If you’re interested in studying computer science, you may be wondering: do you need physics for computer science? The short answer is… not really.
While it helps to know basic physics as a background, there is no requirement for taking physics courses as prerequisites or for admissions to computer science university programs.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the relationship between physics and computer science, and dive deeper into how much physics is actually needed to study computer science. Stay tuned!
Is physics related to computers?
Yes, physics is related to computers. Physics is the study of the fundamental principles governing the behavior of matter and energy, while computers are devices that use these principles to perform various tasks.
The two fields intersect in many ways, such as in the development of semiconductor materials and devices, which are essential components of computer hardware.
In addition, the principles of electromagnetic fields and circuits, which are studied in physics, are used in the design of computer networks.
Finally, computer simulations of physical systems are used extensively in both research and education. An example of such a system is a weather simulation, which can help scientists understand the atmosphere and predict the weather.
What topics in physics are important for computers?
There are several topics in physics that are important for computer science. These include:
- Thermodynamics: This branch of physics deals with the study of heat and energy. It is important for computer science because it helps us understand how to manage and optimize energy consumption in electronic devices.
- Electromagnetism: This branch of physics deals with the study of electricity and magnetism. It is important for computer science because it helps us understand how to transmit data electronically, such as through wires or wireless signals.
- Optics: This branch of physics deals with the study of light. It is important for computer science because it helps us understand how to create and manipulate light, which is used in many display devices such as monitors and TVs.
- Quantum mechanics: This branch of physics deals with the behavior of subatomic particles. It is important for computer science because it helps us understand how to build quantum computers, which are potentially much more powerful than traditional computers.
Do you need physics for computer science?
While physics is undoubtedly important for computers, it is actually not as important in computer science per se. Why? Because in computer science, we mostly deal with software, which is a set of instructions that tells the hardware what to do. The hardware is the physical stuff – the wires, transistors, and so on – that actually does the work.
So while you might need to understand some physics to build a computer, you don’t need to understand physics to write a computer program. In fact, most computer programmers don’t have a strong background in physics.
So if you’re interested in computer science, don’t worry if you’re not good at physics. It is not as important as math for computer science. You can still be a great programmer without robust knowledge of physics!
What courses in computer science require knowledge in physics?
While physics is almost never a hard prerequisite for any computer science courses, you will need basic understanding of such topics in physics as electricity, circuits, and thermodynamics in order to fully absorb the material in the following courses:
Computer Organization and Architecture
Computer organization and architecture is a course that teaches you about the physical makeup of computers and how they work. You will learn about the different parts of a computer and what each one does. You will also learn how to design and create your own computers.
Digital logic course is about the principles of computer design. You will learn about how to create circuits that perform Boolean logic operations, such as AND, OR, and NOT. It teaches you how to use these principles to design and build digital devices such as computers, smartphones, and digital cameras.
Embedded systems course is about making mini-computers that are embedded into other devices, such as cars, microwaves, and toasters. In this course, you will learn how to design and program these types of systems. You need some knowledge in physics for it because you will learn about how to create circuits and make things work with computers.
Computer networks course is about how computers communicate with each other. You will learn about different types of networks, such as the Internet, and how they work. You need to understand some physics for this course because you will be dealing with concepts such as signal strength, electromagnetic waves, and data transmission.
Operating systems course is about the software that controls the hardware of a computer. You will learn about how to design and create these types of systems. You need to understand some physics for this course because you will be dealing with concepts such as process scheduling, memory management, and input/output operations.
So while you don’t need to be a physics genius to study computer science, a basic understanding of physics will be helpful for some of the courses you’ll take. If you’re not good at physics, don’t worry! There are plenty of other courses in computer science that don’t require any knowledge in physics.
Can I still study computer science if I am bad at physics?
Sure you can! You don’t need to be good at physics to study computer science. In fact, most computer scientists don’t have a background in physics.
Even though understanding some basic principles of physics may help you understand certain concepts in computer science, these concepts will be taught to you as part of the courses we described above.
And for courses that involve programming, you won’t need any physics knowledge at all! What’s more, a prevailing majority of computer science university programs do not incorporate physics courses into their curriculum.
So if you’re interested in studying computer science, don’t let your lack of knowledge or interest in physics hold you back.
I still want to get better at physics. Where do I start?
If you want to get better at physics, we suggest you start by taking some introductory physics courses in electromagnetism and circuit design. You can do so by taking a course at your university or by studying on your own from online resources.
Here are some such resources:
- Khan Academy offers excellent free video lessons in physics.
- Alison offers all kinds of free elementary and advanced physics courses.
- edX also has online courses from various universities, including some on physics.
- Coursera is a similar educational platform to edX and has excellent courses in physics.
Once you have a better understanding of the basics of physics, you can move on to more advanced concepts such as quantum mechanics and thermodynamics, if you ever wish to. But again, you don’t need to be an expert in physics to study computer science!
So there you have it! Physics is not a prerequisite for studying computer science. It isn’t a part of the computer science curriculum at most universities.
So if you’re interested in pursuing a career in computer science, don’t let your lack of knowledge or interest in physics hold you back. There are plenty of other courses in computer science that don’t require any knowledge in physics.
And even for courses that do, you can still study them without having a background in physics. Now go ahead and pursue your dream of becoming a computer scientist!
Elmar Mammadov is a software developer, tech startup founder, and computer science career specialist. He is the founder of CS Careerline and a true career changer who has previously pursued careers in medicine and neuroscience.
Due to his interest in programming and years of past personal experience in coding, he decided to break into the tech industry by attending a Master’s in Computer Science for career changers at University of Pennsylvania. Elmar passionately writes and coaches about breaking into the tech industry and computer science in general.