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Future Outlook For Career Choices

  1. Dec 14, 2013 #1
    Hello Everyone,

    This is my first post on this site and certainly will not be my last. First a little about me, I am 28, married, currently maintain a 4.0 in college. I am a non traditional student looking at varying career paths. While I have not declared a major as of yet, the options I am considering are all dual majors and are as follows listed in order of interest (which the first two I have almost identical interest).

    I haunt my public library and the Occupational Outlook Handbook and am curious to hear from current undergraduate and graduate students as well as people who have graduated with similar degrees as to the trend of the potential opportunities found within these career paths. Do they line up with the predictions of the OOH, how secure are the opportunities of such careers, etc.

    A little more about me, I love science. I come from a family full of scientists, from several Harvard based Astro Physicists to Rocket Scientists and so while Engineering sounds interesting to me, I am afraid that I wont be able to be apart of more of the research side of things. If I am incorrect in this assumption of thinking that Engineering has limited research possibilities, please someone correct me.

    • Physics / Mathematics
    • Electrical Engineering / Physics
    • Mechanical Engineering / Physics
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 14, 2013 #2
    I am a junior physics major at Mizzou. I can't say much about job prospects but I'd say go for engineering if that's what you're worried about. At Mizzou the electrical engineering and physics double major is easy to do in 4 years. The only reason I chose not to double major is because I want to go to grad school in physics. EE takes up all your electives.
  4. Dec 15, 2013 #3
    Lets think about best case scenario- your 28 and undeclared major, so you have two years of college left?

    So you finish college at 30 and start grad school- can your wife follow you to grad school? Will she have to change jobs? How much will your meager grad stipend go to supporting you?

    Now, you finish grad school at 36, and you move across the world for your first postdoc. Can your wife get a visa? Do you have kids by now? Can you support kids on a meager postdoc salary? Three years later, its time for another move to another country.

    Now, you are 42, you just landed a tenure track position in a small town, uprooting your wife and kids again, and you are working 60+ hour weeks so you have a shot at tenure at 50.

    Before you decide to pursue physics, you should talk to your family members about the sacrifices they made to get where they are, and you should realize that the job market has only gotten worse since they went through it.
  5. Dec 15, 2013 #4


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    I was more or less a non-traditional student who took a while to finish an undergrad program. I started in physics (astro & nuclear) with math, then migrated into nuclear engineering. I did graduate programs as well.

    One could look at an engineering/physics/math program, particularly in the are of computational physics. Engeering certainly does not inherently have limitations on research, but rather the limitations arise from one's education/skills/experience. Engineering is more or less applied physics, but one can find programs in applied physics and engineering physics. Some (perhaps much) engineering can be (is) application, but engineering can also involve research.

    Some engineers (or physics) may develop the analytical tools or experimental tools to explore materials, processes, systems or a combination thereof.

    The broader one's training and skill set, the more likely one finds opportunities for research, as well as application.

    Research can be fundamental or applied, and it can be performed in academia (university), government-sponsored lab (e.g., NASA, DOE, DOD, . . . , or contractor), or in private industry (e.g., IBM, GE, UTX, ATT, 3M, Google, Amazon, Apple, HP, . . . . )
  6. Dec 15, 2013 #5


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    There is plenty of research in engineering. A PhD is by definition research (and it can be amazing) and there are significant research opportunities. Research jobs tend to be sought after and can be hard to get. You will need a PhD if you want to be considered more than a technician.

    I have a research career (National Lab) and I love it.
  7. Dec 16, 2013 #6


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    ParticleGrl, the OP has stated in his/her post that he/she is considering pursuing a double major in Electrical Engineering and Physics or Mechanical Engineering and Physics. In which case, he/she may just as likely consider pursuing graduate studies in Electrical or Mechanical Engineering. And as you may well know, employment prospects for either electrical or mechanical engineering (whether in research or elsewhere) differs considerably from that of physics as of present (and possibly in the future as well).
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2013
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