Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

How hard is physics.

  1. Sep 18, 2008 #1


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    I'm planning to do a degree in physics (in the U.K) next year. Its just a normal physics course (e.g. not physics with nanoscience, or theoretical physics) and I want to know how hard people think it will be. I'm good at physics and I can grasp concepts quite well. I'm ok at maths, I understand it when its taught to me, but I don't always rember it (maby because I'm lazy and don't revise).
    I'm also bad at spelling, donno if that will affect it?

    Thanls for any advice.

    *Sorry I should of put this in the Academic Guidance section, didn't see it:blushing:*
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2008 #2
    Undergraduate physics work doesn't generally become too difficult until the last two years, and you won't likely run into basic quantum physics until you already have a full year under your belt.

    If you feel that you were good at physics in high school, I'd give it a go. There is a lot of math, but the math in your physics courses will be pretty basic (mostly algebra) until you get to classes which have math prereqs. The first semester will probably be a rehash of what you've already done (although with calculus), and if you don't succeed or decide you hate it, you can always change your mind. I went into undergrad with the idea of 'well, I liked this in high school, there are other things that I'm better at, but why not?' and I made it out of a good program with a respectable GPA.

    You'll need to develop your study habits and be ready to dedicate yourself to improving your math skills, but just because you've decided to major in physics doesn't mean you're committed to that for four years.
  4. Sep 18, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Not sure how your beginning courses compare to those in other countries, but:
    Your first real solid physics courses especially the first one (fundamental mechanics?) can be shockingly difficult, yet with effort, very learnable. You need good Intermediate Algebra skill and some common Trigonometry knowledge. For the fundamental Electricity & Magnetism course ( fundamental phys #2?) you may really need good Calculus & Trigonometry maturity to do your best performance and learning.

    The stuff can be so rough for some that they decide to stay away from more Math & Physics (probably a big mistake - should have spent extra effort learning more math and reveiwing what they had already studied).
  5. Sep 18, 2008 #4
    Physics is hard. Maybe not at first, but it will become hard and that challenge is what draws quite bit of people. Prepare to work at using those concepts you learn to solve actual problems and then extend those results to new ones.
  6. Sep 18, 2008 #5
    Not nearly as hard as pure math.
  7. Sep 18, 2008 #6
    That's irrelevant. It's like asking, "how hard is it to run the 100 meter dash, and then answered with not as hard as winning a marathon." Regardless if you are right or wrong, it doesn't matter. The skills and purposes are different, even though both events require legs.
  8. Sep 18, 2008 #7
    I go to a UK university (Manchester) and would have to say that physics is probably one of the most difficult of all the courses that the university offers but at the same time, in the first 2 years at least, you can do reasonably well without having to work TOO much and just making sure you know the things they teach you in lectures when it comes to exams.

    This isn't the best way to approach physics since you ought really learn everything they teach you regardless of what will get you through exams, AND spend a good deal of time establishing a solid framework for independent learning (which in the first 2 years you'll certainly have the opportunity to do), but ultimately, as far as getting a decent grade in your degree:

    If you can get onto the course then you can get a good grade

    Natural ability is a factor as far as grades are concerned in that, someone who's better equipped to do well will do so with less effort, but as i said, if you can get on the course then it's well within your remit to do well (maths wise, if you struggle, you might just have to spend some time at workshops or do some extra reading, but i don't think the maths courses are that difficult that you can't come to get on top of it)
  9. Sep 19, 2008 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Ok thanks guys. Another question I wanted to ask was to people who have a degree in physics what kind of jobs they got after their degree. Thanks for the advice.
  10. Sep 19, 2008 #9
    I would guess detunedradio is from the USA, and sympolpoint from the UK?! Things get tougher more quickly in the UK. Because you do a BSc in three years it's much more difficult to "change your mind". If you start "majoring" in physics then you are stuck with it, unless you redo a year. So in the UK the hard mathematics comes earlier. You'll be encounterng serious calculus in your first year, although you (surely) must have already encountered it in sixth form so it shouldn't be too much of a shock. Mathematics, unlike history, is a subject in which the advanced techniques rest on more basic techniques and in University physics you *must not forget* the basic mathematics -- so do some revision, and do it as you go along. If you only do it before the exam you'll forget it over the summer and be faced with relearning calculus at the same time as you are learning Quantum Mechanics. That's tough! The aim is to make first year material "second nature" otherwise you'll be up **** creek without that paddle when things get hard. If you don't enjoy continuous revision then do a subject that doesn't require it. University of East London and some other places use continuous assessment, so if you do (say) history or media studies you might get away without doing revision. Though you better like essay writing (for history) or bull garbageting (for media studies)! If you do history or media you might find it difficult getting the more interesting/demanding IT jobs.

    After my physics degree, I worked mainly at programming jobs. My employers had been involved in physics, or respected someone who had done a tough subject that provided a mental discipline suitable for programming work.
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?