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An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Engineering

  1. Sep 13, 2012 #1
    I'm a fourth year college student who has taken Real Analysis, Topology, Calculus 1-3, Probability Theory, Foundations of Applied Math, Advanced Multivariable Calc, Abstract Algebra, Linear Algebra, Survey of PDE's, Diff Eq's, Discrete Math, and Intro to proofs. There are probably about 5 more courses to take until I complete the degree. But with the CS degree I have only completed two intro courses, digital systems, and computer organization course.

    I'm losing interest with CS and can't see myself coding extensively with passion. Physics and Engineering (either Aero or EE) seems very exciting and captivating to me. In terms of physics courses, I have only a mechanics and EM course using Resnick and no engineering courses taken. I would love to pursue a degree in either but was concerned about applying to graduate school since graduation with physics or engineering would take 2-3+ years. Is it a big deal to graduate in 6-7 year with 2 B.S. degrees to graduate schools or potential employers? Also, would Engineering or Physics be a better fit for me?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 13, 2012 #2
    Re: An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Enginee

    Based on my limited understanding, gradute schools don't care much for how long it takes you to graduate provided that you stay busy throughout your years. Many engineering students are encouraged to take an additional year -- an offer frequently taken up on -- due to the fact that it has a lot of required units. Taking an additional year can allow for better grades and a more enjoyable college experience. I think it's more about whether YOU think it's worth it to stay in college an additional two to three years for a double major. Have you considered adding physics or engineering as a minor?
  4. Sep 14, 2012 #3
    Re: An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Enginee

    Is it possible to graduate with the math degree and then go back to university or transfer to pursue another degree? I'm currently attending a large public university (UB) in NY. I wouldn't mind going to Stony Brook for EE and physics as long as it is possible. I think pursuing an engineering and physics degree is worthwhile but I would be 25 when I graduate with 3 degrees and with no work experience. Then around 27 with a MS. How hard would it be to attain a job in this situation?
  5. Sep 14, 2012 #4
    Re: An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Enginee

    It's for that reason that I would advise against doing that. You'd be spending a lot of money and time on something that won't really have a significant effect on your career. Sure, the additional knowledge you'd gain from EE or physics will make you more intelligent, and, depending on the career you choose, may in/directly help you, but the time and money required to complete the additional degrees doesn't sound worth it in my book. I'd take an extra year to perhaps double minor in the two, or just get a single minor. Are you sure that CS isn't what you want to do? My limited understanding is that CS isn't all about coding.
  6. Sep 15, 2012 #5
    Re: An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Enginee

    As of this moment I feel inadequately prepared for graduate school in applied mathematics or physics. So by learning more physics and applications, it's something that would actually have a significant effect on my career chances and flexibility. I don't know if 3 years is really such a long time because the last thing I remember, I had just began college. But the question is would the graduate school selection chances be affected by this delay.

    In terms of minors, I've found the programs lacking depth into the subject matter so I'm avoiding that route. You are correct, CS isn't all about coding but there is a large deal of coding involved in labs for classes that you cannot avoid.
  7. Sep 16, 2012 #6
    Re: An Applied Math and CS major wanting to change major to either Physics or Enginee

    I think that's totally overkill, unless you're really looking for a "career change" from math to physics/engineering. Even in that case a better solution would be to try to get into grad level physics or engineering and do some bridging studies, because taking another B.S. might have a lot of overlap with your previous studies, the more advanced topics are in grad level anyways. But in general an employer is not that interested in your degrees. Even less, if you cannot demonstrate in practice that you are the best candidate for the job that you're applying for. That usually means that you've done or practiced the work before, rather than having just a very formal qualification to maybe do it. You might even be viewed overqualified in some cases and thus might not seem like a reliable worker that will want to stay in the position that you're applying for, because you could become interested in doing something more advanced and leave your job.

    If you're interested in being hired by an employer in your chosen field (something physical and industrial it seems), then you'd probably better have the degree and specifically the demonstrated practical knowledge that the employer needs to do the job. In the industry the degree is generally an engineering degree, because engineering curricula are practical and the taught skills and skills learned from project work are basically pretty industry-applicable and because at least most of the entry-level industrial jobs are generally either hands-on engineering design, manufacturing or product sales and handling customer relationships. To my knowledge there are not many of the really technical or mathy jobs in physical engineering fields, compared to the more hands-on, design and sales related jobs, although those more technical fields are the fields where extensive and reliable applied mathematics skills would be desirable. But it can be difficult to find a job in the industry with just a "science" degree, because an employer will prefer to pick someone with an engineering degree with demonstrated practical skills over a theorist with no demonstrated practical skills to do the job. And in many fields there are likely enough engineers with relevant work experience to fill those positions. Previous job experience and demonstrated practical knowledge plays a much bigger role than the degree. A degree is just a springboard for the first job, but employers simply want people who they know will likely do the job best from all of the applicants, not the one who seems to have the most qualified degree(s), but no practical experience, unless the employer or someone in the HR is a jerk and only wants to hire people with a specific degree (likely the one that he has too), regardless of work experience.

    However, if you're not so worried about getting a job in some of the biggest companies and the most competed positions or working in the most engineery roles, but rather, for example, like the idea of entrepreneuship or working in medium or small companies and in less engineery roles, then you'd have more flexibility to follow specific interests according to your background and skills and wouldn't need to worry about not being employed because of your studies. You'd just start working on those kinds of jobs that you're interested in to get some job experience or doing some small-scale projects and then studying by yourself everything that you need to know better. When you have demostrated work experience, your specific degree won't matter, unless you really are into just engineering and engineering jobs in your country require licensing, which you cannot get without an engineering degree.

    So basically, choose engineering, if you're really concerned about having easier time with direct job prospects and want to work in engineering roles, choose math/physics, if you're interested in the theoretical depth of those subjects and you have some applications in mind (e.g. something that's currently researched and that has its actual applications in the distant future) where that advanced knowledge might be of use, or you're into research and want to try to pursue a career in academia. If you want a job now, rather than continuing with formal studying, then just start applying.

    But then again, there are SO many different jobs that require different types of people with different kind of skills. Anyhow, doing your disseration for a company is a huge opportunity for getting that first job and real practical experience.
    Last edited: Sep 16, 2012
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