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Hoping to study physics - do I have to start over?

  1. Dec 28, 2011 #1
    I have one more semester left in my bachelors degree in International Relations. I would like to do a 180 and continue my education in Physics after I graduate.

    A bit of background: I have always been interested in astrophysics and have studied it independently for years. Even though it was my plan to study it in college, I shied away from the sciences due to poor performance in math during high school. I just recently took a math class and did very well. I am more confident now that I could get through higher math in order to study astrophysics.

    None of my undergrad coursework will apply towards a physics degree. Do I have to redo my whole bachelors degree in order to pursue grad school in physics? I'm really not too thrilled about that possibly being my only option. I am mostly concerned about time and also that there's little to no financial assistance for a second bachelors. Are there any other options? Can I take "catch-up" courses at a community college in order to qualify for a grad program? I basically want to know what the bottom line will be for me work-wise and time-wise if I wish to pursue this.

    Additionally, recommendations for good academics institutions in California, preferably Northern, would be helpful.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 28, 2011 #2


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    You essentially have to start over. If you had pursued your first bachelor's in something even peripherally related (engineering, chemistry, etc.) you might have a shot at only having to do remedial coursework, but as it stands you do not have the mathematics skills required for success at the higher level.
  4. Dec 28, 2011 #3


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    Again, I would recommend you read this thread:


    ... and you can be the judge for yourself how much catching up you have to do.

  5. Dec 28, 2011 #4


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    Yes, you're going to have to start over. I'd suggest finishing your current degree before starting physics. Earn a bachelors first, and if you're still interested in physics 6 months from now, go to a community college. Take the math placement exam and start where they recommend. Once you've worked your way up to calculus, take calculus-based physics. If you did well in all your math and physics courses there (I'm talking A's), then consider transferring back to a 4-year college or university to complete a physics degree. Some of your first bachelors work will transfer so it shouldn't take you 4 years total, but physics and math must be taken in some semblance of an order, so it might take a while still. Community colleges don't offer nearly enough physics to prepare you for graduate school.
  6. Dec 28, 2011 #5
    I guess I should have specified my math level. The next level of math I'd be in is Calculus.

    Thank you for the link to the other thread. I read that. It looks like I'll be having to redo my bachelor's degree. Does anyone know how that works specifically? I can't imagine I'll have to do all the electives/GE credits over again - tell me that's the case!!! Essentially I'll just have to complete the units for the physics degree, correct? Anyone have a clue what the cheapest option is? I imagine state university or online?
  7. Dec 28, 2011 #6
    Im sure you wont have to go back and complete all of your GE courses. Transferring credits from your original bachelors should fill those in. As someone above stated community college would be a good choice to get most of math and introductory physics classes out of the way, dif eq, calc 1-3, lin alg, and physic 1/2. If all of your credits from your other university transfer you will have to complete all of the major requirements plus more courses if you didnt make the residency requirement where you have to take so many credits at junior level. (dont know if all uni's have this, mine does).

    But, it should take you a lot less time. Im guessing it will take you three years because of course offering cycles.
  8. Dec 29, 2011 #7
    Perfect. So basically I can work on my prereqs at CC and then enter a uni for their minimum residency time, which is different for each school. At my current school it's only one year.
  9. Dec 30, 2011 #8
    If cost is a concern for you, then studying abroad would be a good way to go around that.
  10. Jan 5, 2012 #9
    Can you explain that further?
  11. Jan 5, 2012 #10
    Before starting another degree you really owe it to yourself to put the first one to the test. You most likely invested $50,000 or more in it. If you are independently wealthy then fine. If not, or especially if it's not your money, responsibility demands that you take stock of yourself and what you're doing with your life.

    It would be better (and cheaper) for you to graduate and clerk in a law office or even tend bar for year. If after that you still want a physics degree, go for it.
  12. Jan 6, 2012 #11
    I already work in a law office.

    I've considered what you've said. I'm probably going to take a few courses after graduating and see if it's something I want to commit additional time/resources to.
  13. Jan 9, 2012 #12
    Ghostie, this is interesting, I am in the exact same situation. I'm a senior Biology major and I have recently realized the interest I've had in physics most of my life, and more recently in astrophysics - just done a lot of reading. I have not taken any physics in college, however I have the opportunity to stay an extra semester or year for free (parent professor). I'm ready to be done with college, but should I stay to see if the interest is valid and could lead somewhere? Thanks and good luck to you.
  14. Jan 9, 2012 #13
    Well if you are thinking about ever having a shot at physics, you're gonna have to do a lot more college!! I'd say... take a year of physics for FREE to figure it out. Good luck...
  15. Jan 23, 2012 #14
    As an international student i plan to study abroad. my TOEFL score is not a strong one, I got 73 but my other score are not as weak, my GRE physics is 900 my master GPA is 3.4 and ... acording to my condition which universities you recommend me to apply (for PhD in physics)? Thank you.
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