Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Taking Graduate level physics classes as an undergraduate

  1. Aug 5, 2010 #1
    Starting next semester, I will be taking part in a year long, accelerated math program, which if I finish, will allow me to get a master's degree in place of a bachelor's. My primary major is physics though, and I have been considering the possibility of substituting some of my required classes with graduate level classes instead.

    I was wondering how much work would be necessary to do this or if it is even at all feasible.
    If the only difference between the undergraduate and graduate level classes are just the mathematical rigor, I think I would be able to manage it. If there is a lot of prerequisite knowledge though, the option wouldn't really seem to be on the table.

    I've heard of people graduating with a degree in math and then switching to physics in grad school, so I would think it is at least possible to go into the graduate classes without any prior knowledge, but I figure you guys have better advice than anecdotes would provide
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 5, 2010 #2
    The problem is typically graduate courses are inhabited by graduate students, who quite frankly may know tons and tons more than you do as an undergraduate. It's quite possible the choice of course text and the description of the course may not accurately represent the level the professor presents stuff at ultimately. Especially if it's a small class, if a bunch of grad students kind of know a ton, then the prof can do whatever he wants in some cases, so it can be tough.

    I'd leave a lot more time for those classes if you want to learn it properly. Depending on your school, it may be very doable.
  4. Aug 5, 2010 #3
    theres a post on this part of the forum where someone asks for graduate schools that dont use jackson's textbook for e&m. if you don't know, jackson is the standard graduate level textbook e&m and the problems are HARD. For comparison, a standard undergrad e&m text is by griffiths.

    Anyway, the point the posters (some of whom i presume have phds in physics) was that while the concepts are "similar", the problems themselves are FAR different in terms of mathematical ability. Keep in mind, one of the biggest problems students (of all levels) have in the physical sciences is mathematical background. It's difficult enough to learn physics, but if you have to learn math at the same time... tough!

    of course, you may not have that problem if you have a strong background in math.

    here's a relevant post to help you.
  5. Aug 5, 2010 #4
    If you can, get the syllabus and the problem sets for the course and just see how well you think you will do. If you have the math background and the time, I think it's a great thing to do. One thing that you do have to be aware of is that you may find it difficult to transfer credit from one school to the other, but in the worst case, you just retake the class at the new school.

    That's probably not a good analogy.

    What often happens is that if someone switches majors, they have to take a few upper level undergraduate classes at the new department.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook