1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Questions about going into physics from mathematics background

  1. Aug 2, 2009 #1
    Hi all.

    I'm studying mathematics (I have one year left) and can't get any good answers from my professors.

    I'm interested in going into physics now after reading Sakurai's books on QM. I'm interested in (obviously) QM, particle, and cosmology. Mainly the theoretical side.

    Is it possible to move into a Physics PhD programme in the USA with a bachelor's in Mathematics? Are there some mathematics/physics courses I should take which will help me do well on the Physics GRE? I've taken the first year E&M courses but beyond that, no physics.

    Or should I consider a MS programme in Physics, then transfer to a northeast PhD programme?

    What about doing a MSc in Britain? Is it easier to get a MSc in physics with a mathematics background, then go into a PhD programme?

    Are there good schools which will let you do a second bachelor's degree in physics with a mathematics background? Finances are an issue...

    Finally, how exactly do mathematicians work alongside a physicist? Can I as a mathematician be working on physics problems or no? I don't really understand it...
    Last edited: Aug 2, 2009
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 2, 2009 #2


    User Avatar

    There are some colleges in the US that will consider accepting you into a physics PhD program with a math background. Perhaps not the highest-ranked programs, but smaller programs (many of which are still very good) will be more willing to work with you if you've got good grades and you're willing to spend a year catching up on undergraduate coursework. I know my university has accepted people to the physics PhD program with math and biology backgrounds and let them catch up. If you can take a few physics courses this year, that would help - E&M (Griffiths level or higher), modern physics, classical mechanics, QM, thermodynamics and statistical mechanics are the backbone courses of any physics degree. To prepare for the physics GRE, I'd recommend E&M, classical and QM - but don't take just my word for it, I bombed the physics GRE (and still got into grad school).

    If finances are an issue, you should be looking at PhD programs in the US - you'd still get paid while working on your masters. Applying as a masters student only decreases your chances of both admission and funding.
  4. Aug 2, 2009 #3
    Thanks for the reply!

    Can you tell me of some of the schools which will let you "catch up"? I'll start sending off e-mails about it. Or perhaps spending a year as a ugrad at a state school would be a good option just taking physics courses?
  5. Aug 2, 2009 #4


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    One of the math professors I know got into a math Ph. D. program in Berkeley after getting a BSc and a MSc in Physics from her home country (Russia), now she's a professor at UCLA, doing research in pure mathematics.

    So I guess it's possible.
  6. Aug 2, 2009 #5


    User Avatar

    I only know for sure my university will consider it; I'm sure others will as well, you'll just need to ask them. I'll send you a private message.
  7. Aug 4, 2009 #6
    Thanks all.

    If anybody has more input, it would be appreciated.

    I think I'm going to finish as a BS Mathematics, and then become a visiting student at a university and take the required physics classes. Expensive, but I guess in the long run...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook