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Too Old?

  1. Jun 22, 2007 #1
    im 41 w/BS and MS in Info Systems but I'm really interested in physics. Would I have to start over completely in an undergraduate program? Seems like there was a lot of fluff there that shouldn't have to be repeated (english, psych) Is it too late to start persuing a career in the field? Anyone other late bloomers out there want to share their experience?
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  3. Jun 22, 2007 #2
    Well, how much math and physics did you take as an undergrad? You'd probably just want to enroll in physics courses, without doing a formal degree. I suppose your goal is to get into a physics graduate program. I would assume if you take enough physics classes to prepare you, with excellent marks, you would get into a program somewhere. I don't think you need an extra couple of letters after your name, as long as you have the coursework each program requires for admission.

    You are not too old unless you think you are.
  4. Jun 22, 2007 #3
    right, a physics grad program, possibly a phd. i surely don't want to get a phd in Info systems. I've had enough of crunching numbers, building applications, etc. It's served me well in my career but if I learn more I want it to be in the area of math and physics.
  5. Jun 22, 2007 #4
    I've met a lot of older guys in my engineering classes that work full time/part time/ or are retired from the military. Anything is possible.

    Just remember this quote

  6. Jun 22, 2007 #5


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    I entered a physics doctoral program at the ripe old age of 38. Succeeded in getting the doctorate in a very impractical field (theoretical cosmology). Did 10 years as postdoc around the world. Failed to find a job after a detour into bioinformatics. Finally went back to writing engineering software at the same company I'd left so many years before because they had stuff like health benefits. Be careful what you wish for. But I wouldn't trade the detour for anything. Don't plan on making it a career, you are judged harshly as you approach 50.
  7. Jun 22, 2007 #6


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    And no, you don't have to start over again as an undergraduate. If you've got the background from a previous academic career (I was a graduate math major with substantial bling in stuff like quantum mechanics and differential geometry) they will just take you straight into grad school (at least in the US, beware your mileage may differ) without the social studies type stuff. Just try it.
  8. Jun 23, 2007 #7
    I'm 45, with degrees in computer science/engineering. After a year of taking a few upper division courses through a local "open university" program, I'll be starting work on an M.S. in physics next fall. After that... well, we'll see! :smile:

    I doubt if you'd have to start over completely and get a bachelor's degree in physics, but you'll probably have to take at least a few undergrad physics courses as well...

    Maybe it's just this particular school, but there seemed to be a lot of students looking for a second chance. Admittedly, most of them were much younger than I am, but I think that going back to school later in life is becoming increasingly common.
  9. Jun 23, 2007 #8


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    Since you did not indicate which part of the world you are at, or if you intend to do this in a US institution or not, I'll assume that it is in the US.

    Remember that you are expected to pass several requirements to get a Ph.D in physics. So not only should you have had several undergraduate physics knowledge, you almost must STILL be able to recall them, even after years of not using them. Most of us have a problem in doing that.

    I wrote a short "test" on what someone with another degree can do to see if they have the potential of surviving, not just being accepted, in a physics graduate program. You may want to check it out.


  10. Jun 23, 2007 #9
    yeah what ZapperZ is true. I know a person with a PhD in physics, who hasnt used it for 30 years. So he has forgotten how to solve some basic physics problems.
  11. Jun 23, 2007 #10
    Thanks for all the encouragement and advice. I don't feel like it would be a lost cause. I'm thinking of it more as enrichment than a career. Enrichment for me by expanding my mind, for my kids by exposing them to science and a lifetime of learning, for the world if I can find something to add to the body of knowlege.
  12. Jun 23, 2007 #11

    That's one of the most beautiful (and correct) quotes i have ever read.
  13. Jun 23, 2007 #12


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    While idealism like that is nice, you should also not divorce yourself from the reality of it. Going to graduate school in physics can be unbelievably challenging and EXPENSIVE. Many of us have questioned ourselves in why we would want to do this when we're up at 2:00 am in the morning trying to struggle through one of Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics problem. And if you're paying your way through, it isn't cheap!

    So unless you're willing to actually sit down and evaluate your chances of getting through, you could be in for a lot of wasted time, effort, and money with nothing to show at the end. I encourage a lot of people to study physics, but I also want them to face the hard reality that this isn't going to be a walk in the park.

  14. Jun 23, 2007 #13
    it isn't a walk at the park even in the ug years, so i can only imagine how it is in g. (-:
  15. Jun 23, 2007 #14
    I only disagree with one small part of what ZapperZ said:

    I wouldn't really consider trying to learn something new a waste, even if you ultimately fail to get a degree or change careers.

    I do agree that it is important to be realistic about what you can actually achieve, however.

    Now if you'll excuse me, I have to go tilt at a few windmills...
  16. Jun 23, 2007 #15


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    Look at the Open University www.open.ac.uk - it is a genuine UK university which does all it's courses by distance learning (and is very well respected in the UK at least ) - you can also do pre-degree preparation courses and get credit for exisitng experience.
    I don't know what their rules are for people outside the UK but they may be a good source of courses even if you can't enroll with them.
  17. Jun 26, 2007 #16
    I knew a lady who recently died at 103. She was an unknown legal secretary at 65 when she retired.

    The Governor of the State of Washington attended her memorial service and the State Senate and House wrote resolutions in her honor. A school is named after her and there is a yearly film festival named in her honor. Hmm, something happened between 65 and 103 wouldn't you say??

    You are never too old until you are dead or too sick to work.
  18. Jun 27, 2007 #17


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    zapper is right on, but on the other hand, we are all too old, so what?
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