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Courses What math do I need for undergraduate level physics?

  1. Mar 19, 2017 #1
    In the future, I want to specialize in something like nuclear physics, plasma physics and/or high energy physics.

    I'm not going to major in physics and will major in engineering but physics interests me, so I'd like to self study!
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  3. Mar 19, 2017 #2


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    Welcome to the PF. :smile:

    Your two paragraphs are contradictory, IMO. Why not major in physics if that is where you want top end up later? What jobs do you think you want to be working in 5-10 years after you earn your BS? Are you planning on going to graduate school?
  4. Mar 19, 2017 #3
    I don't know what I'll be majoring in, to be honest, I'm just looking for the math so it's much easier to just pick x and major into that without any sort of hassle.
  5. Mar 19, 2017 #4


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    Engineering could be the major field to choose. The common Mathematics requirement typical for Engineering and Physics major-field students would be Calculus 1,2,3, and a watered-down course combining linear algebra and differential equations. You would want MORE AND BETTER than just that to ensure the best success in either Engineering, or Physics, or whatever else is near to these major fields.

    Understand, a degree in Engineering will include a certain prescribed minimum of Physics courses. If you are expecting later to do something in Physics, then,...,... .
  6. Mar 19, 2017 #5


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    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  7. Mar 19, 2017 #6
    Last edited by a moderator: May 8, 2017
  8. Mar 20, 2017 #7


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    It would be helpful to know what level of math you are at right now.

    For introductory university-level physics, you need algebra, trigonometry, pre-calculus and some calculus (basic derivatives and integrals).

    For upper-level university physics, it depends on the particular subject, but as a minimum you will also need calculus through multivariable calculus (vector calculus), ordinary differential equations, and some linear algebra. More specialized math topics are often introduced in physics courses that require them, or you can use one of the books that berkeman linked to. Boas (as per JoePhysics) is commonly used and is often discussed here.
  9. Mar 20, 2017 #8


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  10. Mar 22, 2017 #9
    If you want to get into any advanced physics with any depth, you'll be needing the entirety of Calculus (up through multivariable and vector calculus whether it be Calc 3 or 4 for your school), plus differential equations and linear algebra. A statistics class could also be particularly useful (especially for the subjects you mentioned), though the necessary statistics concepts are usually covered in the relevant texts I find.
  11. Mar 22, 2017 #10
    Multivariable calculus and linear algebra, as mentioned, will get you through an undergraduate Physics program. Abstract algebra, and real and complex analysis will tell you whether you want to pursue an advanced Physics degree.
  12. Mar 23, 2017 #11
    Other than multivariable calculus and linear algebra, I would certainly add differential equations, both ordinary as well as partial, as required to go through a typical undergraduate physics program.
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