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Mix mathematics with physics in undergrad degree?

  1. Jul 28, 2013 #1
    I am in a bit of a dilemma. I am right before my undergrad degree and I have been torn apart between physics and mathematics.
    I have never really studied physics, very little in high school, but it seems fascinating to me and I figured that just because I didn't have a chance to study it so far doesn't mean I should exclude it from my options.
    On the other hand in high school I was pretty good at math and liked it, but I know that what they teach you in high school isn't even close to the real deal.
    In the "end game" physics seems more interesting and meaningful (my dream is to continue in an academic career path), but then again I have practically zero experience in both.
    Having zero experience in both I figured I might mix them together in my bachelors degree to get to know them better and then decide where I'm drawn to in my Masters degree.
    My question is this, lets say I Mix them and decide to go with physics in my masters, how much will it affect that I did less physics in my undergrad degree (because I mixed and exchange physics courses with mathematics courses)? Same question with Mathematics.
    Is mixing worth it or should I just focus on one subjects and go for it?
    Thanks in advance for any help anyone can give me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 28, 2013 #2
    I got a math undergrad and a physics PhD. My advisor double-majored in math/physics as an undergrad, then got a physics PhD, then wrote several math and physics textbooks. So it's definitely possible to mix-and-match.

    There's often some catch-up work you'll need to do if you major in one and go to grad school in another. In my case, I had to teach myself some undergrad statistical physics and quantum mechanics. That was easier than it sounds because I had already spent a lot of time learning probability and linear algebra as an undergrad.
  4. Jul 29, 2013 #3
    Thanks NegativeDept, that's comforting to hear.
    Another question. Is doing a mixed degree a lot harder than a focused degree? In the university I'm going to (Hebrew University of Jerusalem) both degrees have the same amount of credit points (just the mixed splits it into two categories) but it seems mixing makes it a lot harder.
    I'm not scared of a challenge but I'm not kidding myself and I know that I'm not one of those brainiacs that everything goes easily to.
  5. Jul 29, 2013 #4


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    I don't know how it works there, but I would be surprised if there isn't someone there to advice you on something like this. It is difficult for the us in other parts of the world to tell you what you will need to accomplish at your educational institution because different schools in different parts of the world can have varying requirements.

    Math and physics double majors are not uncommon, at least, here in the US. However, you need to make sure you understand and be aware of the work load involved. This is where an academic advisor will be valuable. He/she can tell you how certain courses can count towards both degrees, thus, you can kill two birds with one stone. But you will also need to know how much extra work that will be required, and that is also academic-institution-specific.

    The one thing that you will learn very quickly, and something we emphasize in this forum is, as far as possible, ask from the source! That will give you the most accurate and the most unfiltered information.

  6. Jul 30, 2013 #5
    As far as I know, it just means there are more mandatory upper-level classes because you have to meet the minimum requirements for two degrees instead of one. It's typically somewhat easier with related subjects like math and physics because the introductory courses overlap.

    My advisor's degrees are all from the US, and I mixed-and-matched countries: I went to an MSc physics program in The Netherlands after getting a math undergrad in the US. But ZapperZ still has a good point - check the rules at the universities you might be attending to see what they say about double-majors.

    I wrote my thesis on topics that didn't come easily to me. I was always pretty good at basic logic, but statistics, linear algebra, and quantum mechanics were my weakest subjects when I first saw them. That hurt my GPA, and I'm not sure I would have finished a double-major on time. Instead, I used my time in grad school to go back and re-learn the subjects I was originally bad at.
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