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Is a triple major unrealistic?

  1. Nov 23, 2012 #1
    Hi all, I'm new to these forums... they look pretty cool though so I'll probably try to contribute a bit.
    I'm very passionate about: maths, computer sci, and physics. I would like to pursue them all at tertiary level, but I'm unsure how achievable/realistic this would be. Please let me know what you think.. (honestly) I won't get offended.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2012 #2


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    given the utter vagueness of your question regarding the level of study you intend, what exactly you mean, and so forth, I'd have to say the answer is

    maybe / maybe not
  4. Nov 23, 2012 #3
    Sorry for the vagueness; I thought tertiary level was clear enough to answer this question - perhaps not. I'm thinking of a bachelor degree, not PhD... or masters.
  5. Nov 23, 2012 #4


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    OK, so you're looking for a triple-undergraduate-degree math/compsci/physics.

    If you have an extra year and the faculty will approve it, I see no reason why you shouldn't be able. Plenty of people get double degrees in the regular 4 years but I doubt the faculty would let you do a triple in that amount of time because you wouldn't really have enough courses for 3 degrees.
  6. Nov 23, 2012 #5
    Thanks for the answer. I was kind of hoping that it could be done in the same time as a double-undergrad-major... but supposing it can't, I don't think an extra year is too bad :)
  7. Nov 24, 2012 #6
    I assume you don't go to college yet since if you did you could just look up the department website for details on each major. To answer your question, it largely depends on the school and the specific concentrations/options that they offer for each of the majors you are looking at.

    To give you an example plenty of people at my school "double-major" in physics and math or physics and engineering. However the Physics department at our school offers several different options. There is the "BA" which is a stupidly easy track in which all you have to take are 4 intro physics courses, 2 labs and 2 applied physics classes and you would have an official physics degree in your hand. On the other hand, there's the "BS" which requires a lot more than the BA such as upper level classes in Classical Mechanics, a year of Quantum Mechanics and E&M each, advanced labs, PDEs etc. This would be a pretty big time commitment. Similarly for math, there's a concentration where people take easier versions of analysis and algebra etc and there's a more rigorous graduate preparatory major which again is a significant time commitment. It would be very difficult to do the harder concentrations in both, but it won't add too much work if you're doing the BS in physics and you decide to add the easier version of the math major. So in summary, it may be even possible to do all 3 majors in 4 years if your school offers easier/basic concentrations for each of those majors, but would be very difficult if the only degrees that are offered or you decide to undertake are the serious concentrations.

    Also, a word of advice would be to stick to two majors at most, preferably focusing more on one of them. Math, Physics and CS are three huge fields and you really want to concentrate your efforts at being good at one thing rather than having a basic understanding of everything, especially since you can only go to grad school for one of them. Even as a measly double major I'm having trouble with this since I never have time to delve deep as much as I would like to, in the subjects I study due to the fact that I have to worry about so many other things.
  8. Nov 24, 2012 #7

    Thanks for the info! very insightful :)
    I'm 16 btw, second to last year of high school, living in New Zealand.
    Do you know whether there is any overlap in the papers? If there was maybe I could still do physics while applying my CS skills? Anyway; adhering to your advice, I would probably do math + physics, as I'm interested in the entire field of them. With CS I'm primarily interested in high level programming languages.
  9. Nov 24, 2012 #8
    I'm no expert on CS by any means but from what I've heard CS is a lot more than just programming, so going into CS if you just want to program won't be very wise. There are tons of physicists who can program really well since that is how a lot of research is done these days. A lot of people who work in experimental physics spend a large amount of time just doing simulations. So you can definitely be a great programmer as well as a physicist at the same time. The physics department at my school offers a "computational physics" concentration as well where in addition to everything else, you would take an extra year of computational physics. The school you end up going to may have something similar. Similarly, math and physics also have quite a bit of overlap. Essentially, Calculus, ODEs, Linear Algebra and PDEs would likely be required of you by both a good math and physics program and would consist of a large chunk of the former.

    You should also take note that most of what I've said applies to US universities since that's where I am right now, but I'm not sure how applicable it is to where you are planning to study.
  10. Nov 24, 2012 #9


    Staff: Mentor

    One thing to consider is that saying I majored in three areas to a prospective employer may not go over very well.

    For example, consider the BioMech Eng major: Some employers might not hire the person thinking I need an engineer not a half engineer / half biologist or similarly I need a biologist not a half biologist / half engineer. To counteract that perception, BMEs take additional courses to bolster one or both majors.

    So you can imagine what might happen if you said you were a triple major withoutthe requisite years of study.
    Last edited: Nov 24, 2012
  11. Nov 24, 2012 #10
    If things go as planned that (I hope) won't be an issue. I want to be an entrepreneur.
  12. Nov 24, 2012 #11
  13. Nov 24, 2012 #12
    A triple major is really not advisable. You could easily pull of a double major with a minor, but a triple major doesn't really sound good. The thing is that you will likely focus only on the core classes in each field and you won't really take any classes to deepen your understanding. And what about research, will you have time for that?

    A triple major is a bit a jack of all trades: you know a bit of math, physics and comp sci. But sadly, you will also be a master of none. And (people may correct me if I'm wrong), I don't think many people are waiting for somebody who knows a bit of math, physics and comp sci. I rather think that people want somebody who knows one thing very well.

    And also, if you want to be an entrepreneur, how will a triple major in something like math, physics and comp sci possibly help you for that?? You're going to take really expensive college classes that won't be helpful to you at all!! That sounds like a waste of money to me...
  14. Nov 24, 2012 #13
    Thanks for the insight :D
    The reason I would take the classes is because they interest me - not because it will be of value to me as an entrepreneur. In NZ uni/college fees are covered by a student loan (no interest). Though I don't really mind whether or not these would be of benefit to me, as an entrepreneur, I think that they would be.
  15. Nov 24, 2012 #14


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    If this is the case, then just take whatever classes that interest you. Don't worry about whether or not they satisfy a 'major' or 'minor' or whatever (except of course having at least one major).
  16. Nov 24, 2012 #15
    Thank-you for the advice :D
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