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

What are the less challenging/competitive sub-fields of physics to get into?

  1. Oct 11, 2011 #1
    I am interested in certain areas of physics, but obviously not everyone has the luxury to choose exactly what they want to do in physics (or in life for that matter). My question is which sub-fields of physics are less challenging to get into, as in ones where you don't need a near 4.0 GPA, very high PGRE scores, and great research experience tailored to your field of interest. I have heard things about medical physics, accelerator physics, but really don't know much on this rather important topic (for non-super-achievers).
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 12, 2011 #2
    Well, I hate to speak this way about my own field. But those who like condensed matter can sometimes enter a materials science program as a "back up". You can still make it as rigorous as you want of course, that is all up to you. Choose the right research group and you can be working on identical problems to an applied physics group. But the PGRE is not required, etc. I think you still need to have good grades though...no getting around that if you want to get into a good program. Still, almost certainly less competitive than a physics program at the same university.
  4. Oct 12, 2011 #3
    I think your asking the wrong question here, and also enchroaching on territory which some might find offensive. I think what you mean to say is, what fields of physics have greater opportunity? The answer to that question is generally those which have more immediate applications and potential in industry. That doesn't mean they are any less challenging, but those fields can attract more generous funding grants.
  5. Oct 12, 2011 #4
    I think it's got to be easier for, dare I say it, non-geniuses to get into the experimental side rather than the theoretical side. And before everyone slaughters me, I've gone the experimental route too.
  6. Oct 12, 2011 #5


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    So, the experimentalists on this forum are supposed to let your comment slide because you are a self-hating experimentalist? :rolleyes:

    I've met quite a few people who believe the stereotype that experimentalists are less intelligent than theorists. It's a bad stereotype that should not be perpetuated.

    Granted I have met people who come closer to that stereotype than others, but it is not generally true, and the best experimentalists I know have a great grasp on all of the related theory and use it to guide their work.

    On the same note, a good theorist always remains grounded in experiment, thus keeping their work as relevant to the real world as possible. Theories that are not testable are not useful.

    Theory groups usually take less students, but this is usually driven by the fact that funding is harder to come by not by a lack of qualified graduate students.
  7. Oct 13, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper

    hoooh hoo hhahh! what a chance to p*** people off. All I have to do is answer this question and thousands of people will be angry.

    Let's see... how about string theory seems a trivial easily entered field,

    or quantum field theory.....

    oh boy the possibilities are endless!

    apparently you have asked a politically unanswerable question.
  8. Oct 13, 2011 #7
    In addition to all of that, it takes more students to work experimental equipment than it does to work a computer and a pencil.
  9. Oct 13, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    i can't find a more subtle way to say this, but if you are picking certain field just because you think it is "easy" I don't think you should bother learning them at all
  10. Oct 13, 2011 #9
    Mainstream experimental physics seems easier to get into, not because it's a lesser field, but because there are more opportunities and demand. I agree with the poster above me though, you should go with what you like and which is most comfortable to work with than what is easier.
  11. Oct 13, 2011 #10
    I would argue that they aren't "theories" to begin with.

    As for the question, depends on your aptitude and work-persistence. If you have the work ethic and are creative, then I guess you could do some of the physics you believe is harder. It is better to try than to not even if you believe in the notion that people can't always do what they want in terms of careers.

    With that said, engineering (fluid dynamics).

    J/K :tongue:
  12. Oct 14, 2011 #11
    Go into whatever field you are best at and you will probably find that field will be easiest to get into.

    Must admit, this is a rather thin-ice topic.
  13. Oct 14, 2011 #12
    Just do the physics that interests you. If/when you find there are no job opportunities there you can quickly move into an area for which there is demand for physicists - maybe other areas of physics (medical, solid-state), maybe finance or computing. No one will hold it against you for studying General Relativity 'cause it interests you, even if there are no jobs in it. Just don't get uppity 'cause society will not give you a job in that area, just knuckle down and learn C++, derivatives, CAT scanner technology, whatever... when you *have* to or starve... the man will pay for your training in these practical subjects 'cause they will make money for him, and the man in the street can't be trained in these things, only physicists (and equivalently numerate types) have these skills.

    Summary - don't worry now - just do what you want - that's what College is for... there's a lifetime to nuckle down and do what the world wants... fortunately, all physicists have skills that the man needs, they are sellers in a sellers marketplace.
  14. Oct 14, 2011 #13
    careful regarding medical physics, last year average gpa admission of UW madison was 3.8, if that's not competitive I don't know what is . . .
    You're better off finding something you like and focusing on it, as long as you stay open-minded and flexible you should be able to succeed.
  15. Oct 14, 2011 #14


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    This is good advice that I agree with. The easiest field is the one you actually enjoy working in. Jumping into a research group because you think the projects are easy (chances are your wrong about this anyway) or because the professor is well known/ publishes a lot is a bad, bad idea.

    If you aren't interested in the work, or you don't like the people you work for/with, you are setting yourself up for failure.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook