Advice:Background outside of Physics

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Advice for students whose prior experience is not primarily in the field of Physics

Main Article: No Prior Graduate Experience Advice

See Also: PhD Requirements

The advice for students with no prior degrees in physics (every year a few math or engineering students join the physics MA or PhD program) aligns pretty closely with the advice for students who haven't taken graduate level courses in physics before, but with an added level of caution to not take too many or too hard graduate courses.

  • It is recommended to focus on research and solidifying the support of an advisor before jumping into the coursework at the same level as peers with high levels of preparation.
  • This is so that the coursework, which will likely take additional time relative to your peers, doesn't prevent you from finding an advisor and getting into the candidacy portion of your degree.


Coursework is important, but with less preparation and experience in theoretical physics courses, it could prevent success in the later parts of the degree, so care must be taken to pace oneself and prioritize thesis research and Research Assistant support, or at least research experience and letters of recommendation, over completing large amounts of coursework.