Theoretical & Mathematical Physics Major

Jan 08, 2018

Students who major in theoretical and mathematical physics will be required to take a number of courses that expose them to introductory and advanced concepts in these two fields. Degree programs in this field will be discussed in greater detail.

Overview of Theoretical & Mathematical Physics Majors

Students who are interested in studying theoretical and mathematical physics can enroll in bachelor's degree programs in these areas. It may be challenging to finding programs that have a theoretical and mathematical physics major, as it is more common to find programs in either theoretical physics or mathematical physics. However, there are typically courses within both of these programs that would allow students to study both concepts. Below, we will look at programs in theoretical and mathematical physics in greater detail by discussing admission requirements and which types of courses are offered in these programs, among a number of details.

Admission Requirements for Theoretical & Mathematical Physics Programs

Admission into an undergraduate program in theoretical and mathematical physics does not typically require specific high school courses that students must take as long as they fulfill general university admission standards. However, as these programs are heavy in math and physics courses, it may be helpful for students to take similar courses in high school to prepare themselves. Some programs may require that students enroll in some introductory-level math and physics courses and earn satisfactory grades before being able to begin the major-specific courses of the program. When applying to theoretical and mathematical physics programs, students will typically need to submit an application along with their high school transcripts and results from standardized tests.

Theoretical & Mathematical Physics Major Coursework

Coursework in theoretical and mathematical programs exposes students to both introductory and advanced concepts in theoretical physics and mathematical physics. Below, we will look at five courses that are commonly found in these programs.

College Calculus

These programs typically require that students have a high level of calculus understanding so they often include several calculus courses in their curriculum. In these courses, students will begin by studying introductory-level concepts in calculus and move on to advanced concepts and more specific types of calculus, like multivariable calculus and calculus for physics. Topics that students can expect to study include sequences, polar coordinates, conic sections, vectors, various theories, and differentiation.

Differential Equations

In a course focused on differential equations, students will study both first-order and higher-order differential equations. The course will focus on topics like matrix theory, different types of models to use when working with differential equations, and linear and non-linear equations. Students can also expect to work with different types of mathematical software when solving problems.

Quantum Mechanics

Designed to be taken during one of the later semesters of the program, a course in quantum mechanics will expose students to introductory concepts in the field as well as the quantum theory. Students will learn about the uncertainty principle and will study Schrodinger's equation. Other topics covered in this course include simple systems in various dimensions, angular momentum, and waves and particles.

Thermal and Statistical Physics

In this course, students will learn about methods by which to statistically describe different particles. They will study advanced concepts in thermodynamics and different types of canonical ensembles. Kinetic theory, phase equilibrium, concepts of heat, and equations of state are other common topics discussed in this course.

Electricity and Magnetism

These programs typically require students to take a couple of courses in electricity and magnetism. In these courses, students will use the concepts they learned in calculus and learn their applications in the electric field. These courses will focus heavily on electromagnetism and electrodynamics, as well as radiation, field energy, and electrostatics.

How to Choose a Program in Theoretical & Mathematical Physics

When selecting a program in theoretical and mathematical physics, there are a number of factors that may play a role in your ultimate decision. It is important to look closely at each program's curriculum and required courses to make sure that they are aligned with your interests and desired field of study. While many of these programs have a similar core curriculum, they may offer a variety of different elective courses, some of which may be of greater interest to you or more pertinent to your career goals. In addition, if you have taken advanced math and physics courses during high school, you may want to check if you can receive college credit for these courses. Another factor that will likely play a role in your decision is where the university or college is located.

Career Options with a Degree in Theoretical & Mathematical Physics

With a degree in theoretical and mathematical physics, there are a number of career options you could pursue. For example, you may be interested in a job as a mathematician. This field is expected to grow by 29% between 2016 and 2026 and individuals working in this field earned a median salary of $105,810 in 2016. Some other possible career options are listed below.

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