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Programs How Feasible Is It? Changing English major to Physics major

Vanadium 50

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You asked a question. It's really not our fault if you don't like the answer.

You asked 'what's wrong with having a high-school mentality [a phrase I wouldn't have used, but it is what it is] of the subject?' If you're 14, nothing. If you're 34, a lot. The fact of the matter is that a BS in physics will not do what you expect it to do: it will not make you movre competitive for engineering jobs than engineers, and it will not teach you the secrets of the universe. You will, however, learn something about the hydrogen atom, the asymmetric top and spinning quadrupoles of charge.
 
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Completely unnecessary comment that basically contributed nothing to the thread.


Solisspiit you would do well to listen to some of the great advice offered here, if you're dead set on this path come hell or high water, make sure you take all the math and intro to physics at junior college and decide if this is for you before you transfer. Many universities won't let you change majors once you transfer.
I would let the mods mod. How does it not contribute anything other than it not agreeing with your viewpoint?

It was a comment confirming another posters insight which was meant to add weight to that comment.

OP--

As Vanadium pointed out just because it isnt what you want to hear doesnt mean we are at fault because it isnt a personal attack. The response wasnt even negative but rather about aligning expectations with the reality of experiences of people who have advanced degrees in physics. If your motivation was less grandiose like "I want to work on my problem solving skills while learning a bit about the physical world" a different response would have occurred.

Physics professors dont usually have the most accurate gauge of industry because many never have left academia. It isnt their fault because becoming a professor isnt something you accidentally fall into while working odd jobs.

This isnt for you in particular but all the other posters that will post a similar mindset in the future -->
How many people with grad degrees in physics do you need to tell you that the world doesnt follow the belief that "engineering is applied physics therefore physics degrees supersede engineering degrees".

or the other common physics forum belief
"I am going to try to become a physics professor and if that doesnt work I will just work a six figures finance job".
 
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Bander, I appreciate your input. And no apology necessary, you're quite right.

There are variables here that this community doesn't know about, that would, otherwise known, reveal their error and misperception about me. What I've accumulated over the years is experience in the real world, and hard cold facts of life. I see students who have everything handed to them, then study limited amounts of time and go back to their video games. I'm not this guy. I realize my age plays an imperative role in my future, but this notion that because I'm 34 I'm somehow ineffective is ridiculous at it's very best. I don't know how many professors and students say things like "go after what you truly have a passion for, and don't listen to those that will try and bring you down. If you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life". Yet, somehow, here everything is a black hole of disappointment. Not sure if the many years of math did this or just the disappointment in the job market. Either way, it's a horrible mentality to have. I'm a realist, and I agree with being honest, but I refuse to settle for being a pessimist.

I told myself before taking on this career path that I would be doing a lot of homework, and spending many hours in the math lab, and I'm fully prepared mentally for the task. Needless to say, as it should be obvious, I wasn't born yesterday. Another variable here has to do with where I live. There are a ton of jobs in the engineering (software, computer), physics, and the like all around me, practically within a 20 minute reach from me. I went on the jobs search just to see and there are jobs for people with a physics degree, base level. In fact, they're even looking for people within their sophomore year of school to start interships. The jobs range from missle defense to just about anything, and some of them would even pay for my graduate work. The work is here in more ways than one, and the decision to take on either an engineering degree or a physics degree (which in many of these jobs was acceptable either way) where I live is highly promising. So, yea, it's a great idea.

Finally, both my father and my uncle were highly intelligent and great at math. My uncle helped work on the the second phase of the Saturn rocket that did the man on the moon, etc. He worked for Boeing, worked for NASA, and finally came to where I live now to work for Martin Marietta which is now Lockheed Martin. So, I'm perfectly within my right to think I have the mental faculties to fulfill what it is I want to do. Will I spend a few more hours a day working on my math than someone right out of highschool? Possibly. Who cares? The fact of the matter is if you are willing to put the work in, and you are persistent, anything is possible. This is the road I'm taking. Thanks.
 
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and the decision to take on either an engineering degree or a physics degree (which in many of these jobs was acceptable either way) where I live is highly promising.
Engineering is a discipline in itself and it seems at least partially disrespectful to imply that you can learn their skills on the side or incidentally when getting a physics degree.

If you were also considering doing engineering to get an engineering job then I dont think many people would think that is unreasonable.
 
Well, I made it clear that I was open to where-ever my path leads me. Ultimately, I *want to do theoretical physics, but it's not what I'll be doing with a bachelor's, that's for sure. And I'll need to start working when I get my bachelor's in some paying field where I can utilize my knowledge so that I can pay for my graduate school, if it's not already being paid for through a company.
 

WannabeNewton

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Do you even know what "theoretical physics" actually is? You keep saying "theoretical physics" but you don't seem to realize the difference in connotation of said term between laymen and physicists.

Clearly you didn't come here for advice. You came here for reassurance of a highly unstable change of career path and when you didn't get that reassurance you lashed out. If I had a dollar for every time I've seen a non-science major resort to this attitude on this forum...
 
No, I actually did come here for sound advice based on a fair approach, not a completely negative and condescending view that makes for bad conversation. Big difference. Maybe it's not those asking about the major but the person answering.
 
Solisspirit
basically the forum is advising you to take the reality pill , physics might be what you love , it might be your passion , your love , but marriage is very different from dating
you will have responsibilities , lots of responsibilities * which you seem ready to take * ,you will have long years to come of study ,you are probably not going to work just after a Bsc , you will have a difficult , yet enjoyable life if you enjoy problem solving * which is the main factor here , its not about KNOWING physics as much as its about Solving physics problems * , but most of all , which is most important , you dont know what future awaits you , who knows maybe it clicks , maybe you will get a fine physics job that is interesting , and maybe not , its all about chances and probability
anyway , my advice to you , if you want to know the secrets of the universe , all you need to know is to buy an online math course , or get yourself a couple of math books * all the way from scratch * and teach yourself what you need to know , however if BEING a theoritical physicist is all you want , then good luck with that , its a hard road , and you don't know what lies at its end , good luck with everything
 
Bander, I appreciate your input. And no apology necessary, you're quite right.



There are variables here that this community doesn't know about, that would, otherwise known, reveal their error and misperception about me. What I've accumulated over the years is experience in the real world, and hard cold facts of life. I see students who have everything handed to them, then study limited amounts of time and go back to their video games. I'm not this guy. I realize my age plays an imperative role in my future, but this notion that because I'm 34 I'm somehow ineffective is ridiculous at it's very best. I don't know how many professors and students say things like "go after what you truly have a passion for, and don't listen to those that will try and bring you down. If you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life". Yet, somehow, here everything is a black hole of disappointment. Not sure if the many years of math did this or just the disappointment in the job market. Either way, it's a horrible mentality to have. I'm a realist, and I agree with being honest, but I refuse to settle for being a pessimist.



I told myself before taking on this career path that I would be doing a lot of homework, and spending many hours in the math lab, and I'm fully prepared mentally for the task. Needless to say, as it should be obvious, I wasn't born yesterday. Another variable here has to do with where I live. There are a ton of jobs in the engineering (software, computer), physics, and the like all around me, practically within a 20 minute reach from me. I went on the jobs search just to see and there are jobs for people with a physics degree, base level. In fact, they're even looking for people within their sophomore year of school to start interships. The jobs range from missle defense to just about anything, and some of them would even pay for my graduate work. The work is here in more ways than one, and the decision to take on either an engineering degree or a physics degree (which in many of these jobs was acceptable either way) where I live is highly promising. So, yea, it's a great idea.



Finally, both my father and my uncle were highly intelligent and great at math. My uncle helped work on the the second phase of the Saturn rocket that did the man on the moon, etc. He worked for Boeing, worked for NASA, and finally came to where I live now to work for Martin Marietta which is now Lockheed Martin. So, I'm perfectly within my right to think I have the mental faculties to fulfill what it is I want to do. Will I spend a few more hours a day working on my math than someone right out of highschool? Possibly. Who cares? The fact of the matter is if you are willing to put the work in, and you are persistent, anything is possible. This is the road I'm taking. Thanks.

I was not trying to be negative but it's the truth. I suspect you don't know very man physicist or you just have this elaborate idea of what a physics degree will offer you and it's just completely different from reality. First nobody questioned your intelligence or ability, I have a friend/classmate that just graduated with his BS in nuclear engineering he was 38. This friend also enjoyed physics which is why he picked up the minor, he also has a family. I don't care what degree or job you currently have, ultimately you are going to probably have to quit to further your education, do you not think it would be wise to leave a stable teaching career for another stable career with at least the same pay or hopefully better pay? You don't sound like an adult, you sound like a kid who doesn't know how to take criticism. The difference is I actually am an engineering major, nuclear engineering and our curriculum requires a lot of physics and mathematics. Believe me when I tell you, no matter how fast you can read 45 pages of literature you will not be reading through any physics or mathematics that fast. Those chapters while they often are not very long contain a lot of concepts and information that you have to put some time in to really dissect and test your understanding of. Anybody can solve a problem out the back of the book, but the important thing is do you understand the concepts? Have you learned anything? Second point I want to make is you're completely off base thinking that because your father was good at mathematics and physics that you should be too, that is ridiculous. My uncle is good at computer science and developing applications, I assure you outside of Matlab I don't know anything about programming or computer science except the basics. Everybody has natural talents and things they are good at, so how can you assert that you are in your right to think you're good at mathematics and physics, because your father is good at it? Another point, I know plenty of physics majors who had this idea that they could get engineering jobs with their physics degree, after being unemployed years after graduation they have returned for engineering degrees... My professor and advisor has a bs in physics, a master of science in physics, a master of science in nuclear engineering and a PhD in nuclear engineering. Now why do you think that is? I'll tell you, he couldn't find a job to take care of his family, so he got something more employable. He has and still does research in nuclear engineering and physics but he has also been able to get a job to take care of his family.
 
I don't care what degree or job you currently have, ultimately you are going to probably have to quit to further your education, do you not think it would be wise to leave a stable teaching career for another stable career with at least the same pay or hopefully better pay?
I don't have a degree right now. I work and take care of my family as well as go to school. Is it hard? Of course. As I stated already, I'm ready for the challenge. I've seen women work three jobs, bud, just to get by. I've seen kids in other countries starve, and still work. I've seen perseverance in the worst scenarios. Then I think about my life and how blessed I am to live where I live and have the option to go to school. Unfortunately, this word "hard" is relative, and many kids in America (we rank 23 in the whole world, which isn't good) pretend like our education is so hard. No, it's not that it's so hard it's that we're just so used to easy things and we don't want to spend enough time doing our homework because we're so bogged down with video games and movies; media entertainment and non-sense. Rubbish.

I really don't feel like debating my career anymore. I made my decision.
 

ZapperZ

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I really decided a while back to no longer participate in here, especially when you've expressed how little you value the responses you've gotten. I tend to stop caring when some is being ungrateful to the effort I've put in in trying to help. However, there is a clear lack of understanding of what was being conveyed here.

I can't speak for the motives of other responders in this thread. In MY case, what I had written on this thread was NEVER meant to stop or discourage you from doing whatever it is that you wanted to do. Rather, what I tried to do, and it is something that I've consistently tried to do when question like this comes up (and you are NOT the first to ask such a question), is to convey what I've written here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4603496&postcount=24

You also need to examined what it was that you were expecting to get when you ASKED your question on here. Were you expecting affirmation of what you wish to do? Or were you really sincere in finding out opinions on your plan?

In any case, I'm done. You're welcome to take the advice that I've given, or ignore them. And if we're playing the "age" card here, I'm about 10 days away from turning 52, and I've been either studying physics, or working in physics, ever since I was 18. I've seen enough students passing through to know quite a bit more of the reality of being a physicist and the challenges in pursuing such a career.

Zz.
 
I don't have a degree right now. I work and take care of my family as well as go to school. Is it hard? Of course. As I stated already, I'm ready for the challenge. I've seen women work three jobs, bud, just to get by. I've seen kids in other countries starve, and still work. I've seen perseverance in the worst scenarios. Then I think about my life and how blessed I am to live where I live and have the option to go to school. Unfortunately, this word "hard" is relative, and many kids in America (we rank 23 in the whole world, which isn't good) pretend like our education is so hard. No, it's not that it's so hard it's that we're just so used to easy things and we don't want to spend enough time doing our homework because we're so bogged down with video games and movies; media entertainment and non-sense. Rubbish.

I really don't feel like debating my career anymore. I made my decision.
dont just turn off your mind , nobody is trying to knock you off your choice , people here are trying to help you realize what your choice really is , in the end you are the one who's gonna live it , the difficulty is not in studying , if you love physics you will love studying , its in the employment , thats it .
anyway if its really worth it , try to go through the job you're doing and the education you will be getting in parallel , do not waste one for the sake of the other , who knows maybe you will need that teacher job in the end , or maybe not , so always be ready
 

WannabeNewton

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Unfortunately, this word "hard" is relative, and many kids in America (we rank 23 in the whole world, which isn't good) pretend like our education is so hard. No, it's not that it's so hard it's that we're just so used to easy things and we don't want to spend enough time doing our homework because we're so bogged down with video games and movies; media entertainment and non-sense. Rubbish.
Boy is reality going to hit you square in the face if you decide to study physics. Nobody "pretends" that physics is hard; it's just hard period. Seriously what do you think physics is?

Well good luck regardless.
 

ZapperZ

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Ah, I found it!

I said that I wasn't going to continue in this thread, but I was wrecking my brain in trying to find where exactly I had read something similar, and I found it.

I am referring to this post by the OP:

Bander, I appreciate your input. And no apology necessary, you're quite right.

There are variables here that this community doesn't know about, that would, otherwise known, reveal their error and misperception about me. What I've accumulated over the years is experience in the real world, and hard cold facts of life. I see students who have everything handed to them, then study limited amounts of time and go back to their video games. I'm not this guy. I realize my age plays an imperative role in my future, but this notion that because I'm 34 I'm somehow ineffective is ridiculous at it's very best. I don't know how many professors and students say things like "go after what you truly have a passion for, and don't listen to those that will try and bring you down. If you do something you love, you'll never work a day in your life". Yet, somehow, here everything is a black hole of disappointment. Not sure if the many years of math did this or just the disappointment in the job market. Either way, it's a horrible mentality to have. I'm a realist, and I agree with being honest, but I refuse to settle for being a pessimist.
It is uncanny closed to what has been said before in this Science Career article that I posted here:

https://www.physicsforums.com/showpost.php?p=4487035&postcount=186

There's A LOT to be learned from that Science article. Like I said elsewhere, we can only lead a horse to water.....

Zz.
 
ZapperZ, I don't think you said anything too negative, but as a collective source of feedback, all I got was a pessimist view and a condescending attitude that was clearly not necessary. This was clear by Student110's comment calling another poster out on it, so it's not like I'm making this more than it is.

Like I said, I made my decision. I believe in going after what it is you want to do. It's actually quite an interesting story, because for so long everyone kept telling me going into a teaching degree with English was a dumb move, because there'd be no jobs and the pay is awful. I defended my degree then many times, and I still do. But now that I'm aiming for something more, and doing precisely what everyone told me to do, I get these results. It never ceases to amaze.
 
OP, after reading through every post here I can just say most of the people here were just trying to make you understand what you're up against.

- They challenged your reasoning behind your current ideas and expressed what problems you will most likely bump into (from their experience in their field).
- From their experience they gave you what they consider a realistic approach on how to go about doing it. (i.e. get some books first, see if you like doing it)

Now, given the tone, it can be easily interpreted as negative or pessimistic, but they never said "don't do it." They were simply telling you the difficulties you might encounter. In the end of course the choice is yours.

So instead of taking all the aspects of the replies which you might find "negative" or "pessimistic" I think a better and a more productive way is to just keep them in the back of your mind and use them to prepare yourself for what you might be facing. Because I assure you that their intention wasn't to put you down. (It would be quite the conspiracy that ~35 posts or so were dead set on putting you down). Ignore the tone, consider the issues they brought forth and think how you'd handle them if they are correct. You may or may not face them, obviously. (i.e. "if physics will be harder than I think it is, maybe I could take it slow, reduce some courses if need be")

To repeat myself: They just told you what they think about the difficulties you might encounter.

