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

Hope for Phyiscs/math majors

  1. Feb 10, 2008 #1
    Hi all,

    I'm a senior in high school right now, and and headed for Kansas State University, fall 08. I'm genuinely curious about how the universe behaves, and learning to predict its patterns, as well learning why things work. This lead me to want to double major in physics and mathematics. But are there career opportunities for a guy with a bachelors of science in physics and math?

    My teachers generally tell me, I can learn all the same stuff in an engineering major of some sort and have tons of jobs available to me, otherwise I could also pursue a Ph.D. in physics and end up working with lasers or something... I spoke with an electrical engineer and he stressed with me that engineers only know enough to make something work, and aren't terribly interested in a conceptual understanding of the universe... On the other hand, I don't think I'll last all that long in school, a master's is likely the longest I'll stay in school; 8 years is way too much for me!

    Does anyone have any advice on my dilemma?
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2008
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 10, 2008 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    Well, the good news is you don't have to decide right away, since the first year is about the same for engineering majors and physics majors. During that time, you can explore each field by joining the engineering and physics clubs. Also, check with the career center to do job shadowing of engineers and scientists.

    BTW, I have a BS in physics and I have never had trouble finding a job.
  4. Feb 10, 2008 #3


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    It seems to me that many people warn those going into physics about job opportunities because they do not know what a person with a physics B.S. does. There are many positions at places in industry for a physics major to get a job. Granted the jobs may be more engineering based, but they are there. Places like Lockheed and Boeing hire people with physics backgrounds because of the knowledge and insight they could bring to a project that an engineering major wouldn't be able to. For instance, a hypothetical project may involve some work that requires a more in depth knowledge of a certain area of physics than most engineers get in a normal engineering curriculum. Hence, it's good to hire some people with a physics, and even a math B.S. for those situations. I have had several friends with a Physics or Math B.S. hired for companies like Boeing, BAE, Lockheed, etc. and they have said that their Physics rather than engineering background was a plus on their resume because of what the project involved (they aren't allowed to tell me what they do:rolleyes:).

    Also, a physics degree, more than anything else, shows you are good at solving problems. It also means you have a decent amount of programming experience, and even some electronics experience. All of this looks good on a resume. In this way, a physics B.S. makes you a great candidate for any type of job where they need a proven problem solver with a technical background.

    Then there is always the chance that you will want to continue on to grad school. If you really love the subject you're learning, you won't mind being in school for longer if that's what you like to do.
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2008
  5. Feb 10, 2008 #4
    Older and employed people here will tell you yes, and they're correct to say that there are opportunities for people with physics B.S. degrees. However, in my personal experience, it's fairly difficult to find a physics job with just a B.S. Although I wanted to go to grad school,before graduation (with physics and math degrees) I tried to apply for quite a few jobs, just to see if I could get any decent offers. Oddly I only got one interview and no offers. I ended up going to grad school, which in retrospect was a far better idea than getting a job. But I think the problem was that there's no point in taking a physics or math major for an engineering job when you can just hire an engineer. Also, maybe I just wasn't that motivated to apply for jobs, seeing as how I never wanted to really enter the working world in the first place.

    Well, there's another option. You could double major in physics and engineering. That way you could get the enjoyment of a physics major (it is a lot of fun, actually), but the employability of an engineer. A math major is slightly helpful if you want to go to grad school. But if you're just interested in physics, then it's important to note that pure math is extremely different from physics. But speaking of grad school, it's typically only five years, not eight, so you might want to consider that too. I'm a first year grad student. Sometimes it's a living hell with all the work I have to do, but I think it's worth it. Plus, they pay you to go to grad school, so it's not like you'll end up zillions of dollars in debt.

    Incidentally my dad went to grad school at K-State. Says they've got a great campus. Good luck next year!
    Last edited: Feb 10, 2008
  6. Feb 10, 2008 #5
    Doing undergrad studies in physics and then graduate in engineering is also fairly common. The other way around is less common, but still happens. If you plan on going to graduate school anyways you can do Physics undergrad and decide whether or not you'd rather do engineering on the way.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook