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College Major Question

  1. Nov 5, 2016 #1
    Thanks in advance!
    I am currently a junior in high school,and in a year i will be applying for college. Problem is I don't know what major to apply for.I wish to study Quantum Mechanics,however at the same time study engineering,so maybe Quantum Technology? I also am interested in cosmology and space flight. I don't know what field of engineering to major in,some people tell me to do electrical,while others say do material or just aerospace.For the past few years i have been active in student engineering activities such as FRC,that has led me to find that while i do enjoy the building aspect, the the theory part is more interesting.

    So any ideas on a career path?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 5, 2016 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Props to you for being so interested in technical career paths, and enjoying Physics and Engineering. Kind of reminds me of somebody... :smile:

    As you look at universities to apply to, check to see if you don't have to declare your major until the start of your junior year. At UC Davis where I did my undergrad, I was able to take broad Engineering and Physics classes the first two years, to help me figure out what I wanted to major in. I went into undergrad thinking EE/ME double major, then quickly decided to focus on EE and Physics, and finally at the start of my junior year I declared as an EE major. My first love was Physics by that point, but I chose the EE major for job security reasons.

    Without the flexibility to take classes across the technical spectrum for my first two years at university, it would have been much harder to make a good, informed decision for what to do. That flexibility varies by school, so be sure to look into that in choosing what schools you want to apply to.
  4. Nov 5, 2016 #3
    Thanks,also i have been taking some Engineering classes[PLTW],and the regular AP physics and calculus classes so i have some sort of a idea. However i have read somewhere that colleges dont prefer students who put undecided on application,they want people who know what wish to do[Ivy league colleges,and other similar schools]
  5. Nov 5, 2016 #4


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    Staff: Mentor

    What country are you in? If you're in the US, you normally apply for admission to the college or university as a whole. Engineering and physics are often in separate colleges within a university: engineering versus arts and sciences (or whatever the school calls it). Within a particular college, you usually don't need to declare a major until the end of your sophomore year, give or take a semester (different schools have different policies). Physics majors (bachelor's) are usually "generic", possibly with a choice of "concentrations" which usually means the same set of core courses with some variations in upper-level courses. I've never heard of a major in quantum mechanics or quantum technology.

    I keep hedging with "usually" and "probably" because different schools do things differently.
  6. Nov 5, 2016 #5
    Yes i live in the USA,and what i meant by QM was that i wish to specialize in it[Doctorate]. So i cant do both science and engineering duel majors?
    btw Nice profile pic
  7. Nov 6, 2016 #6

    It's great that you are thinking about all this before applying to university. Yes, you can definitely dual major in science and engineering; for example, several of my classmates dual majored in physics and EE. And there are a lot of advantages. Having a combination of the theoretical underpinnings of science and the practical applications of engineering gives you a balanced perspective. Having a dual degree gives you greater flexibility when it comes time to choose a job or grad school.

    For example, if you are interested in semiconductor electronics devices, it's great to have physics courses in quantum mechanics and electromagnetism and EE courses in devices and circuits. Physics gives you great insight into theory of model systems and EE gives you practical applications of real systems. I didn't bother with an official dual major, because I knew I wanted to pursue a PhD in physics. I also knew I wanted to concentrate in solid-state physics. But I took almost all my electives in metallurgy and materials science and engineering (in both undergrad and grad). That combo gave me a great leg up over straight physics or straight metallurgy and materials science and engineering.

    As another poster mentioned, policies vary greatly among universities. Some universities are partitioned into different schools. In some, even applying as a freshman undergrad, you apply to a specific school. In others, you apply to the university overall, and then enter a particular school when you declare a major. So, if you plan to dual major in science and engineering, check what the policy at each university is, and also check how much overlap there is in core requirements. The more overlap, the easier it is to pull it off. In some instances, a dual degree may require a 5 yr program. For example, if physics and EE are both in the school of science and engineering, there may be less hassle than if physics is in the school of arts and sciences and EE is in the school of engineering.
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