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I want to study physics

  1. Aug 22, 2010 #1
    I have always had a deep interest in science, but mostly i focused on technology, when it comes to computers, I am the person everyone I know turns to... However, in my senior year in high school, i took physics for the better part of the year, and it peaked my interest. Failing to really realize my interest at the time, i moved on not thinking much about it. In recent months, I have taken a huge interest in Theoretical Physics, but I never took any advanced math classes in high school, just algebra and geometry, so I'm not sure how I can even consider this. Let alone, how feasible is it, really, that I can attain a career in physics? Can anyone throw me some advice? I am sincerely interested, but, I'm not sure if it is a good idea to change my direction, so abruptly, or how to announce this to my parents, who I live with...
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 22, 2010 #2


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    Depends, what is your current educational status? e.g. are you in college? If so, which year? What have you been studying so far?

    It probably won't be impossible to go for a career as a physicist, but depending on how much time you have left in the educational system, it might be difficult.
  4. Aug 22, 2010 #3
    If you truly want to do physics, then don't let little things like not having experience with the "advanced maths" required to being studying physics in college.

    If you're really cut out for that kind of academic rigour, then these courses will not be too difficult, true they might require months of work, but what's a couple months or so?

    Just don't expect to be a theoretical physicist when everything is said and done. It's just very unlikely that you would end up doing research in an academic setting.
  5. Aug 22, 2010 #4
    I never took Calculus in high school. Now I am in a mathematical physics honours program.
    If I were you (depending on if you are already in college?) I would look up requirements to get into physics programs at various universities. There is always a way, and at this stage it is usually a very simple way. If it's time your worried about- stop worrying. Changing your direction now could save you years of unhappiness later. Do what you love. I'm not saying doing what you love will always be easy or clear cut, but in the long run it should be rewarding.

    As far as your parents go, It would really bother me if they were disappointed. This is your life and you have to learn to make your own adult decisions. Although it isn't always easy for parents, they have to understand that you need to explore your own options.

  6. Aug 22, 2010 #5


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    If you already have a bachelor's degree in something, check out the following thread:

    I have so-and-so degree, can I get into Physics?

    Don't be put off by the fact that it started five years ago, there are a bunch of posts from this year.
  7. Aug 22, 2010 #6
    If worse comes to worst, you can always take calculus and such at a community college, then transfer. It's what I'm doing -- I didn't attend high school at all.
  8. Aug 22, 2010 #7
    thanks for the replies guys, I'm 19, not yet in college, its already too late to go anywhere for fall semester... hopefully spring
  9. Aug 23, 2010 #8


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    Oh, well in that case you should have no problem. I thought you were well into college already :wink: Just take the time between now and whenever you do start college to learn what you can about calculus (how to do integrals and derivatives of single-variable functions, and what they mean).
  10. Aug 23, 2010 #9
    In my school u you can take physics one and Calculus 1 concurrently. So the only thing I would recomend is taking Pre-Calculus as soon as possible. Then you can take all the Maths right along with your Physics courses.
  11. Aug 23, 2010 #10
    sounds like a pretty good idea, my biggest problem is financial aid, since most colleges nearby, that would have the classes i need are pretty expensive, let alone, i have to be able to access them, via public transportation. Regardless, I'm looking into Penn State University. I was thinking about buying a few books, "pre-calc for dummies", stuff along those lines, just to get myself a heads up, any thoughts on that?
  12. Aug 23, 2010 #11
    Go for it, but remember, math needs to be PRACTICED to be learned... I'd buy yourself a textbook from a discount store, and a solutions manual for said book, just for the problems.
  13. Aug 23, 2010 #12
    Sure can't hurt, but you may need to formally take Pre-Calculus as a Pre-Requisite to Calc 1 since you didn't take Trigonemetry in High School. I am from NJ, not sure where you are from, but I recomend takeing Pre-Calculus at a Community College and see how you do. If you get an A or B then start at a university in the spring. If you hurry you could probably find a class for this fall. Also at community college they sometimes call Pre-Calculus (College Algerbra And Trig). Just make sure you taking the one that has the Trigonemetry.

    Good Luck!!
  14. Aug 23, 2010 #13


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    Small world, I'm actually a grad student at Penn State :wink: For what it's worth, the first class of the physics sequence (PHYS 211) doesn't require calculus as a prerequisite. Most students do come into the physics program having already taken a calculus class, but a few do take it concurrently with physics. The first week of PHYS 211 starts with a little overview of derivatives and integrals so that everyone is (hopefully) at least familiar with the ideas.
  15. Aug 23, 2010 #14
    oh nice, thanks again guys, i may do some of what you're saying, and diazona, i live in delco, so, I may do some classes at DCCC as for the pre-reqs, can u answer me a quick question about penn state? is (Eberly college) the science college of penn state located at all, or only selected campuses?
  16. Aug 23, 2010 #15


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    I think it may be only the University Park campus that is really split into different colleges... why do you ask?
  17. Aug 24, 2010 #16
    just wondering, not really sure how the different departments are spread out at the campuses
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