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Programs How useful would Chemistry be as a 2nd major to Physics

  1. May 29, 2016 #1
    So this upcoming fall I'm beginning college and decided to pursue a BS in Physics. Although I'm not exactly sure what field I want to pursue in physics, I think I want go into quantum mechanics after I graduate and obtain my PhD.

    Although I love chemistry, it's not what I want to do as a career so I was just wondering how useful a BS in Chemistry would be to a Physicist. Is it better to obtain a BS in Physics with a BS in Mathematics instead and take a lot graduate level physic coursework during my undergrad years?
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  3. May 29, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I think it's better to think about what classes you want to take and not so much about extra majors.
  4. May 29, 2016 #3
    It's a requirement at my university to have a minor or a 2nd major if you are majoring in physics. I've always figured chemistry would give me a deeper understanding in physics, but after viewing some threads on this forum, it seems everything you learn in chemistry that applies to quantum mechanics is a water downed version of actual quantum mechanics.

    I know math is crucial to physics and will require fewer classes than chemistry. If I do decide to do a second major in math, I have practically 3 semester of only electives or I can graduate with a BS in both. Since I have a scholarship, I don't want to waste those semester, but i'm debating on whether knowledge in chemistry would help me or if graduate courses are better. Since I don't plan on getting my masters at the university i'm attending during my undergrad, the graduate courses I take during my last year I would have to take again when I pursue a graduate degree.
    Last edited: May 29, 2016
  5. May 30, 2016 #4


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    Physics will give you a deeper understanding of Chemistry. Chemistry will not teach you much about Physics. Take just what Chem courses are required if you do not want Chemistry as your career. If you are really interested in Chemistry, then maybe you might choose a minor concentration in it. Without knowing more about your career plans, your major field could be Physics and either concentration or second major in something practical - maybe engineering or computer sci/programming. Best advice right now is, talk to an adviser in your department.
  6. May 30, 2016 #5


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    On a scale of one to ten, I'd say it's about a bicycle.:bike:

    More seriously though, at this point it's better to choose your courses based on your interests rather than attempting to optimize the synergistic effect of combining majors based on the opinions of people on the internet.

    Also, it's probably better to a couple years of undergrad underneath your belt before you start counting on graduate level coursework as part of your degree. Remember that two graduate level courses is often considered a full course load - for graduate students. That's not to say you can't or shouldn't take them as an undergrad. In some cases it can be a great experience. But other times you can end up in over your head.
  7. May 31, 2016 #6
    Thank you everyone; I really appreciate the input. I guess I have to do some soul searching before I decide, but I definitely will talk to my academic advisory.
  8. May 31, 2016 #7
    I was a biochemistry major in college and all throughout college I found myself curious about the deeper quantum physics behind it all rather than learning about chemical substances.

    I don't think chemistry really satisfies knowledge for physics only physics does that. I did enjoy my p-chem classes though and I wouldn't mind being a physical chemist as opposed to a traditional chemist.
  9. May 31, 2016 #8
    As others have posted, it's hard to decide on courses this early on without having a better idea of what exactly you're trying to get out of it. I loved chemistry when I entered university and still do, but was able to learn (and still am) the theory I wanted through my physics courses and a bit of independent reading. If you enjoy the experimental side also (it can certainly be very interesting), then it might be best to look at the outlines for some of the chemistry courses you think you're interested in.

    Personally, with the electives I had remaining in my physics program, I was able to take a lot of courses that I'd heard good things about (e.g. good professors, enjoyable environment). This led me into taking courses such as organic chemistry and speech as electives which were very interesting themselves. As you said, keeping space for further math/comp sci/grad-level courses could be really helpful going forward, too. The main sentiment just seems to be to keep your options open because you never know what kind of interesting courses you might come across. For example, there were courses in artificial intelligence, tissue engineering, and high performance computing that I was eligible to take (usually through special permission) because of my physics background and also other courses I'd taken serendipitously throughout my undergrad.
  10. May 31, 2016 #9
    Sadly, my university doesn't offer any of those amazing courses, and if they did, I couldn't not put myself through the biology or computer science to get to that level. They are my least favorite subjects all around, and although I hated most of mechanics in physics, I loved electricity and magnetism when I took it at my college last year through a dual credit program.
    On the other hand, the area I live in is surrounded by a lot of opportunities for STEM major and my university really focuses on research at all levels. I just recently got an internship that sparked my passion for chemistry (more like chemical engineering) again, so right now, I'm going to keep my options open. Thanks for the solid advice!
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