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Courses Need help deciding on proper physics courses.

  1. Jul 7, 2012 #1

    I am currently at a community college planning to transfer to a four year school for mechanical engineering. I last took physics in high school seven years ago, although I remember most of the concepts and even a couple basic equations.

    I am taking Calculus I this fall. My original plan was to take College Physics I (algebra based) with Calculus I. But we have a class called Engineering Physics (calculus based). If the two courses cover the same material conceptually, I think I could brush up on the basics and skip College Physics in favor of Engineering Physics next semester (after Calculus I).

    This would also allow me to take a much needed Chemistry class in the fall. It would put me a class ahead. Should I worry about my level of physics knowledge?

    The prerequisite is only Calculus I, with prior high school or college physics recommended. Is taking College Physics I then Engineering Physics I a bad idea as I will be in Calculus this fall?

    Thanks a million in advance for your reply.

    Lee Hufford
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 8, 2012 #2
    Since there was 170 views and no replies maybe my question wasn't clear enough.

    Are algebra based physics and calculus based physics the same thing (covering the same material and equations) but with different math?

    As an engineering student, is College Physics a waste of time if I am somewhat familiar with physics concepts and my school offers Engineering Physics?

    I emailed the counseling dept. and a professor that teaches the calculus based physics, but no reply and registration starts tomorrow. You guys are my only hope :).

    Lee Hufford
  4. Jul 8, 2012 #3
    I have a few questions for you:

    1. When are you planning on transferring?

    2. Have you looked at the degree requirements for the school(s) you are planning on transferring to?

    Most the engineering programs I looked at required the following:

    Calculus I, II, and III
    Ordinary Differential Equations
    Chemistry I and II
    Calculus based Physics I and II
    Computer Science I

    The schools I looked at expected these classes to be taken before transferring (they are prerequisites for the program).
  5. Jul 8, 2012 #4
    First, thank you dearly for your reply.

    1.) I have no set timetable that I have to transfer by. I decided in back in January that I wanted to become an engineer, and have been breezing through all of the prerequisites for Calculus.

    2.) Yes, I have looked at sample schedules and transfer equivalencies for the University of Michigan and Oakland University. I know for a fact that I must take Engineering Physics. My main question is should I take College Physics (algebra based) and a refresher course or does Engineering Physics (calculus based) conceptually begin at the same place as College Physics, only with more elegant math?

    The requirements for both of the schools I am considering are almost identical to the requirements you listed above. I would like to take an Introductory Chemistry class along with Calculus so I can prepare for Chem I and Chem II. So skipping College Physics would allow me to squeeze in Intro Chem in the fall semester.

    Thanks again for your reply,

  6. Jul 8, 2012 #5


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    Staff: Mentor

    Usually the latter is the case. My impression is that at most schools, calculus-based and algebra-based intro physics are aimed at different groups of students, and it is unusual for a student to take both of them. Where I work, algebra-based physics is mainly for biology majors, pre-pharmacy students, and the occasional non-science major who wants to take physics to satisfy the science component of our general-education requirements. Calculus-based physics is for prospective physics and engineering majors. (I don't remember whether chemistry majors have to take the calculus-based course.)

    Especially since you've had physics in high school, I wouldn't bother taking College Physics. Just wait until you've finished Calculus 1, then start with Engineering Physics.
  7. Jul 8, 2012 #6
    Thank you for the reply!

    I have been leaning towards just starting at Engineering Physics and that leaning has definitely been validated here. And since Intro to Chem is obviously a required class moving forward, at this point I'm leaning towards Calculus I and Intro to Chem this fall.

    However: a NEW, related question:

    How often do people get burned out by taking Calculus II and Engineering Physics I concurrently? (Possible Winter Semester schedule). I have many other classes (CAD, Computer Science, Chem I,II) that are waiting for me to discover. But I would really like to "keep the math train rolling" with Calculus II and get started in Physics, something I really like and dearly miss from high school.

    Again, thank you for any past and future replies.


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