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Couple of questions

  1. Sep 7, 2008 #1
    I have a couple of questions. Currently I'm a second year Mechatronics Engineering student at the University of Waterloo in Canada and I'm doing horrible. It's the more technical courses that are constantly screwing me up so I've decided to switch into physics. Now I've read the "So you want to be a physicist" sticky and have done some research. My academic advisors have also advised me to switch into physics. I've always had a passion for physics especially astrophysics and cosmology and I got a 95% on an astronomy course that I took as an elective. I understand that many of you here are physicists or can give out some advice regarding the field. My first question here is that what is a bachelors in physics worth in terms of employability and statistics? Does anyone know of any salary statistics? Now I know that people here will tell me not to go into the sciences for money and believe me I know! I've had two co-op terms as a researcher and I absolutely loved them! But I do need to support my aging parents. Also what are the prospects for graduate school? Is it hard to get into? Is it hard to land a faculty position? Do you need to be especially bright and have your marks over 85-90% all the time? How employable is an astrophysicist or a cosmologist?

    - Thanks
    - Necross
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 7, 2008 #2
    If you can't handle mechanical engineering, how do you intend to handle physics? Last I heard, physics was way harder than mechanical engineering. For a bachelor, the prospects are pretty bad. Even PhDs won't find related work. You don't need 85+ all the time, but As will get you into good schools which will more likely get you good work. Its one of the reasons I'm strongly considering quitting physics.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2008
  4. Sep 7, 2008 #3
    Its not mechanical but mechatronics which is basically electrical +mechanical+computer. Damn :S didn't know it was that bad. Is it really that hard? :S
  5. Sep 7, 2008 #4
    I found Engineering to be a joke next to physics.
  6. Sep 7, 2008 #5
    Now I'm honestly being scared. Part of the reason why I'm doing horrible is because on average i studied about 10 hours for each course through the entire term.
  7. Sep 7, 2008 #6
    You'll have a better chance in getting a job in Mechatronics then finding a job with an Undergraduate Degree in Physics.

    You're not alone on this one.
  8. Sep 8, 2008 #7
    Let me rephrase the question. I know that the employment prospect for a physics undergrad are not good. But what about a Phd? I don't want to be rich. I just want to be able to support my family and live comfortably while doing what I love which is basically research in physics.
  9. Sep 8, 2008 #8


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    The difference between physics and the various branches of engineering is that physics is not a professional degree. As a result there are significantly less positions open that specifically seek a "physicist" or "physics major." But the truth of the matter is that the skill set one develops in a physics program is highly sought after by many employers. You just have to figure out how to best market yourself.

    Here's some hard data:

    To get into grad school you need to meet the academic requirements of first the university's department of graduate studies and then the requirements of the physics department. Some programs are more competative than others, and so meeting the minimum requirements doesn't always guarantee you a spot. In general we're talking at least a B average just to get in.

    Tenure track faculty positions are highly competative - especially in the theoretical branches. Not only do you need to be able to demonstrate significant progress in research, you also have to show that you are capable of acquiring external funding and teaching apptitude.

    I personally think success in this field is strongly correlated with how much a person enjoys the study of physics.
  10. Sep 8, 2008 #9
    If you look on Monster/Career-Builder, you will see that there are a few design jobs looking for engineers that will also consider physicists. The problem comes when you want to advance in your field and a PE license is required (Professional Engineer).

    The nice thing about engineering is that you will graduate with a good amount of design experience rather than just science. My school (UMass) differentiates between engineering science credits and engineering design credits - and requires a minimum of each. You also get the business angle of science and design by doing engineering - and thats the angle that most employers demand.

    Lots of similarities - you will need that same mathematics sequence for engineering that you do for a physics degree (along with specialized statistics courses in either the physics department or engineering department). You will also need a battery of general education coursework.

    I can't help you out with the difficulty of one vs the other because I'm a sophomore in engineering interested in physics on the side (but only having completed I & II so far). I can tell you that at my school you will be taking 4-5 engineering courses at once in your junior/senior year, but only 3 physics classes at a time during that period. Looking at texts from those classes, I'd have to say that the Physics classes look more intense, but not twice or three times as intense. Given the fact that you will be taking more engineering classes than physics classes - I would have to gauge that they are at least equally difficult. At my school, many of the engineers who burn-out either go into the business department or into physics/chemistry. You can read that as you will.

    Good luck though - it's tough, but gratifying.
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