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Questions about Pursuing Second Bachelor's Degree

  1. Nov 4, 2013 #1

    I am a BS degree holder in Applied Mathematics (w/ a focus in Computer Science) and am becoming a bored and intellectually curious Systems Software Engineer. I am financially forecasting and otherwise preparing to earn a Second BS in Physics.

    Although I haven't taken junior or senior level physics courses, I have become very curious about Solid State Physics and eventually want to work as a fabrication engineer/researcher in an electronic component fab (IC, Microproc/chipset). Academically, my eventual goal is to earn a Ph.D in Materials Science or Physics. I have a few questions that this communities insight could answer:

    1) I am a hard worker who loves mathematics, science, and computing. What more does one need to succeed in undergrad Physics coursework?

    2) What courses, research, and resources are the most important to consider when evaluating a University's Physics program? What are essential? I am assuming Quantum Mech, Optics, "Modern Physics", EMFT, electronics, and Numerical Analysis form the core of coursework.

    3) Considering my goals, what will advanced studies/research in Physics offer me over Electrical or Materials Engineering? How dirty can one's hands get with Physics research?

    4) Does anyone with industry experience think this is a good choice? In college I thought I wanted to write Sys ROMs and Firmware. After spending some time in the Enterprise Computing industry and following a technical career path I've found that this goal is very watered down (expect in say, robotics) with a mostly automated process. Will I be making the same mistake with my new goals?

    5) I have set up a home electronics lab and have set about recreating things like Layden Jars, Diodes, and an alternator. What are other good home experiments and sources of texts I can use to keep myself busy and supplement my amusement with Physics while I save money for the University?

    6) How much of a role does Degree Status play in this equation? How much does your undergrad uni's status mean to grad schools? How much does grads mean to post-doc/industry? How does degree status affect income levels? I'm not under the assumption that I can "get rich off Physics" but I don't want to be disenfranchised either. I've noticed that degree status can vouch for quite a bit in Engineering. But at the end of the day the results and knowledge are what counts. How true is this in academics?

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 4, 2013 #2


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    I think most importantly, if you're planning on going to certain schools you should verify that they accept students for a Bac who already have one.

    Many schools do not.
  4. Nov 4, 2013 #3
    I've verified this with potential schools
  5. Nov 4, 2013 #4


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    If you have become bored as a Systems Software Engineer, what makes you think you won't become bored as an engineer in a Fab? You don't say where you are located, but a lot of fabs have relocated overseas from the US to places like Malaysia. Would you be willing to work outside of the US, assuming you live here?
  6. Nov 4, 2013 #5


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    You will need to take the courses the physics dept at your Univ. requires. For a BS there may not be a lot of options.

    I did just the reverse, first a BS in Physics, then a BS in Applied Math. You should be able to concentrate on just physics courses, that is will not need to repeat the required liberal arts classes and university requirements.

    I would recommend that you NOT go for a BS but just enroll in a MS or PHD program. You will have to take a similar course load, but the end result is more desirable.
  7. Nov 4, 2013 #6
    I am actually in an almost identical situation as the OP. I think he may be worried that most masters/phd programs would not accept him due to lack of physics knowledge because he was a math major.
  8. Nov 4, 2013 #7
    Yea, I think the same thing. The thing to do would be to take a Physics GRE practice test under test conditions and see where he lies. If he did real good, then he could work on convincing admission committees. Otherwise, a BS would probably be needed. There is a sticky on this, but I dont see it off hand...
  9. Nov 4, 2013 #8
    I haven't taken Quantum Mech, Classical Mechanics, or EMFT. In all honesty, I lack the foundation required to succeed in a competitive Physics graduate program and am willing to invest in a second bachelor's degree. I am more concerned with building a base of knowledge than I am with "payoffs" at this point.
  10. Dec 18, 2013 #9
    Admire your passion toward the subject. Clearly you are looking to establish a solid foundation in the subject rather than going for a grad certificate in the same subject but with weaker field knowledge (that is assuming you can get acceptance into the grad program).
    I'm stuck in a similar situation, only worse. I've completed a BS in biology, which is far more unrelated to physics than a BS in applied maths is. I've checked with some universities that talked about but not guaranteed a possibility of getting accepted into a physics grad program with my BS in biology. Let's say this possibility has a good chance of turning real, how far am I able to dive in the field with a fragile to an almost non-existent base in the subject? That's why I am seriously thinking to first get a second bachelor's degree in physics, then go to grad school.
    So I see that your inclination toward getting a second bachelor's degree is definitely not the most money and time saving route to take, but it is certainly the more serious path filled with passion and determination.
    I'd appreciate it if you could keep me posted to the decision you'll be making. You might very well help me in making my own.

    Wish you all the best.
  11. Dec 18, 2013 #10
    What is your highest level math and physics? I looked up graduate courses at my local University. The core classes seem to be E&M, Quantum Mechanics, and Classical Mechanics. Are you prepared enough for graduate course work in these subjects? I've read that some schools require at least 18 hours of upper level, undergrad course work to be admitted into their master's programs. Maybe that's an easier route.

    Luckily for me, my current boss is allowing me to flex my schedule so that I can take one class a semester and I'm starting next spring. I have had awhile to think and this is my refined game plan:

    1) Save money. I can save a little over 1k a month and have been doing so. I wont go back until my car is payed off, which will take about another year.

    2) Take 1 class a semester while working. And obtain I.T. certificates (explained below).

    3) Eventually I will transition to full time status when my debts are eliminated and my savings are rich enough. I think this can be done in three years, and if I continue to take classes it will take about 2-3 semesters full time to get the Physics degree. I will save enough to prepay my health insurance (you're legally required now), auto insurance, and cell phone. I will still need income because of my other living expenses. That's where the I.T. certs come in. I will try to get a job in retail (think apple genius or geek squad) or work the weekend/evening shift at a web service provider. Hell I might even become a consultant or start my own independent business as I have enterprise and cloud server R&D and services experience. It all depends on how much money I need when I need it. Hopefully this will transition to graduate school, where I can get stipends or more student loans and wont need to tune and debug computer systems all day. If worst comes to worst, I can sell my stock in the company and cash out my 401k if need be (but that's incredibly stupid and something I wont do until it is of absolute necessity). But this can all come to a crashing halt if I end up reproducing, and that's why I use protection every time ;)

    Unfortunately I chose technical skills in college over the theoretical because I now realize my longing for theory. Fortunately I chose technical skills in college over the theoretical because I've turned them into in-demand skills I can use as a stepping stone to end up doing whatever I'm going to be when I grow up. I'm sure your situation is similar. I bet there are professional health industry certificates you qualify for that can pad your income when you decide to go back to school. It's actually very easy to get a job in I.T. or retail related fields with the A+ certificate, the easiest one to obtain. To me finances are key, as they determine what I can and can't do. Get your money right and optimize your time right now to best fit your goals. Goals without plans are dreams. Best of luck.
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