1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Advice on what to major in college?

  1. Apr 29, 2012 #1
    What would be the most suitable major if I wish to focus on engineering mechanics/theoretical and applied mechanics?
    I heard that it's a field of applied math, rather than physics, so which one should I major in?
    I was first thinking of engineering physics, but in retrospect, it hardly has anything to do with classical mechanics as it focuses on what physicists are researching on now.

  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2012 #2
    Maybe mechanical engineering??
  4. Apr 29, 2012 #3
    but wouldn't applied math or engineering physics have more theoretical aspect which would prepare me more?
  5. Apr 29, 2012 #4
    Prepare you for what?
  6. Apr 29, 2012 #5
    Remember to keep an open mind when taking courses in college. Try to get some research experience in that field. You might find that when you actually do "theoretical and applied mechanics", you'll hate it. You may very well love it too but the point is that you can change your mind.
  7. Apr 29, 2012 #6
    As a Mechanical Engineering major I would suggest Mechanical Engineering. I really enjoy it and if you have an aptitude for it, you will do well. I would suggest taking a few Physics classes and see how you like it. Then you will know if you are fit to be an Engineer or not.
  8. Apr 29, 2012 #7
    How would engineering physics or applied mathematics prepare me for TAM in comparison to mechanical engineering? Is there an engineering mechanics major btw?

    And, I've always been interested in math and in the past few years, physics. So I think that any math or science field would suit me fine. However, for some reason, I was not interested in chemistry or biology at all. Is there any particular reason for this?
  9. Apr 30, 2012 #8
    I don't know. Try reading some college level bio and chemistry books and decide for yourself. It is possible that you just aren't interested.

    Personally, I find aspects of biology/neuroscience and chemistry (mostly physical chemistry) interesting but I don't think I would enjoy studying either subject at the college level. Reading about them, perhaps. Just not taking a full-blown course. Another interesting thing is that there is that within applied math, there's a whole sub-field related to biology! Go to the relevant section on arXiv and see if any of those things sound interesting to you. To me, it's just a bunch of things that don't make much sense because I'm not very knowledgeable *but* I am very interested in the questions that those people seek to answer.
  10. Apr 30, 2012 #9
    I would really doubt that applied math is a good choice. I think you'll find that applied math courses will be helpful, and will certainly *complement* classical mechanics, but you probably won't be taught a ton of physics in an applied math degree, since classical mechanics is only one small portion of the huge range of applications for mathematics.

    If classical mechanics is what you're interested in, I would suggest mechanical engineering, with maybe a minor in physics or applied math. Classical mechanics is well-established theoretically. If you want to do something with it, you're probably going to have to work on the applied side, and mechanical engineering is probably where you would find that. The reason I would suggest taking some extra physics/math courses is because engineering programs tend to not go very deep into the theory of things.

    One bonus of mechanical engineering is that there's a HUGE range of things you can do with it. Almost everyone changes their mind at least slightly about what they like once they hit university. Being in a flexible program like ME might mean that you won't have to switch majors even if you change your mind about what you want to do.
  11. Apr 30, 2012 #10
    If you look at Cornell's Theoretical and Applied Mechanics groups, you'll find that they're within the mechanical engineering department. However, one can still apply for a graduate position there with a degree in physics or math. People with different expertise are likely to be working on different things. They also have an applied math group within TAM.
  12. Apr 30, 2012 #11
    Is it a bad idea if I want to major in engineering physics first? Because it covers the whole field of physics which seems like a good startoff point.

    Would I learn any quantum mechanics at all as a mech E major?
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2012
  13. May 1, 2012 #12
    I don't know. I found TAM interesting too but I decided to not worry about it and chose to just take math, physics and some engineering courses in freshman year and see where that'll take me. I have preference towards mathematics, though.

    According to the entry requirements, I can't go wrong with math/physical science/engineering, so I'm just gonna see what I like. Who knows, maybe I'll find something else more interesting. In my opinion, it's not a very good idea to worry about a *graduate* research field right now.
  14. May 1, 2012 #13


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    As others have mentioned in this thread, you should wait until you've taken some courses before you start seriously worrying about where you're going to end up after school. You might be interested in something when you start, but soon realize that it's not what you thought it was going to be. This is normal and happens to a lot of people. I started out thinking I was going to be an EE, then went Engineering Physics, and I'm now settled and quite happy in math and CS. As you take more courses, you will find out what truly interests you.

    I'm of the opinion that most people go about their education backwards; they choose their career and then take courses. Many of the posts I read are by people who think they already know for sure what they want to be (which is very difficult since most of them haven't even taken a course that is specific to their major, let alone finished the standard Calculus sequence). So they start taking courses and find out that the problems their specialization attempts to solve are not as interesting as they thought they'd be, for whatever reason.

    I believe people should declare something that sounds interesting to them, but not write it in stone; let your courses decide your future and be open to changing your mind. You might find out that you have more of an affection for logic and proving theorems than you thought, as was true for me.

    Sorry for the lengthly anecdote, but I hope it helps justify why I think you should slow down a bit and wait until you've taken some courses before you start worrying about a career. :smile: Declare Mechanical Engineering or Computational Mathematics for now and see where it takes you; at this point, it is not a life-or-death decision and you have time to alter your path should you find it unappealing at some point.
  15. May 1, 2012 #14
    OP read this quote again. Probably the best advice you'll find on PF regarding choosing a major.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook