Applied Mathematics vs Physics for Grad School

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Joined: Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:07 pm

Applied Mathematics vs Physics for Grad School

Post by Trigmaster15 » Sun Sep 18, 2011 4:22 pm

Hi, I am a senior, triple majoring in Mathematics, Physics, and Electrical Engineering at Penn State University (undergraduate). I am preparing to take the GREs (both general and subject), and I am looking for some advice on what direction to take. Here is some very brief background about myself:

-My GPA is about 3.6 - I have a 3.9 in Mathematics, and about a 3.5 in Physics.
-I have worked many internships during the summers, ranging from Aeronomy to Quantum Psychology research for DoD labs. I am currently in the process of publishing my second undergraduate paper.
-I can't stand theoretical stuff; I realize you have to take some pure things (analysis and such) to get through these degrees, but I am strongly attracted to physical applications and direct use of what I'm learning.
-I really enjoy Quantum Mechanics and its various applications

Okay, so here's my dilemma - as most people know, the GRE Subject Tests are available only 3 times a year - October, November, and April. In my original plan, I was going to apply to Grad Schools for both Math and Physics areas, but now that the October Late Registration has passed, I really have no choice but to choose only one subject test if I want to apply to Grad Schools for next Fall (2012). In addition, I've also heard that trying to take two subject tests can be a very daunting task - therefore, I'm trying to figure out what the best choice to go with is (Physics or Math). I personally think that I can score a little higher on the Math Subject test, but most of what I'm interested in is more Physics related, and I don't want to get stuck in one area and not be able to pursue what I'm interested in.

Can anyone give me any practical advice/experience about this? Will my options be hurt by choosing Applied Math over Physics? Are there more job options available for one over the other? Do more people generally choose one over the other?

I hope that some of you can give me some help on this - I won't lie, it's causing me a small bit of stress and I'm desperately trying to find some direction here. Any and all help is extremely appreciated. Thank you,

Jon Ore

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Re: Applied Mathematics vs Physics for Grad School

Post by CarlBrannen » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:04 am

I have similar inclinations and I'd go with physics. On the other hand, math is probably easier to get into.

Be sure and mention interest in experimental (and using your EE degree) in order to maximize your chances of getting into schools.

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Re: Applied Mathematics vs Physics for Grad School

Post by bfollinprm » Mon Sep 19, 2011 1:33 am

No question, go with Physics. Either that or an engineering/applied physics degree, which sounds like something you might be interested in. Your options will be hurt in applied math, if only because the profs you'll want to work with will be more interested in hiring Physics students to maximize department resources.

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Re: Applied Mathematics vs Physics for Grad School

Post by Minovsky » Mon Sep 19, 2011 12:11 pm

Some applied math programs accept subject tests from other disciplines. UC Davis and NYU are two off the top of my head that I know of. This way, you can take the Physics GRE and still be able to apply to applied math programs.

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