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The benefits of an extra semester to graduate?

  1. Jun 24, 2012 #1
    Looking for some practical advice on adjusting my class schedule. As it stands, I can graduate this year (although I would be taking 18 credits a semester) with a degree in Physics and a minor in Math. My physics degree is still a B.S, however graduating this year would have me miss out on a thermal physics (with statistical mechanics) and quantum mechanics (I have only taken introductory quantum physics). This leads me to think it may be advantageous to take an extra semester so I make sure I can graduate with all the preparation I need for graduate school or the workforce. I feel like I would be missing out on some important skills if I graduate this year, not to mention I don't want to go through another semester with 18 credits.

    I would really like to go to graduate school (not sure what field of physics yet, but I'm leaning towards master's programs), but I need to make sure I am still employable if I don't get into graduate school. I have around a 3.0 gpa, and any one of my professors would be willing to write me letters of recommendation, so hopefully I am a good candidate!

    This leaves another option open. I thought with the flexibility of an extra semester would allow me to get an applied math major also which would leave me less knowledge in physics, but may be more valuable to employers. I could also pick up more programming classes but to be honest I would rather teach or work in a lab all day then program. Little here or there is fine with me but I would personally feel very unfulfilled working as a programmer for the rest of my life.

    Thanks a lot for taking the time to read this. I want to make sure I make the right steps in my college education to I can end up in a career I will really enjoy. I would like to add that I am leaning towards taking those extra physics classes.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 24, 2012 #2


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    what kind of employers are you looking at? will thermal and quantum physics be important for them?
    same with grad school, will these courses be vitally important for the field you are leaning to? (I know you are not sure which field you want to specialize in but hopefully you have some sort of gut feeling)

    Also how busy is your schedule? try not to juggle too many courses and end up with lower gpa
  4. Jun 24, 2012 #3
    Are there really schools that will let you have a physics major without having taken a Thermal and Quantum at all? :eek:
  5. Jun 25, 2012 #4
    Like I said I am not sure what I want to get into yet, so I am trying to leave it flexible. Maybe its time to just get my mind set on something and roll with the punches if something changes or it doesn't work out.

    It does seem kind of odd that thermal and quantum mechanics are not a required. It is a liberal arts school though. I have taken upper level mechanics and electrodynamics however.
  6. Jun 25, 2012 #5
    Those are important courses. You do need a solid understanding of QM if you're going to do any terrestrial physics. But you don't have to put your plans on hold if you're going to graduate school. You could take the undergraduate versions of those courses at your new school. Poor understanding of thermal physics will affect your Physics GRE score, so you'd still have to brush up for the exam. For some reason the quantum on the Physics GRE is a joke. Probably you're last semester won't show up when you apply for schools, so you won't be able to nudge up your GPA. Either way, a half year here or there isn't a big deal.

    If you're planning on leaving school, you won't find jobs that make direct use of your physics knowledge with a Bachelor's degree. So if you're worried about tuition, you could skip the extra semester. Still, it's good to finish the job. There are four core knowledge areas in physics: statistical physics, quantum mechanics, electrodynamics, and classical mechanics. And the first two find more use. It would be a shame to miss out on them.
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