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Half-filled passion or Money?

  1. Jul 5, 2015 #1
    TL;DR Go for Physics (which I'm not sure if I'm really passionate about it but can't think of any alternatives) or go do something that can earn big bucks.

    First things first, I'm halfway through my A levels (equivalent of IB) and university application is coming up real soon. I'm privileged enough to obtain a scholarship to study any course of my choice (which is a part of the problem).

    I have not made up my mind on what to study, which most probably will decide what job I'll be doing in the future (Not always true i know, but still.) Just wanna ask, what made you guys do what you are doing? Did you forgo your passion (in which you might probably end up jobless) for something that earns more? 20/30 years down the road did you regret what you've chosen?

    This is my story. I had no idea what I wanna study after secondary school. So my dad told me about actuarial science being one of the better paid/highly sought after jobs. I did some research and thought that it seems not bad (since I had to decide and I didn't have an alternative at that moment). Actuarial science it is, I thought.

    Then I went for National Service. 3 months of idleness got me thinking, is working non-stop for a job just for the sake of money meaningful at all? Day and night ploughing through work life just for money seems like a lifeless zombie to me. And I didnt want that. I wanted a bigger reason to live, a bigger cause to my life. I had big dreams for myself.

    Then I heard about bachelor of physics for the first time. I thought that I want to study how the world works and solve mysteries yet unsolved. I was good in math and science, and I loved watching educational videos on YouTube (like why is your bottom (butt) in the middle etc.) Pursuing physics gave me a life goal.

    And for a whole year, I stuck on adamantly with Physics, despite objections from family members about bad job prospects in Malaysia and low salary. I said I don't mind as long as I like what I'm doing, but my parents kept reminding me about my future wife,children and commitments. They asked me to pursue engineering cuz its safer. I shoved their advices away when arguing face to face, but deep down I was thinking and it somehow got stuck in my brain.

    And here I am, after a year. With university application drawing closer I have to make a decision now. I talked to a lot of people during this time, and it made me ever more so confused. And looking at other brilliant scholars around me, I started doubting myself, am I suited for academia when other people have way more perseverance and passion about it than I do? Degree to masters to PhD, the future seems so uncertain. But, if I give up because other people are more suited for it, then I wont succeed in whatever that I do.

    That sums up the situation that I'm in right now. It's back and forth of debating with myself, but a decision has to be made. Am I naive in sticking with Physics (in assuming money is not an important factor in choosing a career and that life is actually harsher than it seems) , or should I go into engineering (even though I don't like hands on stuff but honestly speaking I don't know the many branches a person with an engineering degree can go into like sales and marketing) cuz it's safer? Or should I consider other degrees that earn a lot of money?

    I do realise I'm very much fortunate than my peers in the sense that I can choose what I wanna do, but I'm just afraid that 30 years down the road, I will regret the decision I make now even though it will be pointless then.

    Thanks in advance and I appreciate all your inputs! :D
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 5, 2015 #2
    While I usually say that people should study what they have a passion for, it's also true that money is an important factor in life. You will have certain commitments later, and a well-paying job makes life much more comfortable. It doesn't need to be paid very much, but you should avoid being unemployed at all costs. So do some research and try to see what the employment chances are for somebody in physics. Sure, going into academia is a very tough shot (for everybody), but perhaps there are other opportunities. For example, you might get to see a lot of programming during the physics degree, and this might make you get a programming jobs. There might be other opportunities such as teaching. Try to find out how many physics graduates end up with a good job. Based on that, you should make your decision. If there's truly only academia, then it's probably better to go into something else but physics.

    Too bad you didn't make this thread earlier. Since then I could give the advice that you should work through some physics books. Because indeed, there might be the chance that you won't even like physics! Physics is very different from what you see in youtube videos, and it is very different from science in high school. Some might find it more interesting, some lose interest entirely. There is really no way of knowing what you will be like unless you try it.
  4. Jul 5, 2015 #3


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    It would be a good idea to learn for yourself what employment is like for physics graduates. Thankfully, you don't have to rely on andecdote - the AIP (the American Institute of Physics) does statistical surveys.
    Want to see what people 10 years post-phd do and earn in the private sector? Look here: https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/common-careers-physicists-private-sector and here https://www.aip.org/statistics/repo...-duties-and-responsibilities-your-current-job

    Want to know what physics students do after finishing undergrad? look here: https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/physics-bachelor%E2%80%99s-initial-employment-0 [Broken]

    What do physics phd students do after finishing their phd? https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/physics-doctorates-initial-employment2012
    and one year later: https://www.aip.org/statistics/reports/physics-doctorates-one-year-after-degree

    There are lots of options. There are even options where you can earn decent money.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 7, 2017
  5. Jul 6, 2015 #4
    Yeah, but the OP is in Malaysia, which might be very different from the US.
  6. Jul 6, 2015 #5


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    Unfortunately, the AIP is the only organisation who does such great stats. I'm also not in the US, but I think the trends are (somewhat) transferable.
  7. Jul 6, 2015 #6
    if you're good at math and science you can do either one, but being interested in how the world works and why the hole is in the middle does not translate to liking quantum physics.
    Also in engineering you will get to learn maths and physics as well, while you probably won't be doing physics research afterwards.

    How easy is it to change degree after 1-2 years in Malaysia?
    If it's easy enough you can switch to engineering/applied physics later if you hate the engineering courses.
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