even have complex analysis or consistently offered any analysis courses past Real 1! I realize I should have transferred but I let a woman influence my decision on staying at the school. We broke up 3 months before graduation so that was obviously a bad decision. I did very little research because it was not required by the university. I wrote a few papers but none were published. I now realize I should have been more assertive and gone out of my way to do some research. This leads me to where I am today. I want to obtain a PhD in either mathematics or physics. With the mathematical courses I have completed, I realize that the mathematics route is becoming less attractive. I did not like Abstract Algebra at all, Analysis was boring and hard to grasp the point of the subject material, and the only interesting courses were ODE/PDE. This is why I am leaning more toward physics and also because I have always been interested in space. While my university didn't require more than two Physics classes, I do have a mathematical background. Obviously it would be impossible to succeed in/be accepted into a graduate program for physics at this point. This is why I have decided to go back and take some undergarduate courses in physics.

    Most people I have talked to have told me to just apply to graduate programs and see if I get in. I have looked at qualifying exams and I am no where close to being able to pass them. I have already been officially accepted into the University of Texas as an undergrad. Originally I was planning on taking only a few courses to try to apply to a few grad schools but then I thought about just getting a second degree. It would require 60 credit hours at the university and would give me another opportunity to do research. I am only 22. Taking two additional years is really not an issue to me if it's in a field that I love. So here are my questions:

    1) Is this the correct path, for someone in my situation, to take to obtaining a PhD in Physics? Is there an alternative/easier path? I realize most will say to just apply right now and see if I get in, but I don't feel like I am prepared for that
    2) Does having a second degree from a prestigious university make me a more attractive candidate? It can only help, right?
    3) Is there anything over the summer that I should do to more prepare myself? I am having shoulder surgery (torn rotator cuff) and will be out of work for 6 weeks. This is the perfect time to do any preparations.
    4) Does anyone have any more comments/suggestions?

    As mentioned, I feel cheated. I want a quality education so bad and my institution did not provide that for me. This change is not based on making more money. I simply want a better and more in depth education. I understand the difficulties ahead but I am looking forward to the challenge.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2012 #2


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    Here's a thread that may give you some answers (yes it's long but it has some really good points):


    IMO: Your math grades are great, but you really need to focus on the PGRE. Without a physics bachelor's, your score will be very important.
  4. May 24, 2012 #3
    I actually have done a Practice Physics Subject Test (last year I believe) that he suggested and I didn't do too well. I found my problem was that I didn't know formulas or the theories behind the questions. This is why I was more leaning towards getting a BS in Physics first rather than trying to get straight into a grad program. I understand I could probably find a place that will accept me but I am unprepared. I feel that is once again cheating myself and the university.

    One option I do have is to take a years worth of Physics classes and then applying for grad school. I am sure I will do a lot better on the exam but I still run into the problem of a lack of research. Would it be wise to just stay another year to complete a second degree or just try for programs after a year?
  5. May 24, 2012 #4
    But if you only need to do 60 credits, why would it take two years intead of one?
  6. May 24, 2012 #5
    60 credit hours is about 20 classes, give or take. Are you saying to take 10 classes a semester? In my experince, 18 credit hours a semester is quite a task and my university actually wouldn't allow you to take more than 21 credit hours in any semester.
  7. May 24, 2012 #6
    Oh, then an American credit is different from in Europe. Here one year corresponds to 60 credits (standard).

    EDIT: indeed, one American credit corresponds to two Europerean credits, so since 60 credits takes one year here, it indeed takes two years in America. My apologies.
  8. May 24, 2012 #7
    oh.. gotcha. Ya at University of Texas, they require at least 60 credit hours (which is two years for full time students) be taken at the university. I assume this is because they don't want people transferring in with only 3 classes to finish and getting a degree.
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