Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Does this make any sense (2 undergrad degrees)

  1. Aug 13, 2012 #1

    If you are sick of me already, I don't blame you.

    Ok so here is the update. I just got fired from my job for a code of conduct violation. I have an undergrade business degree with a focus on economics.

    Basically, I like banking and finance and especially stock trading, but I hate business itself and I hate the attitude of the people in it.

    Also, I always feel very ignorant of the world around me and how things work. I know this seems stupid, but it actually causes me great anxiety. I fear that my business knowledge will stay the same, as the world around me progresses technologically. I also have this irrational thought that scientists know everything, but in reality different scientists I guess only know their specific field. I made some good money but I felt so stupid.

    My girlfriend is a chemist, and she told me that is a stupid reason to go back to school, because she used to think that way too, and then she went to school for chemistry, did very well, and said she realized that feeling of knowing nothing never goes the way, as nobody truly knows that much. I just want to be able to read about advancements in the world and understand them. I also dont wan to sit up at night thinking "how the hell do cellphones work...how do cars work...how do air conditioners work". Sounds crazy I know but whatever.

    Anyway since I got fired, this is making me think....do I go back to school for physics, or just get another banking job? I am 23 years old. I was making 85k a year, was on track to make 120k next year. My temple business degree is not going to make me that kind of money again, I got lucky. So I am going to be stuck making like 50k a year without an MBA, which I am too young to get anyway, and is very expensive.

    CCNY has degrees for $2600 a semester + books. I could get a physics degree in 2-3 years because I have the GenEd already.

    I could go on to get a PhD after my undergrad and then use that to get into a hedge fund. However I am not sure I am smart enough to do a PhD. So let us assume I just get a BS in physics. I will have a BS in physics and a BBA in economics.

    Is this a terrible decision? On one hand, i will have some of the knowledge I seek. Will I be able to get any better job with the two degrees than the one I have now? I live with my girlfriend. Rent is 1275 a month and utilities are about $150. That is $1425, so $713 a month each. I need probably like another $700 a month for food and entertainment. So I need to make like $1400 a month, which I could probably bartend for.

    So my two questions
    1) Can I bartend 20 hours a week or so while getting a physics degree without like failing?
    2) Is this a stupid dream, to want to learn what I am interested in, and really just a bad financial decision, when I could just go make $50k a year for the next 2-3 years....that is $150k in foregone income and like another $20k in loans.

    Thoughts? Thanks.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 13, 2012 #2
    I saw this post and had to register to reply. I found myself in a similar boat a few years ago, and got the physics degree.

    I imagine that with a degree and work experience you can find something part-time that might pay better, however I waited tables and was able to afford a minimal lifestyle while getting my second degree.

    Highly subjective question. My advice would be that if you fully believe that you can at least obtain a Masters in Physics then chase the dream. If you don't believe that you'll be able to complete a physics degree beyond the undergraduate level, then you should perhaps consider a different option.
  4. Aug 13, 2012 #3
    See if your curiosity can be satisfied by 'howstuffworks.com'.
  5. Aug 13, 2012 #4
    Well, I can tell you that I come from a third-world country and such thoughts are considered luxuries in my country. In my country, there's a severe job market crisis and if someone makes a comment that he would like to go back to study because he can't understand scientific stuff, then he would become a laughing stock.

    But I really do sympathise with your dilemma, because I had alway been an A student (well, actually A++) and I got into studying physics at uni because I was passionate about the subject and thought it's so much fun to learn about this stuff, but after three years of intense study at uni, I began to think it's not worth it because I could have done better in the future studying some other subject.

    To be honest, I think this really is a childish thought and it's important to throw those ideas out of your head and to focus on making as much money as you can, because at the end of the day, it's the money in your pocket that will count.
  6. Aug 13, 2012 #5
    I disagree in large part with your final summation. Yes, it is a luxury to be able to go back to school and anxiety about the small things is childish in the face of reality. However, it is NOT just the money in your pocket that will count.

    One point I would like to make here is that the only reason you really touch on for not going back to school is that you already have a degree. That is a sunk cost fallacy. The value of a physics degree has nothing to do with what degree you already have. If you really are too young to finish an MBA you really are young enough to go back and try for another degree.


    Is physics the right one? Well, that might not be so clear. I love physics, but it's not right for everyone. For someone who wants to know how things work many other options are available that can be economically responsible and satisfying such as engineering.

    Here are my attempts at answers for your two specific questions:

    1) Yeah, people go through PhD programs with jobs and children. It is obviously very hard work and the school demands priority but as long as it is your full time focus then this is definitely possible.

    a) You don't have to have a physics degree to learn how things work but it's up to you to seek out those answers and see what is satisfying. What I might suggest you consider is that the feeling of wanting to know how those things work tells me something about your personality and how it might be applicable to the sciences. Questions will get much more difficult than how stuff we already know how it works because we built it works.

    b) Seek some objective data such as this:

    Look at what sort of jobs physicists get, consider other degrees, and make sure to have the mindset that the market is changing constantly. One benefit to physics is that it prepares you to answer questions where the question isn't even really defined yet unlike other non-science majors where you are given some formulas to use for pre-defined situations. What I mean to say here is that with a physics background you are often given the tools required to adapt which is very valuable.

    Hopefully this helps. Good luck!
  7. Aug 13, 2012 #6
    Eh, I don't really think it is a sunk cost fallacy. Largely, because a lot of people want to hire you because you have ANY college degree. So, if I had NO degree at all, it would be obvious to go back for physics. Since I already have a degree, I can probably get a decent job without a new one.

    However, thank you very much for the advice.

    You are quite correct. Fortunately for me, I am not from a third world country, although I was brought up on welfare. I can't help my irrational feelings, so I would rather address them than just simply say "well at least I don't live in a third world country", you know what I mean? Problems are all relative.


    I am very interested in learning more about your decision. What was your situation? Also, how has life been since the physics degree? Please share more.

    Thanks all!
  8. Aug 13, 2012 #7
    Glad to hear that because it's only a sunk cost fallacy if that's how you view it. I'm glad to have been proven wrong in this case! :)
  9. Aug 13, 2012 #8
    Haha I was an Econ major so I do know THAT
  10. Aug 14, 2012 #9


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    What is your mathematics background? Typically econ majors are only familiar with calculus, and perhaps not intimately so. I would certainly imagine you have a higher mathematical maturity than a simple high school graduate, but you have to consider how deep the rabbit hole goes. My advice to you is to pick up a Fundamentals of Physics text (such as Halliday and Resnick) and try to pick some things up on your own. There are only a few majors that are like physics in the types of classes you take (engineering and mathematics majors come to mind). They are heavily problem solving based. See if you actually like doing physics.
  11. Aug 14, 2012 #10
    1) You've got to remember many PhD programs offer Teaching/Research Assistantships that pay you $15000-$25000 per year and waive tuition. For New York I understand that is not going to be enough, but if you go to another state for your PhD you could definitely pull it off.

    I really wouldn't recommend that you get a second bachelor's degree. Just take the pre-reqs that are specified by the graduate program you are looking at and do well in them. Then apply for a master's/PhD of your choice. I think once you have proven that you can get the first diploma, after that more paper doesn't really matter.

    2) I was an economics major myself until a recent change and I had a lot of the thought processes that you seem to have. That 150k is going to come and go like the blink of an eye in 3 years, and at the end of it you will probably be broke and still have no grad degree. I would stick it out for a few years and get that degree, then you will have studied something you enjoy and can have a fresh start on a new career that you LIKE doing. The very same thing happened to me. I was doing Econ for the money, but most of my thought life was spent dwelling on science, mechanics, and nuclear reactors. Eventually I found out that NucEng makes just as much or even more than Economists do and I'd be doing something I love.
  12. Aug 14, 2012 #11
    My problem with NOT getting another bachelors, is that I don't know that much about science...I don't want to just get into a phd program...I want to be prepared for it...I know I don't need to re-take the gen ed classes, but I will need at least 5 math classes, a bunch of physics classes, and some chem classes before I have a good feel for science, no?
  13. Aug 15, 2012 #12
    True, so what I would do would be to just take those specific classes before heading off to grad school. Actually, some programs will let you count one or two 4000-level courses in your curriculum. The problem with getting another degree is that there is so much red tape to go through, e.g., you have to complete 30-60 credit hours on top of your original degree to qualify, you may have to take classes which have nothing to do with your graduate prospects, etc. There will also probably be extra fees tacked on to your tab if you are a degree seeking student vs. somebody who just wants to take a few classes (meal plan, etc.)

    I think the best thing to do will be to research some plausible graduate programs in physics and take the courses that they recommend as prerequisites to their graduate courses. You've already demonstrated that you can jump through the hoops to get that diploma, no need to do it again.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook