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5 Comments Already

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Betsy B Said,
May 15th, 2011 @3:11 am  

Mike-

You’re in for a long process. Have you earned your Bachelor’s degree yet? If not, it will be even longer.

As you may know, you need your Bachelor’s, then a Master’s, then the PhD. Be prepared to write a lot and to do a lot of research.
Hopefully, you are proficient at mathematics as that’s the basis of physics.

Once you’re in the PhD part of the program, there are classes and then the research and the writing of the Dissertation. If you know what’s ahead, it will be “easier” to plan.

Good luck! You can do a lot with a physics degree- university research and govt research are just 2 examples.

Don’t forget to enjoy life, too. Don’t let school life overwhelm you.

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amraza50 Said,
May 15th, 2011 @3:44 am  

it wont be if u r determined enough

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just_hanging_out_in_b&w Said,
May 15th, 2011 @4:38 am  

It’s not easy. I know someone who just got a PhD in physics.

He looks like a walking ghost! Seriously! Not just white from lack of sun, but a pale, worn out appearance. It is a lot of work, and you have to get through a lot of drudgery before you get to the “fun” stuff.

I hope you are not like me, read some of the fun books written for us laypeople, and get interested in the field for that reason only.

But you are realistic it sounds, the schooling is long, but if that is your life’s passion, then I say go for it! What do you have to lose?

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suledheluial2002 Said,
May 15th, 2011 @4:40 am  

Ph.D courses are generally arduous and very energy-sapping. First you have to complete your B.A, which will take four years. Then you will probably take an entrance exam into the Master’s degree (GRE), which will take three years or so. It depends on how fast you work. Then your Ph.D, but you have to pass examinations in each stage (not just finals, but to graduate) and write dissertations.

Depending on what kind of Physics you will study, you will need extremely advanced mathematics. My friend who is in his master’s for nuclear physics had to do Riemann and non-Euclid geometry junk.

Good luck1

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DAG Said,
May 15th, 2011 @5:29 am  

I just started working towards my PhD in Physics this fall, having gotten my BS in May. So, from the perspective of someone who has just started in, and who talks with a lot of people who have been in the program longer than I have I can say two things: it’s a *lot* of work, and if you enjoy physics you’ll love grad school.

Right now I’m taking the “core courses”, advanced courses in classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, and quantum mechanics which are a kind of boot camp for physicists. On the surface, they are like the intermediate and advanced undergraduate courses in those same subjects. The lectures are lectures. However, one key difference is that the homework will take many hours. For those three classes, I probably spend at least 20 hours a week just doing homework. At least. The problems are very hard, and you occasionally have problems which basically no one can get answers to. Strangely, so far, it’s been the classical mechanics class which has been the nightmare. :)

Additionally, graduate programs in physics generally make you pass something called the qualification exam (the quals), which is their way of knowing that you have managed to get a good grasp on the fundamental ideas of physics. In my department, the quals take the form of the final exam in each of the six core courses. To pass the quals, you need to get a 60% or better on each of your final exams. You can’t move forward in the program without passing the quals. So obviously, they’re somewhat ominous to us first years. I can’t say how hard they actually are, as I haven’t taken them yet.

As to after the first year, then things get interesting in more ways than one. For one thing, your first year (at least at my university but it’s also true for most physics departments), the department supports you with a teaching assistantship which pays for tuition and gives you a stipend. It’s not a lot, but really you spend so much time working that it’s enough (~$20k a year). But after your first year, your funding more or less has to come from your research advisor. So, the search for an advisor who is doing interesting things and also has research money they can use to fund you is important. Of course, aside from that, it becomes a lot of research. And that is supposed to be the best part because hopefully you’re doing something which is interesting to you. Of course, I’m a year or two from that, so I’m kind of relaying what more senior students have told me.

So, it’s a lot of work. That much I’m sure has come across. But it’s also a lot of fun. For one thing, I’m in the same boat as the other first years, so there’s a kind of fellowship of suffering. ;) You meet a lot of people with similar interests, and that can be a lot of fun. For one thing, you get to complain with them about how much of a pain grad school is. Also, you’re studying physics, and if you’re in grad school for physics, then presumably you like physics, so there’s enjoyment coming from there.

So, the final word is it’s a lot of work, and it can be difficult, but if you really like physics, it can be very rewarding. Personally, I’m happy I chose to come to grad school even though it’s a lot of work. I wouldn’t have chosen differently if I could. I hope that helps.

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