transferring to physics from applied physics?

  • As many already know, studying for the physics GRE and getting accepted into a graduate program is not the final hurdle in your physics career.
  • There are many issues current physics graduate students face such as studying for their qualifier, deciding upon a field of research, choosing an advisor, being an effective teaching assistant, trying to have a social life, navigating department politics, dealing with stress, utilizing financial aid, etc.

Post Reply
Posts: 6
Joined: Tue Feb 08, 2011 4:36 pm

transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by exy » Sat Apr 09, 2011 10:53 pm

hi everyone,

I probably headed to an applied physics program for next year, but I'm still unsure whether or not I'd ultimately want to do pure physics theory research (in condensed matter). I just wanted to ask you guys who are currently grad students how difficult it would be in general to switch from applied physics to pure physics if I decided that I really don't like doing experiments and would much rather do theoretical research


Posts: 114
Joined: Mon Mar 07, 2011 12:06 am

Re: transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by TheBeast » Sun Apr 10, 2011 12:36 pm

By "switch" do you mean transfer from applied physics to physics without doing a separate application?

I'm guessing that such a task would depend heavily on the school in question, how close the Applied Physics and Physics departments are and what sort of faculty contacts you have made in both of the departments.

I would also suspect that it would be easier to switch from Applied Physics into something experimental in the Physics department, rather than theoretical.

The school that I go to doesn't have an applied physics department, but I do know of people who have switched into or out of physics but in all cases, their advisor was cross appointed between physics and the other department.

Posts: 1203
Joined: Sat Nov 07, 2009 11:44 am

Re: transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by bfollinprm » Sun Apr 10, 2011 1:53 pm

I doubt you could straight up switch once you get in.

User avatar
Posts: 762
Joined: Thu Apr 16, 2009 2:08 am

Re: transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by HappyQuark » Sun Apr 10, 2011 3:35 pm

If you are talking about getting into an applied physics program and then, mid-program, trying to switch to the physics department in the same university then you almost certainly won't be allowed to do that. Applications and, more importantly, acceptances are department specific so an acceptance to the applied physics department is ONLY an acceptance to that specific department and not an acceptance to all programs in that school. The physics program didn't accept you and in all likelihood wouldn't have a spot available for you anyways.

If you are talking about getting a masters in applied physics or leaving an applied physics PhD program to go through the application process again, which is the one I assumed you were talking about, then there shouldn't be too much of a problem switching between the two.

User avatar
Posts: 2296
Joined: Tue May 29, 2007 8:46 pm

Re: transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by grae313 » Sun Apr 10, 2011 4:14 pm

Remember that you don't necessarily have to switch departments to do research in your desired subfield. This depends on the school, but at many Universities it's very common for students to do their thesis research with a professor from another department. You should ask around, as you may have the option of doing CM theory research with a physics professor even while officially being a member of the applied physics department at your school.

Posts: 87
Joined: Mon Nov 01, 2010 10:57 pm

Re: transferring to physics from applied physics?

Post by SSM » Thu Jan 12, 2012 1:35 pm

For grad students that still read this section: I've been told that transferring to from physics to applied physics or the reverse actually isn't that big of a deal. It usually isn't necessary, actually since the courses are roughly the same. You could even take a physics theory courseload and still have it count for the same credit in your applied physics requirements (at least where I go). But if you really want to do it, you should talk to your adviser and an adviser in the department you want to transfer to. You would have to re-apply to the new department, but things can be done for you very quickly.

I'm actually in this boat right now, but I'm thinking of switching from EE to applied physics. My research adviser told me he'd literally walk down the hall to the applied physics grad chair and tell him to admit me, it's as easy as that.

Post Reply