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Local university doesn't offer physics major

  1. Feb 12, 2015 #1
    I've ran into a problem where my local University, that I would be able to attend for no cost due to my close proximity (staying at home) and scholarships, does not offer physics as a major, only a minor. If I were to attend a different University, my scholarships wouldn't cover my costs due to the high prices of room and board. As a result, I would leave college with a sizable debt when I could graduate for free at my local one, which is a really good University where a huge chunk of my friends will be attending (which is a factor I account for).

    My University does however offer a pre-professional Chemistry major with a stronger curriculum meant for those looking to enter medical school or industry. My original intention was to do 2 years of general studies at local and then transfer to a physics undergraduate program, but I would still end up with a sum of debt that I don't want to incur if I can avoid it. So I thought, hey, why don't I follow through with a Bachelors in Chem and use it to find a job in a town that will pay for a Physics major down the line (and hopefully a graduate education). All while I give a Physics minor a shot to see if it's something that I can dedicate my life to.

    There are three problems. One, I may not be able to find an entry level chemistry job as I've heard that the job market isn't ideal at the moment. Two, I would end up in college for the same amount of time as a medical doctor (4 year Chem major, 4 year Physics Major, possibly another 4-6 years for Graduate school). That's a large chunk out of my life that I'm still not 100% on what I want to do with. I've taken a Calculus course and I'm pretty interested in learning about how the Universe works, but I have problems dedicating myself to a subject for a prolonged time. Finally, juggling a full time job and physics coursework could prove to be challenging beyond what I'm capable of.

    Apologies for the long post, but could anyone give me some life advice? I've already accepted admission into my local University and they've pretty much offered me a free ride to study there. Hopefully some understand why I would be hesitant to throw that away to attend another University without being sure what I want.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 12, 2015 #2
    Where is this university? I want to go to school for free! All I can say is I'm a sophomore in chemistry right now and I study physics probably 10 hours a weeks, chemistry another 10 hours a week plus other classes (about 3 hours for each hour in class). But I believe I'm more motivated that the average individual (especially people my age, early 20s). There's no way I could be doing this if I had a full-time job, I would definitely be getting C's or lower. My suggestion is to get a minor in physics then hopefully you can transfer all those credits to a university where you can get a major.
  4. Feb 12, 2015 #3


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    Have you thought about doing your first two years at this school and then transferring later on? The first year of an undergraduate physics program is going to be quite similar to a first year chemsitry degree anyway. You only really start to diverge in the second year and even then it's likely very easy to transfer from one program to the other. By then you would likely have a better idea whether physics is the right fit for you. And you will have saved some money along the way.
  5. Feb 12, 2015 #4
    Yes, the problem is that I will lose all of my scholarships awarded by that University and end up paying around 35,000 bucks to finish those last two years of a Physics degree (assuming all of my credits transferred). I'm also concerned that if I stay at my college for 2 years and transfer that none of my chemistry courses will count towards the degree and I will have wasted a lot of time on even taking it.
  6. Feb 12, 2015 #5


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    Are you certain of your career goals? Only do Chemistry if you really believe you want that kind of career. Your best choice could be to take advantage of the financial arrangement for the chosen university with the Physics minor, and choose some related major field (Chemistry if that is what you really want, or something else like engineering if this option is appealing enough,... or something else.)
  7. Feb 12, 2015 #6


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    Another idea:
    Talk to the Physics department of your university offering the minor concentration. Does this university or department have an arrangement with another local university for students to enroll in its Physics course and earn a "major" degree that way?
  8. Feb 12, 2015 #7
    You have done chemistry. You have seen what it is. It should be a very employable degree because afaik it is in almost any country, regardless of economic ups and downs.

    If you know, or think you know, this is not going to be your professional life, don't waste time. Finish up what you sitll need to learn there and transfer to a place where they do offer the courses you want to take.

    Your 4 years BSc chem, 1-4 years of job, 2-4 years of BSc physics, 6-12 years of PhD and postdoc, is a very cumbersome track. It is going to generate its own problems down the road. People doing a PhD already complain that their friends have money, kids, homes, all that stuff while they still live as students. For you this is going to be the case for a few more years than usual. Some people couldn't care less, for other this is very important.
    Once you get a chem job and make some decent money, it may become very hard to give all that up and to start from scratch in chemistry. You have to move out of that nice appartment and back into a smelly dorm, your GF you might have may be against it, etc etc.

    Imo, physics is romanticized and chemistry is underrated. Yeah, it would be nice to do cosmology or theoretical physics, but few get to get to be both a poet and a scientist. Most physicists get real jobs, just like chemists. One just does chemistry, the other physics.

    Chem lab jobs should be ubiquitous. They don't require specific industries, high tech or big research funds. You can get a BSc in chemistry and get a job. If you know you are just going to hate lab work, don't study chemistry. Yeah, you can become a consultant or a manager, if you have an MSc and job experience (in the lab).

    Then there is always the interdisciplinary option, when you go into a PhD track. Certain fields require both chemists and physicists to work on the same interdisciplinary option.
    Grad school may offer courses that help prepare you for this, though in my experience if you want to take grad courses in physics, you will end up taking physics courses for non-physics grad students. They will be more about giving you the skills you need to get the job down once you are in your PhD lab, rather than rigorously going through all the material over and over, then stomp you with difficult problems.
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2015
  9. Feb 13, 2015 #8
    Some very useful advice, I very much appreciate the time you took to answer my question. An idea I did have was to graduate with a BS in Mathematics and hope that for the Physics major that I would already have finished a good number of the mathematics courses I needed (along with the math knowledge I would need to succeed in graduate school). Sadly I can't double major in physics in math because again, they don't offer the physics major. But the minor would go nicely.

    I'm a science man so regardless it's either coming down to physics or chemistry. Those are the cream of the crop in my eyes, I can't see myself in any other industry.
  10. Feb 13, 2015 #9
    That's a really good suggestion, and I believe I will follow up on that. When I talk to my advisor I will do some digging and see if there are any opportunities for a physics major program near me. Thank you for that!
  11. Feb 19, 2015 #10


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    Symbolipoint gave you excellent advice. Also the advice to jump to another university in two years is actually a good option too, if you really desire a physics degree. Keep in mind a BS in physics isn't enough, unless you aspire to teaching HS science. You won't get any other employment unless you chase after an advanced degree or consider engineering.

    However, if your school is part of a statewide institution, you may be able to stay for 2 1/2 to 3 years at your campus AND then transfer saving yourself another $10-20K. Most Universities will not accept more than 64 transfer credits into their programs from another school. One way to circumvent this is to transfer 64 credits that are NOT offered as department exams and CLEP and use these two methods to get an additional number of credits awarded - after you are enrolled at the new school (confirm that they have department exams, most schools, suspect all public colleges /universities are required to accept CLEP) CLEP won't help if you already have a class accepted hence my comment about selectively having courses transferred, if you exceed 64 credits.
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