Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Necessary Programming Skills?

  1. Feb 11, 2007 #1
    Hi, I'm a Grade 11 student in Canada who wants to go on to study Physics in university. I was just wondering, because I realized I know nothing about programming, is it assumed that I should have any sort of background? If so, what would be useful things to teach myself?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 11, 2007 #2
    If you can start teaching yourself C or C++ that would be pretty helpful.
  4. Feb 11, 2007 #3
    First of all you can relax. I came to college knowing nothing about computer programming, and I did well in the undergraduate physics program. So your lack of programming experience is by no means a hinderance.

    To answer your question, the more programming you know, the better. But based on my experiences about the only thing you absolutely need to know is C. But they will likely teach this to you in your physics classes. I learned C in my junior year course on experimental physics. It's very helpful, since you can write programs that will acquire data from experimental apparatuses, which facilitates easier data analysis.

    If you want to teach yourself some programming, then Corneo's advice is the best. Start by learning C and C++. And if you have any time after that, it wouldn't hurt to pick up more languages.
  5. Feb 11, 2007 #4
    I'm not a physics major but the physics major only requires you to take intro to programming which is a joke so I don't think you should be worrying about programming skills, if anything make sure you have a strong math background.
  6. Feb 11, 2007 #5
    Well, we need to know some programming. The skill is necessary to us, since programming is absolutely essential in experimental physics. But a good deal of what we do can be accomplished using C, and nominal familiarity with GUIs. Your reference to introductory programming as a joke suggests to me that you are very well versed in programming (are you a CSci major, by any chance?). In any case, you're absolutely right to point out that there is a lot to know about programming, and what undergraduate physics majors are taught barely scratches the surface. Indeed we don't learn nearly as much programming as an engineering or CSci student. But knowledge of the basics is essential nonetheless.
  7. Feb 11, 2007 #6
    All right, I appreciate all your help and suggestions, thanks a bunch.
  8. Feb 11, 2007 #7
    arunma yes I am a Computer Science and Engineering major. I have a few friends who are physics majors and they are in the Jr. year so far, but havn't had any courses that made them do any programming other than in mathlab, but I do see why it would be important for physics majors, I just don't know why they don't teach you more programming as a requirement.
  9. Feb 11, 2007 #8

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Knowledge of Fortran, C/C++, Visual Basic or MatLab would be helpful for an undergraduate degree in physics. I got my BS in 1988 and had zero programming skills but learned them during grad school and have done OK.
  10. Feb 11, 2007 #9
    To be honest, I wish I had taken some programming courses as an undergraduate. I actually had to take a programming class for my second major in math, but ironically I got out of it by demonstrating to my advisor that I had picked up C in my experimental physics class.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook