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!

Should I pursue a second undergrad degree?

  1. Mar 23, 2010 #1
    Hi all! This is my first post.

    I'm currently in the third year of an arts program. For a while now I've been dissatisfied with the way my education and career have been heading, and I'm realizing that I'm much better suited to the natural sciences. Specifically, I've been teaching myself basic physics, stimulated by some material I covered in a multivariable calculus course, and have fallen in love with the subject. Now I'm thinking I would like nothing better than a career in this field.

    Problem is, my formal science education ended in grade 11. At the time I was turned off to physics by a string of bad teachers and discouragement by my parents. Now I don't know what to do. I am very tempted to do a second bachelor's in physics and eventually go for grad school.

    But all in all, I don't know if this is feasible or not, and I don't much relish the idea of being a 40-year-old post-doc. Here are some questions I have:

    1. Is it hard to be accepted into a decent science department without having senior-year high school science under my belt? I'll have an okay math background by the time I graduate, including differential equations and some real analysis, but no science. I'm guessing that this might be a huge obstacle. I also guess that even simply having a first degree might disqualify me from many schools.

    2. If I were accepted into a degree program, would I be able to fast-track through it at all? I figure I would be able to at least test out of first-year physics, but I have no lab experience, and I suppose they wouldn't give me a B.Sc if I didn't cover freshman-level general science.

    3. Is there any stigma attached to being an older (relative to most of my peers, as a first-year) grad student, or beginning post-doc?

    And finally, this is more subjective, but do you think all this is worth it? Does anyone have experience with a post-bachelor's change of track like this? Thanks in advance for any comments!
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 23, 2010 #2
    Can you just double major in science at your current school? It should take less time 'cause your cores may carry over.

    1&2 depend on the school. Some of the prestigious ones aren't keen on 2nd degree students, public schools take 'em all the time. My school treats 2nd degrees as transfer students and evaluates their first degree for equivalencies and such and then figures out a curriculum from there. Give an idea of which schools you're looking at and someone may be able to give you more specific advice.

    3. A couple of the people I most looked up to in school were 2nd degree/come back to school types. Again, I'm in a big public school with lots of non-traditional students; this is probably one of those environment dependent things, but all the other threads here that ask the same thing basically come to the conclusion that it'll be fine.
  4. Mar 23, 2010 #3

    Third year huh?...If you want to pursue a second degree (in the lucrative manner), that's another four years or so. Do you have the time and money to do that?

    If you are just studying out of interest, sure go for it, but the times are against you my friend.

    Don't let my words discourage you.

    May the force be with you, my jedi, I mean scholar.
  5. Mar 23, 2010 #4
    If you can afford it and it is also feasible within your own circumstances, then definitely do some investigating.

    Now as for whether or not you'll find a university that will accept you, I can't really speak for how thing work in the US. I know that in the UK, given the math background you describe, it would be no problem at all.

    Finally, when weighing up your options (I say this also for flyingpig's benefit) - remember that, either way you're going to have a career. Whether it's something you enjoy or not depends on your decisions throughout. So, to me, it would mean that starting 5 years late is no price for 30 years of happier working.
  6. Mar 23, 2010 #5
    Did you see the guy who regreted with his BS in Physics?
  7. Mar 23, 2010 #6
    So...you're saying that one shouldn't attempt anything because there's a possibility that you might regret it?

    For the time being, the OP believes that they want to move in to science. You can't know if you'll regret it until you try - what is important is that the OP knows that the situation they are currently in is not the one they wish to remain in. Some people will perhaps realise that they didn't make the decision that is correct for them - well, it's exactly what is happening with the current degree. It's also important to consider that careers are very rarely as straight forward as you initially imagine it to be. Speak to your lecturers. Many of them will be working in areas that are the result of a complex evolution in their interests. Many people end up in places they would previously never have seen themselves. Reaching the point where you're doing what you truly want to obviously involves a combination of factors. it's important to follow your interests, and figure how this marries up with feasibility etc.
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2010
  8. Mar 23, 2010 #7
    Thanks for your thoughts. So, from what I've been reading in this forum and other places, it would be next to impossible for me to ever obtain a decent faculty position.

    Okay, in that case, I would certainly not mind working in industry or government. I understand that physics Ph.D.s industry actually outnumber those in academia. But is there a good chance to work specifically *as a physicist* -- working with physics in technology, for example? Or do most graduates end up working in unrelated fields, like programming and finance?
  9. Mar 24, 2010 #8
    I think it is a long shot for anyone, but it is not a bad thing to dream about as long as you realize that you will revise your goals several times on the way. There are many people who decide to go for a 2nd degree. There is no problem with age. Just make sure your motivation is in the right place...
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook