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Subjects in addition to Physics requirements; scheduling.

  1. Oct 25, 2011 #1
    (If there is confusion about course content, see links at bottom of post for course descriptions.)

    So looking ahead to the next 3 semesters, I can plainly see what classes I NEED to take for Physics.. but they leave room for courses in other disciplines -- for example Engineering, Computer Science, Mathematics, etc. The problem is that I'm not sure which courses I should be taking, and which aren't at all necessary. I have a long way to go but I'd like to have a general plan, an idea of what I should and shouldn't be learning.

    The classes I need to take are in bold. Those followed by a question mark are unknowns; I don't need to take them, and I'm wondering if they'd be at all helpful. This is only for my years at the local Community College, before I transfer to University.

    This year:

    College Algebra
    Computer Science I

    Technical Writing

    Computer Science II?
    Engineering Graphics? (AutoCAD and freehand drawing, I think.)

    Next year:
    Calc I
    Physics I (Calc-Based)

    Discrete Mathematics?

    Calc II
    Physics II
    Linear Algebra

    Digital Logic?
    Engineering Analysis? (Spreadsheets and Excel for Engineers, I think.)

    If it matters, I'm not really enjoying Computer Science at the moment but I keep hearing that programming skills are essential. I'm not sure how true this is, so I figured I'd take it and hope for the best. I don't intend to major in Engineering, but you never know, right? xD I look at the course descriptions and my inexperienced brain says "That sounds hard. I must need to know it!" Hence these questions.

    So my questions are essentially these:
    • How useful are Engineering classes? Statics, Dynamics, Circuits, Strength of Materials, etc.
    • How important is Computer Science, really? And what aspects of it will be most helpful? Do I really need to know the finer details of cache, or should I just scrap the CS classes and learn to program in my own time? If it is worth pursuing on campus, at what point should I stop -- in other words, when does it become less like 'CS stuff a physics major should know' and more like 'stuff that only a CS major needs to know'?
    • Is Discrete Mathematics necessary? I realize it's not needed for the major, but it looks fun.. although I don't want to take on too many classes from too many fields and doom my GPA if it'll never be used.
    • Most importantly -- are there any other courses that might not seem like obvious choices, but that would be of great use to me? Technical Writing seems to be a prime example.

    Simply put, there are a lot of classes that look interesting, and I lack the requisite expertise and experience to differentiate between those classes that would be of great use, and those that would be a waste of time. Broad questions, I know, but I'm not idealistic enough to have assumed that I've planned out the next 10 years of my life. I like learning about how and why the world works and Physics seems to be the most complete way to do just that. It's an interesting subject, and I'd like to know more. A lot more. That said I don't know if I'd go to Grad school (assuming sufficient grades) or into the workforce; I'm still a newbie so I can't lay claim to a specific field of study.

    Thanks for reading.

    Course descriptions:
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 26, 2011 #2


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    Science Advisor

    Isn't the obvious thing to talk to your academic advisor?
  4. Oct 26, 2011 #3
    First, make sure the engineering and technical classes will transfer to your University of choice.
    Second, no English or Humanities classes? Do not underestimate the importance of these.
    Third, talk with an advisor at your CC and at your target university - it would be a benefit to you to work 'backwards' from your target program to see what you need (and also what the uni advisor suggests).

    Lastly, and some may disagree, but I think Computer Science is best learned at University, not at CC. I think many classes are better at a CC (compared to a normal State-U) because of the generally smaller class size (intro physics and math I think will definately be better at a CC compared to general state university because of the attention you'll recieve), but CS at most Universities will bring a significantly different perspective than learning to program at a CC. There's more to CS than just learning to program and I think that extra bit is lost at most smaller (non-technical) colleges and CC. (mileage may vary, of course - this opinion is from personally taking CS classes initially at a relatively good university and later at a CC, and also from stories of friends, etc)
  5. Oct 26, 2011 #4
    Thanks for the responses thus far.

    I have talked to my advisor, and he was.. well, not helpful. He essentially said to take the classes I need to take, and then take whatever I want -- which did nothing to answer my questions! As for humanities classes, I already have those sorted out; I'll be taking most of those in the summer. ;) Of the classes I have listed, those not in bold are classes I'm considering.. they don't represent any official schedule. That last semester, for example, I likely wouldn't take all 6 of those.. they're just classes I could potentially take, and I'm trying to decide between them based on which skills are most useful in the coming years. (I essentially wanted to know about technical classes that were not explicitly required for Physics.)

    Oh, and CS. The instructor is constantly stressing that it's not about programming, and that programming is just a tool of computer science. He seems set on training us to enter industry, to solve problems, 'think algorithmically', etc. The last thing he wants us to do when solving something is code it. Whether or not this is what you were referring to, I don't know, but he seems to have our long term success in mind rather than short term programming skills. I joined the class because (as I said earlier) I have heard that it was a good skill to have and something non-CS majors often lack.

    I know for a fact that all Idaho universities have matriculation agreements with my college, so all classes transfer. (This goes some distance to guarantee the quality of the classes, because we are required to learn the same things as University students.. albeit for a fraction of the price.) As for out-of-state Unis, I can't say. I've only just started to look at my options in that regard, I haven't gone much further. I figured that given the number of Physics majors and graduates on this site, I could get some insight into which classes were invaluable, and which were better left to Engineering/CS majors. ;)

    The major source of confusion for me has been knowing where the lines of demarcation are. Essentially, what bits of CS and Engineering are just short of pointless for someone who doesn't intend to work in those fields, compared to those parts that are exceedingly helpful?

    I'll take your advice into consideration, and look for a Uni advisor who can perhaps shed light on some of these questions.. as well as hope for continued responses to this thread! Thanks again.
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