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Programs PhD in Physics

  1. May 24, 2005 #1
    getting your phd in physics

    i plan on getting my phd in physics and a degree in math
    how does the whole phd thing work?
    and what would i be able to do, research i know and plan on doing, but what other jobs are available besides teaching
    Last edited: May 24, 2005
  2. jcsd
  3. May 24, 2005 #2
    Check out the most recent entries in my journal. i just started my phd about 4 weeks ago :)

  4. May 24, 2005 #3
    Good luck to you marlon.
  5. May 24, 2005 #4

    There are a couple of different routes. Both of which require you to get a bachelor degree of some kind and then get into graduate school. From there, some schools offer a straight Ph.D. without a masters or getting a masters, then a Ph.D. (the more traditional approach).

    I am getting a Ph.D. without a masters, so I will comment on that. I just finished my 2nd year, so I know a little about what is going on. Your first 2 years of your Ph.D. will be spent doing course work. In addition, you will most likely have to support yourself somehow financially. Typically this will be done through a Teaching Assistanship. Which means you will be responsible for either teaching or grading or some combination of those two.

    In addition to course work you will have to pass The Qualifying Exam, which is a very difficult exam that usually lasts a couple of days and tests you on graduate course work. You will spend a lot of your first 2 years studying for this exam, but everybody has to go through it.

    In fact, a really good exposition of this whole thing is ZapperZ's journal:


    In his messages "So you want to be a Physicist"

    hope this helps,
  6. May 24, 2005 #5
    this did help alot so how many years does it take to get your phd 6?
    and what do you plan to do as a profession?
  7. May 24, 2005 #6
    Does it matter if one does not major in physics but some other physical science or engineering. I ask because I am a bioengineering/molecular biology major, and I was just wondering if anyone had any ideas about how strict they are about not being a physics major and applying to a Ph.D?
  8. May 24, 2005 #7
    I suppose if you've taken core courses in mechanics (including the Lagrangian and Hamiltonian formulations), classical electrodynamics, statistical thermodynamics, special (and maybe general) relativity, quantum physics, differential equations and the other mathematical methods courses, you should be okay. If you haven't, how would you cope with a graduate physics program in the first instance? A graduate course in mechanics will begin with a text like Goldstein, a course in electrodynamics with something like Jackson, and graduate courses in quantum mechanics and quantum field theory will also be hard. If you haven't already taken intermediate courses in these subjects (excluding QFT of course), you're setting yourself up for a fall (if any physics department is willing to take you, that is).
  9. May 25, 2005 #8
    Glad it helped. Talking with my advisor, he thought I could finish in another 2 years but I believe I will definitely be out in 3 years. I did a lot of research and publishing papers as an undergrad for my Ph.D. advisor so I have a leg up there. I believe 5 or 6 years is fairly standard for a Ph.D. (including the Masters if you get it). Anyways, I am hoping to get a full time research position with NASA when I graduate, since my research is mainly funded by them. I also enjoy teaching so a professorship would be great. In fact, doing one does not exclude me from later doing the other, so I will probably take a job that is offered and I would like.

    But with a Ph.D. in Physics you have a lot of opportunities (and for making a modest amount of money- see this article: http://content.salary.monster.com/articles/salary/highestpay/).

    if you don't mind my asking, what stage of your career are you in right now?
  10. May 25, 2005 #9


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    Since you've kindly advertized my journal, I'll be tacky and point out that we/I have tackled this "employment" aspects of being a physicist, be it in the main section of PF and in my journal. My advice to anyone wanting to know what one can do with a physics degree (B.Sc, M.Sc, and Ph.D) is to actually LOOK at the job opening aimed at physicists. This is the most accurate means to know what is available out there, and what kind of physics area of specialization that is in constant demand.

    These two journal entries are relevant here:

    [11-12-2004 07:44 AM] - Employment in Physics - Part 1
    [12-02-2004 10:27 AM] - Employment in Physics - Part 2

  11. May 25, 2005 #10
    im a senior in high school so i have awhile to go but i kind of like to have my stuff planned out and i dont want to waste netime with taking the wrong courses or what not when i get into college
  12. May 25, 2005 #11
    Zz - what additional schooling would i need for medical physics
  13. May 25, 2005 #12


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    That's tough to answer because different schools have different ways of handling this. Some schools have medical physics as part of the physics dept. Other larger schools (such as UW-Madison) have Medical Physics as almost a separate entity.

    You do go through the same core graduate program with other physics students. After that, like other students, you will specialize in your area. I'm guessing you will do classes in radiology, biophysics, etc. It all depends on what areas are the strength at the school you are attending.

    The best thing to do is go look at a few Medical Physics program and find out what the requirements for a degree entails.

  14. May 25, 2005 #13


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    Luckily, if your sure that you want to go into some kind of physics or engineering, then the core classes are all the same. They are composed of:

    Physics: Mechanics, E&M, Waves, Optics, Thermodynamics (these last three are usually combined into one course)
    Math: Calculus 1,2,3, DE, Linear Algebra
    English: composition and critical analysis

    And most likely you will need at least one Computer science class such as C, C++, Java, etc.. (even if you don't need it, it's still a good idea to take a programming class, like C )

    So while your knocking out these classes you have some time to create a plan and get more specific.
  15. May 25, 2005 #14
    well i have already taken the computer science ab exam and also the english comp ap exam and next year i plan on taking the physics and calculus exam
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