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Math versus Physics Degree?

  1. Sep 19, 2012 #1
    I am hoping to become a physicist focusing mainly on the theoretical side in the future. I am trying to decide whether to go for a physics or math undergrad course.

    Assuming that I am capable of doing either, what are the pros and cons of either route?

    I know that mathematics is essential to doing physics, and in most math courses, there are applied math modules that are very much related to physics. Also that many research physicists have math degrees. But surely there is a reason why people choose the physics course over the math course and vice versa? In particular, what are the advantages of a physics degree over a math one, given that a math degree could lead to PhD in physics and possibly open more possibilities in say the financial world (though that is not my interest)?
    How important is experimental experience to a theorist?

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 19, 2012 #2
    It would be quite unusual for a someone doing a math degree to have the option to take Advanced E&M, Statistical Mechanics etc. These all have a lot of math in them but they have underlying physical principles that a math major is never taught.

    I assume that you are European / Non USA as if you were surely the prospect of a double major should have crossed your mind.
  4. Sep 19, 2012 #3
    @DarthFrodo: Thank you. Actually the Math course at my university does cover Statistical Physics, E&M, etc. Though not topics like condensed matter, solid state physics, etc.

    A double major is not available at my university.
  5. Sep 19, 2012 #4


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    The concept of "Cognate" is applied in the choice of courses for the major field. This is regarding university education in some places outside of Europe. At institutions which apply the cognate courses, the Mathematics degree seeker CAN certainly learn sets of topics from Physics including Electricity & Magnetism and many parts of what you could include in "etcetera".
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