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Physics majors:only two semesters of classical physics?

  1. Jan 23, 2015 #1
    At most schools, physics majors are only required to take two semesters of classical physics (correct me if i am wrong), with the third semester of the same series being an introduction to modern physics. I understand that most physics majors are more interested in modern physics, but classical physics is the physics all around us, built the foundation for modern physics, and its laws undebatable (unlike modern physics, which has room for debate).
    Unlike the engineering majors, who take classes in statics, kinetics, thermodynamics, etc, the physics majors learn about all those topics in a nutshell in their two semesters of classical physics. Is this really enough to quench your thirst for knowledge of classical physics, physics majors?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 23, 2015 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    I think you are wrong. When I was in school the curriculum was two semesters of introductory physics (classical), one semester of waves, one semester each of classical mechanics, classical E&M and statistical mechanics. I count six semesters.
  4. Jan 23, 2015 #3
    Like the poster above, I don't know where you are coming up with only two semesters of classical physics. At my school, you typically take 2-3 semesters of mechanics, 2-3 semesters of classical E&M, and 1 semester of classical thermodynamics.
  5. Jan 23, 2015 #4


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    The small college where I work offers a semester of classical mechanics (Marion or something similar), two semesters of E&M (Griffiths), and a semester of thermo + stat mech (Schroeder), in addition to the classical physics contained in the three-semester "freshman sequence."

    Graduate schools in the US generally expect incoming students to have taken upper-division classes in classical mechanics, E&M, thermo/stat mech, and QM. Three of these are classical physics. An undergraduate school might not require all physics majors to take all of these courses, to provide some flexibility for students who don't plan to go to grad school in physics. Nevertheless, I'm sure they would strongly recommend that students who plan to go to grad school take them all.
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2015
  6. Jan 24, 2015 #5


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    As the others have said, this is not how a typical physics curriculum works.

    The introductory physics sequence has a semester of classical mechanics, a semester of electricity and magnetism, and a semester of modern physics, which typically includes waves and oscillations, thermodynamics, relativity, quantum mechanics, nuclear physics and/or several other potential topics. These are just the lower level requirements though. That is typically followed by all of the upper level courses which includes two semesters of classical mechanics, two semesters of electricity and magnetism, a semester of thermodynamics and statistical physics, two semesters of quantum mechanics, a semester of relativity, plus some advanced lab courses and upper level electives.
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