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Two questions following a bit of background:

I'm currently a 4th year Physics/Mathematics major to graduate in the spring, and I'm beginning my applications for Grad. school. My goal is theoretical/mathematical physics. Just the idea of applying pure mathematics to physics is exciting to me.

I've taken the Physics GRE Subject tests and all that great stuff, but the more I think of it... the more I feel I prefer mathematics, and as a result---mathematics graduate studies; I'd still like to apply this to physics, eventually, but what I really want is the pure, abstract math first.

1) The next Mathematics Subject GRE is in April. If I want to get into a mathematics graduate program, have I missed my shot?

2) How viable of an option would it be to switch from a physics grad. program into a mathematics one in the same university?

  • If I want to get into a mathematics graduate program, have I missed my shot? — Maybe for this admission cycle, but you can always apply next year. – JeffE Nov 15 '14 at 18:46
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The next Mathematics Subject GRE is in April. If I want to get into a mathematics graduate program, have I missed my shot?

Yes, it will hurt your chances for this year, but you might still be admitted. Admissions committees can sometimes be flexible about requirements like this if you give a good explanation, so it could still be worth applying (but what the chances are depend on the department and perhaps even the specific committee members).

How viable of an option would it be to switch from a physics grad. program into a mathematics one in the same university?

As a general rule, being admitted to one department does not make it easy to transfer to another. If you have good interactions with the mathematics faculty, then that might help some, but you would still have to apply in the usual way (and the chances of admission would in general be comparable to what they might have been if you had not been in the physics department already).

[Added in edit:] On the other hand, you may be able to accomplish your goals in either department. You can certainly talk/work with faculty from both departments, at least informally and perhaps through some sort of formal arrangement. If you do work in the intersection of both fields, in the long run it won't matter very much which department your degree was from. Mainly, it's a matter of which requirements you'll have to complete in the short term (will you take more physics classes or more math classes?).

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    Some schools also allow you to do a jointly supervised thesis with advisors from multiple departments. – aeismail Nov 14 '14 at 23:30
  • @aeismail: Good point, I was answering the question as asked, but the more important point is probably that you can work with faculty from both. (I'll add this information.) – Anonymous Mathematician Nov 14 '14 at 23:33
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    Actually what department you've gotten a degree from (Math vs. Physics) can affect the kinds of jobs that you'll be able to apply to. Someone with a Physics PhD (even someone specializing in mathematical physics) is likely to have trouble getting a teaching job in a mathematics department and vice versa. – Brian Borchers Nov 15 '14 at 1:34
  • I'd give +100 to Brian Borcherds' comment if I could. – just-learning Nov 15 '14 at 14:12
  • Excellent. Thanks for the answer. If given the choice between only mathematics and only physics, I'd choose the former. I will apply to Physics grad. school, and maybe switch to mathematics—it wouldn't take any more time, since the next math GREs are in like 6 months. – AmagicalFishy Nov 16 '14 at 0:31

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