# Msc or Bsc in Physics?

Hi, I want to study physics, but I don't know how to start. I have a degree in economics, and I've been told that applying for a Bsc in physics would be a waste of money, I should apply for an Msc instead with a qualifying year added.
Is this really possible? I can only do part-time courses, since I work full time. I live in the UK atm, so I'm mainly interested in universities in the UK. Where, how should I start?

Unfortunately I havent taken that much math. A bit of algebra, probability, and calculus I guess.
Is it true that european universities (except the top tier ones) are not too much accepted for instance in the USA? Can you do a part-time physics course in the USA at a reputable university?

What is it that you want out of a physics degree? A career as a physicist or just some physics knowledge?

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
Unfortunately I havent taken that much math. A bit of algebra, probability, and calculus I guess.
Is it true that european universities (except the top tier ones) are not too much accepted for instance in the USA? Can you do a part-time physics course in the USA at a reputable university?
This is puzzling.

Not reputable university will accept you with your lack of mathematics, much less, your lack of knowledge in physics. The ones that will accept you for a "M.Sc" will probably only want you for your money.

Try the test I gave you in the link you were given earlier. Even if you are applying to European universities, I would say that the test will give you a clear indication on your level of knowledge to go into any graduate program. I would probably think that many European universities are less-forgiving than US programs in any lack of preparations.

I have no idea what a "part-time physics course" is. If you are an international student, your student visa requirement includes a stipulation that you must be a full-time student enrolled at the specific university that you applied to AND in the specific major that has been indicated. You WILL be in legal trouble if you violate that.

Zz.

Why not take courses with the Open University?

And, what exactly do you need a physics degree for?

I wanted to be a cosmologist since I was a small kid. That's why I need the degree for to be one. On the other hand, since money has always been an issue for me, and I'm also interested in the stock market I might try to become a quant.

I wanted to be a cosmologist since I was a small kid. That's why I need the degree for to be one. On the other hand, since money has always been an issue for me, and I'm also interested in the stock market I might try to become a quant.
It's a field that totally dedicated physics students find almost impossible to enter. Why not, at least initially, keep it as a hobby and find a stock market related job? You could take Open University courses, part time, to feed the hobby. They are quite strong in Cosmology and Astronomy at BSc level, but not at MSc level.

I did an MSc at Sussex University in Astronomy, at the time they were weak in Cosmology (unfortunately for me!), but they have got a lot stronger recently, and even offer an MSc specifically in Cosmology now:

http://www.sussex.ac.uk/study/pg/2012/taught/1617/25296#tabs-3 [Broken]

Note well - if you are interested in Cosmology look for an MSc with a very strong component in Cosmology, a general physics (or even Astronomy) may not cover cosmology in any reasonable depth. I think "the powers that be" want to divert the hordes of Hawking fans away from Cosmology into other areas, so very high hurdles are placed in front of anyone wanting to study Cosmology in depth. For instance, you better get straight As in all your courses, and become a master at departmental politics & career planning.

Last edited by a moderator:
cristo
Staff Emeritus
If you genuinely want a career as a physicist (any type, really, including astronomy/theory) then you need an undergrad degree in physics (well, or maths/applied maths/math phys). There is just far too much that you will not know to plug the gaps with simply a masters degree. I might suggest taking on a BSc degree from the open university, and then taking it from there.

It's a field that totally dedicated physics students find almost impossible to enter.
...
I think "the powers that be" want to divert the hordes of Hawking fans away from Cosmology into other areas, so very high hurdles are placed in front of anyone wanting to study Cosmology in depth. For instance, you better get straight As in all your courses, and become a master at departmental politics & career planning.
This is all utter nonsense, likely coming about from some personal bitterness. Yes, in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application. I would suggest that you stop this misinformation and only give advice when you have the experience to do so.

This is all utter nonsense... Yes, in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application. I would suggest that you stop this misinformation and only give advice when you have the experience to do so.
A BSc in Physics, MSc in Astronomy, top grades (mostly), and twenty years working in research posts in academic institutions gives me the necessary experience.

Are you really suggesting that it's as easy to pursue a career in cosmological research as it is to pursue a career in military/industrial research? If so, that seems like utter nonsense to me. At least, it has certainly not been my experience. I found it a doddle getting posts in computing with an MSc in Astronomy, but impossible to get a post in Astronomy research! I've known many others in the same boat.

Last edited:
ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
A BSc in Physics, MSc in Astronomy, top grades (mostly), and twenty years working in research posts in academic institutions gives me the necessary experience.

Are you really suggesting that it's as easy to pursue a career in cosmological research as it is to pursue a career in military/industrial research? If so, that seems like utter nonsense to me. At least, it has certainly not been my experience. I found it a doddle getting posts in computing with an MSc in Astronomy, but impossible to get a post in Astronomy research! I've known many others in the same boat.
You seem to have quoted cristo's post, but did not seem to comprehend what he wrote. He didn't say it was easy. He said (and I'll put it in bold so that you pay attention): "... Yes, in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application... " He said nothing in that paragraph you quoted about pursuing a career in military/industrial research!

Furthermore, you made unsupported speculation that "the powers that be" are diverting students away from Cosmology. I presume you WILL show evidence to back up this accusation.

Zz.

