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Should I still major in Physics?

  1. Apr 19, 2008 #1
    I love physics and astronomy. I am either going to stick with my major in physics or switch to astrophysics. I am not sure yet. I have a funny story. I ran away in my senior year and got married. I got a G.E.D. in New Mexico after I got married. I am divorced now and going to college finally. In highschool I was good in math and sciences. It has been a long time for me now though and I am probably going to have to start at calculus again. I am a 23 year old who is just starting college and I have a question that is bothering me:

    Am I to old to go to college and still major in physics, seeing how I didn't go to college right out of school?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 19, 2008 #2
    23 is hardly old at all. Go to school and get you degree.
  4. Apr 19, 2008 #3
    You're too old, sorry. You have to start physics when you're 8 to be any good at it.
  5. Apr 19, 2008 #4
    I know a guy who just got his physics degree last quarter. He's in his 30's and is trying to get into graduate school or find a job. His age didn't stop him at all.
  6. Apr 19, 2008 #5
    I started my physics degree at the age of 22. The age factor will only bother you if you let it. The fact is, at your age you have an advantage over most of the other students, that advantage being maturity. Just focus on what you want to do, and you'll do just fine :)
  7. Apr 19, 2008 #6
    I agree, I started my degree at the age 23. Usually my maturity gives me an advantage over other students. 23 is actually a really great age to start! You're past the partying stage, & not over the hill yet.
  8. Apr 19, 2008 #7
    One of my students (I'm a physics grad student/TA) in my introductory classical physics class is in his mid-thirties, and he's majoring in physics. Of course he also bombed the last midterm, but trust me when I say that this had nothing to do with his age. 23 is by no means too old to start college. When I was in undergrad, one of my TAs was in her late thirties, so presumably she started undergrad way later than you.

    As far as physics and astrophysics go, there isn't too much of a difference, but there are a few things that you should be aware of. Astrophysics focuses on less physics and more astronomy, but all of the core classes are the same. I think the question to ask is what you want to do with your degree. If you plan to end with your bachelor's degree and get a job, I would suggest majoring in physics with an engineering emphasis (or better yet, double major in physics and engineering). Physics by itself isn't the most employable major. But with a strong engineering supplement, it becomes much easier to find employment.

    If, however, you're going to graduate school, you have more options. Then I would suggest sticking with just physics, because having a broad physics background will serve you well in grad school. If you know you want to go into astrophysics, then you may want to consider getting a BS in astro. Just keep in mind what one of my professors told me: it's easy for a person with a strong physics background to learn the astronomy he needs to be a successful astrophysicist. It's much harder for a person who has the astronomy background to pick up physics on the side. Astrophysicists need to be very good at physics. And at the end of the day, learning quantum mechanics is harder than learning about bremstrahllung processes or accretion disks.

    I, for example, got my undergraduate degrees in physics and math, and I never took a single astronomy course. Shortly before starting my first year of graduate school, I sort of accidentally signed up with an astrophysics research group, and decided that I wanted to get my PhD in astrophysics research. I can't exaggerate how valuable my physics background has been to me. If I majored in astronomy and didn't take any advanced physics courses, I wouldn't be able to take the first year of quantum, E&M, or other graduate physics courses, and I'd basically be a year behind in my classes. So my takehome message is: if you're planning on going to graduate school to study astronomy, getting an astrophysics BS is fine. Just make sure you take the advanced undergraduate physics courses too.
  9. Apr 20, 2008 #8
    LOL, 23 to old?

    I finished a double BSc in Physics and Math, 4 months before my 50th birthday. rotflmao
    I"m taking Masters level courses now, and I"m dreaming about a Phd, but there are limits. By the time I finished and did a postdoc I'd be closing on 60. The age thing doesn't bother me, but looking for a job at 60 is a bit daunting.
  10. Apr 20, 2008 #9
    Dont let the age bother you!
  11. Apr 20, 2008 #10
    Thank you all so much. I feel better now that I have more insight. I have two more questions then:

    1. I am going to a junior college right now to get all of my pre-requisits out of the way. I will be transferring to a 4 year in about two years. What are some good colleges to apply to? (So far I am in love with Humboldt State University and considering UC-Berkeley.)

    2. Would it be a good idea to stick to my major in Physics and minor in Astronomy? I have always wanted from the start to persue graduate school for a masters, but a Ph.D in Astrophysics sounds so much better. I would like to be in the research field of either researching Self-sustaining/Self-renewing energy alternatives or (my passion) research in Astronomy (which has endless possibilities, so I am assuming I would have to pick one field?)
  12. Apr 20, 2008 #11
    Oh and I wanted to thank everyone so much for all the input, expecially arunma-your reply was very educating and has answered many questions that have been bouncing around in my mind ^.^
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