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Deciding between 4 degrees.

  1. Jul 11, 2013 #1

    trollcast

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    First off I'm in the UK so I can't try courses that are common to all of them in my first year and pick later. The degrees I'm interested in are physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, chemistry. I'm having a hard time deciding between them as I think I would enjoy some of them more but I'm put off by the poor employment rates for the degrees. What I'm really interested in is a bit of advice from someone that has been in this situation before (both choosing between some of those degrees I meantionned and choosing between science and engineering for reality reasons) or anyones experiences of those courses if you think it would be helpful.

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 11, 2013 #2

    HayleySarg

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    I had trouble deciding at the start, but I sort of just said "screw it" and went with physics. I knew Chemistry fed into Med programs and that it was more competitive in some ways, not in others. I knew engineering would lead to more employability. But I didn't care.

    I want to be a physicist. I don't mind scrapping the bottom of the barrel for jobs. I don't mind living on >30,000 a year even after I get a PhD.

    It depends on a few factors.

    Are you willing to attend graduate school?
    Do you want to settle and have a family in a timely manner (ie not at 35-40)?
    Are you willing to relocate completely?
    Are you willing to network and really bust yourself looking for jobs?
    What do you enjoy more?

    Yes, doing what you love can be wonderful, but at the same time, your home life must be what you want as well. If you're someone who wants to get the 4-year degree, get a job, snag a spouse, buy a house and have babies-- the physics track may be more difficult. Certainly not impossible. It just may take a few more years to get things rolling.

    Engineering on the other hand, makes you someone with a SKILL at the time of graduation. Think of it as an extremely difficult trade school. You graduated and you're employable as is (more or less).

    With physics or chemistry, all you know how to do is physics or chemistry. Which is great, but you'll need to develop employable skill sets. Or continue your education somehow (graduate school, another time investment).

    Additionally, what field of physics or chemistry also changes your employability. There is always a need for material scientists. Not as much need for theoretical pursuits (ie more competition).

    Also, this article is wonderful. I've read it many times and it cleared up quite a bit. ZapperZ is sure to be around here somewhere.... So let me be clear and state this is his work:

    https://docs.google.com/document/pub?id=1KBovBeg_kl6nAk8fTBYQdHMo8o3o0IgunPE3R7_OEHM&pli=1


    Cheers
     
  4. Jul 11, 2013 #3

    trollcast

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    Thanks for your reply,

    Chemistry here isn't that competitive since medicine is an undergrad degree in the UK
    Yes
    Depends, not fussed either way.
    Yes although I'd prefer to go somewhere I want rather than following jobs although I know thats not a given for physics
    Not sure about networking at the minute because I've never experienced it myself, although I know how it works as my dad is an engineer and that how he got his latest job. But if bust myself means filling out application forms every day for months on end then thats not a good option.
    Out of the 4 I'd say physics is probably the one that interests me the most, chemistry I like and find interesting although I find some parts of it boring (but its probably just high school level chemistry being over simplified), and I'm not sure about the 2 engineering degrees as theres parts of them I know I could like and then theres bits I know I probably won't like.

    I think I'd actually prefer to go to grad school after undergrad (partly because no one in my close family has done it before) the option of being able to come straight out of university and get into a decently paying job is attractive so I wouldn't say its a deal breaker either way.
    Overall I know that the engineering degree would be a far far far sager option I know that in the future I might regret not trying physics or chemistry and seeing if I could make it even though the odds are fairly well stacked against you.

    Also the university I want to go to is fairly average ranking wise so would that affect my chances if I went for any of those degrees?
     
  5. Jul 11, 2013 #4

    HayleySarg

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    Well, I'd take your 1st year courses which will include math and physics. If you can, squeeze either an intro engineering course or chem intro course. You are allowed to be indecisive, to a point. If one thing seems more appealing than the others, you'l have your choice.

    From your post, it seems like Physics is the most interesting to you, and you're willing to go to Graduate school. Only you will be able to tell after you've actually touched the material. Physics isn't just beautiful grand concepts. It's also a lot of hard work. Then again, so are the other 3 majors in the running.

    I can't speak from the viewpoint of the UK, but I know in the US, school ranking isn't as big of a deal. It would seem that around these parts, a decent GPA (3.4-4.0), research experience and letter of recommendation are more important than rank. Here we have a lot of research opportunities that are cross campus (REU's) so students that are at smaller colleges can go out and get their hands on research that otherwise wouldn't be available to them.

    It's my understanding that graduate school in the UK is a bit more humane. A bit better living wage, health care and such. Here, it really depends on where you go. Most do get stipends that are "livable" but they leave little room for fun money. Which is okay, right? After all, you'll live and breath physics at that point.

    The pickings at the top can be slim. What do you want to do with your physics degree?

    You won't be filling out application after application online. Okay, so maybe you could, but it's not very effective. Networking basically means, you have to go and talk to people. Go to conferences and make connections. Realize who is in your sub-field and get to be at least familiar with them. These are the people who know where the jobs are.

    Cheers!
     
  6. Jul 12, 2013 #5

    trollcast

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    In the UK that isn't possible as you have to apply to the degree course and not the university so you can't change (well its not very easy) after you start.

    To be honest anything that allowed me to be involved in physics would be pretty good, especially something with a bit of relevance to real life like plasma physics as a new energy technology, materials science and technologys etc.

     
  7. Jul 12, 2013 #6

    CAF123

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    Hi trollcast,
    If you start off on Physics then there should be room to take a couple of optional courses (unless your degree programme is specific e.g Math Phys where the optional courses is the extra Math) so if you are interested in keeping your options open take, as HayleySarg suggested, the first year introductory modules in engineering and/or chemistry. I am also from the UK and the universities I have come cross (when I browsed the prospectus) offer quite a flexible programme so indeed you should be able to switch to eng/chem before your third year if you wish.
     
  8. Jul 12, 2013 #7

    trollcast

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    I'm fairly certain that isn't the case at the uni I'm looking at as the course structures seem pretty linear with no optional courses until the 3rd or 4th year.
     
  9. Jul 13, 2013 #8

    trollcast

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    Bump, surely someone else could add to this?
     
  10. Jul 24, 2013 #9

    interhacker

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    Is there any possibility of opting for a minor in chemistry or physics? I'm only in the final year of high-school, but I know a few guys who studied Electrical Engineering with a minor in Physics, and then did their masters and PhD. in Physics. That way, you can always get employed as an engineer in the worst case scenario, but can move on to become a physicist if you want to.
     
  11. Jul 25, 2013 #10

    trollcast

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    You can't do major / minor or double majors in the engineering department.
     
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