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Question about Bachelor's Degree

  1. Jan 8, 2005 #1
    Hello all,

    Over the past few years, I have developed a love affair with physics. I want to pursue further education in the field, but my problem is that I (regretfully) majored in computer science as an undergraduate. Though I have studied a lot of math and physics on my own, the most that I can point to on my undergraduate transcript is Calculus 1/2 and Physics 1/2.

    I am currently a submarine officer in the navy, and I became interested in physics while studying in the navy's nuclear propulsion program. The program taught me a lot of chemistry and nuclear physics, and even math through introductory differential equations, but much of the curriculum was oriented towards operations, and I don't know whether it would count for much in an academic sense.

    All in all, I do not feel that I have sufficient background at this point to successfully pursue a master's degree or PhD in physics. For that matter, all I really want is to be formally educated in the field--I don't want to be a professional. So my question is this: would it be possible for me to get a bachelor's degree in physics, even though I already have a bachelor's degree? I graduated from Vanderbilt University in Nashville TN, and was considering applying to enter the bachelor's program in physics at the University of Texas, transferring my credits.

    Am I out of my mind, or is this an option that a university might consider?

    Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Best wishes,
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 8, 2005 #2

    Dr Transport

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    Going back part-time for a second Bachelors degree is not out of the question. I know many people who have done such a thing. The only concern you should have is that by going part-time you have to worry about when courses are scheduled and their conflicts with your other activities.
  4. Jan 8, 2005 #3
    Dr. Transport,

    Thanks for the info. I intend to pursue the degree full-time when I get out of the navy, so hopefully the concerns you mention won't pose a problem.

    Best wishes,
  5. Jan 8, 2005 #4
    You mentioned being able to transfer credits, how much time can you cut off ?

    Best of luck!
  6. Jan 9, 2005 #5
    Some people, incuding professors, may wonder why you would rather study full-time instead of taking advantage of your computer science education and where you get your income to pay tuition. Few people can justify costly full-time formal education just for fun. You have to be able to stay motivated and financially independant for the next few years. I know of at least one person who started in his thirties, but having a better job and a more stable life also motivated him.
  7. Jan 9, 2005 #6
    Once you earn a degree the credits from that degree can no longer be applied towards another one. They do this because otherwise you could pick up new degrees like candy and pay colleges a lot less money for getting new degrees.
  8. Jan 9, 2005 #7
    Thanks for the responses...

    Gazzo: I don't know how much time I can cut off. I've taken all the filler classes--history, philosophy, economics, anthropology, computer science, and so on. So my hope would be to transfer the extraneous "elective" credits and take only physics classes for the actual degree. But from what ktpr2 is saying, that may not be an option.

    Gonzolo: Fortunately, money isn't really an issue for me at this point.

    ktpr2: You bring up a good point--what I was afraid of. It's almost as if my undergraduate studies have effectively locked me out of the physics world. My undegraduate credentials are inadequate for a master's program, but at the same time, these same credentials prevent me from starting at the beginning and pursuing a bachelor's degree.

    So what are my options? Is there any way that I can pursue a formal degree in physics? Or am I SOL?

    Best wishes,
  9. Jan 9, 2005 #8


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    I have independent BS degrees in Math and Physics. I completed my Physics degree with the help of the GI bill. Upon completion of that degree I was fortunate to get a pretty good job as a Lab Tech in the Physics Dept of my alma mater. Then as an employee of the university I was able to take courses for nearly nothing ($9-$10 per credit hour) So while working for Physics department I began taking math courses. When I started I had to sign up for a degree program, for reasons which now, many years later, I cannot fathom, I started working to a BS degree. I took courses 1 per term and kept at it. After 4yrs I completed the degree.

    While it is true that any hours used toward a degree cannot be used a second time, it is also true that any basic requirements that you did on your first degree will be met on the second. So all of the Freshman University requirements, do not have to be done a second time. For your second degree you need only take core course requirements. So for my math degree every course I took was a upper division math course. I only had to satisfy the basic Math dept and hour requirements for the degree. That said, what I found is that by the end of my course work I was taking graduate level courses, but only got a BS. With very nearly the same course work, had I signed up for it I could have completed a MS degree. In retrospect that would have been the correct path.

    I would recommend that rather then working to a 2nd BS, if you are going to take the time to do it right work for a MS or PhD. On either of those degree programs you will be eligible for assistantships which can essentially pay for your graduate level education. Since there is more and more emphasis on computational physics your CS degree could be a real asset.

    Good luck.
  10. Jan 10, 2005 #9

    Dr Transport

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    In most cases, without a degree in Physics, working towards a Masters or PhD in Physics will be difficult. Many universities will make you go back a get a bunch of courses that you would have taken for a Bachelors during a Masters program. and not all of them will count for your graduate degree.
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