You seem to have quoted cristo's post, but did not seem to comprehend what he wrote. He didn't say it was easy. He said (and I'll put it in bold so that you pay attention): "... Yes, in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application... " He said nothing in that paragraph you quoted about pursuing a career in military/industrial research!
I didn't say it was easy, either. I said:

Are you really suggesting that it's as easy to pursue a career in cosmological research as it is to pursue a career in military/industrial research?

This is like saying "the course in string theory was as easy as the course in QFT". Both these courses may be very hard (!)

Furthermore, you made unsupported speculation that "the powers that be" are diverting students away from Cosmology. I presume you WILL show evidence to back up this accusation.

Zz.
Lets hold a quick survey in this thread:

In your BSc physics degree were you able take a course in General Relativity and/or Cosmology as suitable preparation for research in these areas?

My answer to this is NO... this is my evidence.

Some universities will not let you do "sexy" courses if your grades aren't high enough, Cambridge for instance. In my case the courses simply were not offered! (I had the grades...)

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
I didn't say it was easy, either. I said:

Are you really suggesting that it's as easy to pursue a career in cosmological research as it is to pursue a career in military/industrial research?

This is like saying "the course in string theory was as easy as the course in QFT". Both these courses may be very hard (!)
So why are you attacking what cristo said? He didin't claim they were easy either!

Lets hold a quick survey in this thread:

In your BSc physics degree were you able take a course in General Relativity and/or Cosmology as suitable preparation for research in these areas?

My answer to this is NO... this is my evidence.

Some universities will not let you do "sexy" courses if your grades aren't high enough, Cambridge for instance. In my case the courses simply were not offered! (I had the grades...)
I'm still waiting for the evidence to show that ".... "the powers that be" are diverting students away from Cosmology...."

If what you offered here in this reply is what you consider to be "evidence" to support that accusation, then you have a very strange definition of what you consider to be "evidence".

Zz.

Astronuc
Staff Emeritus
I didn't say it was easy, either. I said:

Are you really suggesting that it's as easy to pursue a career in cosmological research as it is to pursue a career in military/industrial research?

This is like saying "the course in string theory was as easy as the course in QFT". Both these courses may be very hard (!)

Lets hold a quick survey in this thread:

In your BSc physics degree were you able take a course in General Relativity and/or Cosmology as suitable preparation for research in these areas?

My answer to this is NO... this is my evidence.

Some universities will not let you do "sexy" courses if your grades aren't high enough, Cambridge for instance. In my case the courses simply were not offered! (I had the grades...)
I'm quite sure that introductory courses in cosmology or GR were available for undergraduates at the first university I attended (35+ years ago). Had I remained, I would have taken one or the other or both. Today, there is an undergraduate course in "Galaxies and Cosmology", and apparently, there is a course in GR normally offered in the first year of a MSc program, although, if the student is prepared, it could be an elective during the 4th year.

Most universities have policies regarding grades, and a student with an inadequate performace will not be permitted to take electives deemed beyond their capability.

One's personal experience seems to be specific to one and the institution one attended, so it is improper to generalize to others and other institutions.

So why are you attacking what cristo said? He didin't claim they were easy either!
I agree, roughly, with cristo when he says that in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application.

But, in practice, to do funded cosmology research you need to do the right courses, know the right people, and have a lucky break. It's not an area where you can say, I like this, I've got top grades, so I'm going to do it, and I'm going to have a career in it. If you are interested in research and development of computer hardware, then you can say this!

I remember a long discussion in the computing department where everybody was talking about how they started in electronic engineering, physics, chemistry, cosmology, whatever and couldn't continue in that career, and had slipped into computing...

So all I'm suggesting is that the OP might have a happier, easier life by going into computing (or stock brokering...) in the first place, rather than ending up there after travelling along a convoluted, weary, and financially impoverishing cosmological diversion. Or if he must do physics of some kind, then perhaps other areas (like accelerator physics...) might provide a more rewarding career path.

Then again, cosmology might be *the* calling for him, and if so, I would say, "go for it". But all this "I like money", and "I fancy stock brokering" talk doesn't make it seem like a true calling to me.

ZapperZ
Staff Emeritus
I agree, roughly, with cristo when he says that in order to get a place in a cosmology PhD programme you need top grades and to demonstrate an ability to be successful in a research programme, but this is the same for any PhD application.

But, in practice, to do funded cosmology research you need to do the right courses, know the right people, and have a lucky break. It's not an area where you can say, I like this, I've got top grades, so I'm going to do it, and I'm going to have a career in it. If you are interested in research and development of computer hardware, then you can say this!

I remember a long discussion in the computing department where everybody was talking about how they started in electronic engineering, physics, chemistry, cosmology, whatever and couldn't continue in that career, and had slipped into computing...

So all I'm suggesting is that the OP might have a happier, easier life by going into computing (or stock brokering...) in the first place, rather than ending up there after travelling along a convoluted, weary, and financially impoverishing cosmological diversion. Or if he must do physics of some kind, then perhaps other areas (like accelerator physics...) might provide a more rewarding career path.

Then again, cosmology might be *the* calling for him, and if so, I would say, "go for it". But all this "I like money", and "I fancy stock brokering" talk doesn't make it seem like a true calling to me.
So you really have zero evidence to back up your accusation then? Are you always that "liberal" in throwing out such things without any consideration on whether you have an accurate evidence to back up your claim? This is worrying because it throws into questions other conclusion and deduction that you make.

Zz.