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Careers with a CS/physics double major?

  1. Feb 19, 2015 #1
    I've been doing CS for a year now with the intention to get into software development/software engineering. I decided to do a physics major in addition to my current CS degree. My main reasoning was that there's some overlap in science and CS. So getting a physics degree puts me in a place where I speak both the language of computers and physics if I were in a position that required both. Like working on software in an engineering or scientific field. I'm not fully aware of the benefits of doing a physics degree to the field of CS/technology, and I was wondering what careers I could do with CS/physics. I'm definitely not looking to do a PhD in physics (or anything else) right now, so that's a variable. It's something I'd be open to, however I just want to get my undergrad done first and get into work.

    The good thing is the mathematics picked up in physics is widely applicable to CS. If you can do statistics and etc AI/machine learning would be so much easier to pick up. I've also heard that physics is applicable to robotics, and even computer engineering. But I don't know the full extent at which these two majors are good in tandem with each other. Like what sorts of perks come with doing physics in relation to CS, and what careers I'll be opening myself up to by doing physics. On the other hand I think I might be making a misinformed judgment going into a full physics degree.
    Last edited: Feb 19, 2015
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2015 #2
  4. Feb 20, 2015 #3
    Rule 1: Major in what you care about, not what you think will get you a good job.


    The two go together phenomenally well. Physics is concerned with modeling real-world phenomena with mathematical statements, computer science is ultimately concerned with designing algorithms to extract meaningful information from data. And regardless of actual career, being able to program and being computer literate is always an important and high-demand skill.

    Just a small sample:

    Just plain ol' physics. So much of it depends on computer models and simulations. Knowing how to toss together a Unix supercomputer on the cheap from a pile of old desktops will make you a literal hero to some departments and research teams (all over academia, government, and industry).

    3-d graphics. Graphics rendering is a very specialized area of expertise, and a surprising amount of physics and advanced math gets involved when it comes to designing and programming graphics engines. For instance, consider this dev blog from the EVE Online people (CCP) http://community.eveonline.com/news/dev-blogs/pbr-and-making-eve-look-real/ They wanted to make the internet spaceships look more realistic and visually appealing, and a problem they've had in the past is dealing with lighting and light reflection off of objects resulting in some annoying issues, chiefly the problem that objects in a scene would not be lit evenly or shadows and obstructions would not be properly taken into account. Hence, they needed to simulate a more realistic picture of how light reflects off of objects of different texture.

    Economics. This may be counter-intuitive, but physics, comp sci, and engineering backgrounds can do well in economics. Investors need people to analyze market trends and use simulations to make predictions about the economy. Not unlike analyzing the results from a lab experiment and modeling the results into a physical simulation. "Econophysics" is actually an active field of research. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Econophysics
  5. Feb 20, 2015 #4
    @jack476 I'm following rule 1 AND rule 2: to major in what you care about AND what will get you a job ;)

    You said physics is used in CS in terms of modeling and etc, however wouldn't you need a PhD or masters to work in such a field? And a PhD physics student would probably be preferred over a double major anyway.

    Yes, knowing how to create a supercomputer is a damn huge benefit!

    As for 3d graphics rendering, I'm actually extremely interested in video game development. Its something I could really see myself doing.

    Economics on the other hand is an awesome way to make bank.

    What about computer engineering? Can a physics/CS major get into such a field? And do you know of any other fields applicable here? I want to know my options here.
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
  6. Feb 20, 2015 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    A job is not a reward for majoring in the right thing. Employers are usually not even thinking along these lines. They are thinking "what can this candidate bring to this company?"
  7. Feb 20, 2015 #6
    I already know this. However majoring in the right thing gives you more expertise in a given field, if you understand what I'm saying. You can't get a job in engineering if you don't have an engineering degree for example.
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