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Courses List of Courses Necessary for Physics Graduate School

  1. Sep 30, 2011 #1
    I looked back a few months but could find no posts that explicitly covered both these so my question to y'all is:

    From your personal experience, if you had to compose a list of undergraduate math/physics courses that are necessary/extremely beneficial to success in physics graduate school what would they be? Please negate potential PhD topics of study such as the course requirement difference between HEP vs. condensed matter vs. astronomy. A broad, general overview will suffice. To start, the basic consensus for the bare minimum one should have completed I have read on these forums so far is:

    Calculus 1-3
    Linear Algebra

    Introductory Physics 1-3
    Intermediate E&M
    Intermediate Mechanics
    Intermediate Laboratory
    Quantum Mechanics
    Thermal Physics

    If you had to add to this list, what would you say one should have already taken (i.e. quantum 2, solid-state, complex variables etc.) As I am currently thinking of pursuing graduate school, not only would this benefit me as I consider electives but the many who browse this forum probably thinking the same thing.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 2, 2011 #2
    No one has any opinion on this?
  4. Oct 2, 2011 #3


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    Looks like you've got the essentials.
  5. Oct 2, 2011 #4
    I agree that you have the essentials. Whatever the requirements are for graduation are likely 'good enough' prep for graduate school. However, since it would seem you have some room in your schedule, a second semester of either (or all) classical/quantum mechanics and E&M would be useful as well.

    When I was done with undergrad I had completed the following:
    Math: Calculus 1-3, ODE, linear algebra, an additional course in ODE
    Physics: Intro 1-3, mechanics 1 & 2, quantum 1 & 2, E&M1, optics (w/ lab), electronics (w/ lab), senior lab, nuclear/particle physics, solid-state physics.

    I found my 2nd semesters of classical and quantum mechanics to be a lot of fun because you really went in depth and saw some applications. My favorite part of taking Quantum 2 was on the first day. The professor walked in, looked at everyone in the room and said, "So, these are the hardcore..." and proceeded to start with the first lesson.

    More of the specialized courses like solid-state physics will at least give you some sort of idea about what these topics are about. They could come in handy when deciding what you want to concentrate on in graduate school.
  6. Nov 25, 2011 #5

    I posted a long sequence of what books/knowledge/skills you should have for grad physics and beyond at: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=540829

    Thanks to feedback, I've shrunk the material down. I haven't posted the reduced material yet, but I can email it to you (akalaniz AT gmail.com).
  7. Nov 26, 2011 #6
    Don't physics students usually have to take some sort of course of applied complex functions? Seems pretty important to me. And courses like numerical analysis and programming may not strictly be needed but are probably very useful.
  8. Nov 26, 2011 #7


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    Staff: Mentor

    I don't know of any physics bachelors programs in the US that require complex variables or numerical methods, although they some may very well exist. Many do require some kind of programming course.

    I do agree that complex variables are useful for graduate-level physics courses. After my first semester in graduate school, I decided I'd better take complex variables as one of my two required non-physics "cognate courses."
  9. Nov 27, 2011 #8
    I did say applied complex analysis, where it is not a rigorous mathematics course, and this is quite a common requirement as far as I know. I have a Princeton undergrad handbook from 1999-2000 (no, I never went there), and for a physics degree under "Basic Requirements" it says:
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