So of course you can follow your dreams! But being cautious about it is very important.

And nonetheless, good luck OP!
 
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nri

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Don't do this to yourself.

You'll spend 10 years in school studying Physics only to get a job that's not related in it. It's not worth it - no matter if you are in your 20s or 30s.

It's not matter of hard work. No matter how hard you work, if there are no jobs, you won't get one. In my field after 10 years of hard work you are a real deal, a professional who works in interesting projects and can earn money and when you are 40, you work as creative director for biggest companies doing coolest stuff. In physics after 10 years of schooling and 10 years of post-docking you don't have permanent job and make coffe as assistant professor. Forget about interesting projects. It's kinda pathetic.

You should go for engineering. It's the only way for you to work in sth related to physics.
 

AlephZero

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but as a collective source of feedback, all I got was a pessimist view and a condescending attitude that was clearly not necessary.
Never forget Scott Adams' (the Dilbert cartoonist) definition: an optimist is a pessimist with no real world experience.

As for previous comments on physics and engineering, blaming everything on bean counters in HR is a nice way to sidestep the issue, but the reason my employers don't hire a physicist when they want an engineer is simple: we have had our fingers burned too many times before when we tried it. It's not just a matter of what they know - either should be smart enough to learn fast on the job. It's the different ways they have been taught to think. To caricature the situation, given something that doesn't work, a physicist wants to set up a research project to explore why it doesn't work, publish some papers about it, and get then funding to do some more research. An engineer just wants to fix it, and move on to the next job :smile:
 
Never forget Scott Adams' (the Dilbert cartoonist) definition: an optimist is a pessimist with no real world experience.
The issue here is Adams is a cartoon author. More importantly, however, I claimed to be a realist; the one that weighs the scale evenly with a combination of common sense and intelligibility. I would say this is the fair approach.

nri, I appreciate your approach. You're not only honest but claim to come from actual experience. At any rate, I suspect there are variables here that either you guys, being engineers don't get to experience or see, that physicist do. I did a little research the last few days on physics jobs, including statistics as well as the local job market for them, and not only are there jobs available with the requirements being interchanged between a degree in math, physics, or engineering, but there are also jobs for people with just a B.A. in physics.

I also found a video that I've not completely finished watching as it's nearly an hour long, but watched enough to see that the statistics from official and reputable research groups show the jobs are there and that physicist degree holders go on to hold jobs for computer engineering, as well as various other things. So, what I think is happening here is maybe some of you are not up to date on current statistics and the job market. In my local area, I could go apply for a physics job tomorrow, as they are looking for these degrees. There are many engineers and I think with a degree in physics I'll be able to stand out.
 
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I did a little research the last few days on physics jobs, including statistics as well as the local job market for them, and not only are there jobs available with the requirements being interchanged between a degree in math, physics, or engineering, but there are also jobs for people with just a B.A. in physics.

...

So, what I think is happening here is maybe some of you are not up to date on current statistics and the job market. In my local area, I could go apply for a physics job tomorrow, as they are looking for these degrees. There are many engineers and I think with a degree in physics I'll be able to stand out.
I would love to know specifically what companies or places you are talking about. I've been looking for a tech job with my two physics degrees for over two years now. I've never even been able to get an interview. Im not a genius nor am I a PhD, but I dont consider myself a complete slouch. I graduated with honors, got As in all but one physics class, I did research as a grad and undergrad, attended conferences, etc. I apply to positions ranging from Master's required/PhD preferred to only some college necessary. Here is one I applied to last month,

https://microchip.tms.hrdepartment.com/jobs/3408/Equipment-Engineering-Tech-I-ImplantUS-Gresham-Oregon

I think that I could excel at that job and I think that my resume speaks to this. But I never even got a call, and the job is still listed....

After two years of never even getting a call back, I have to do something different or I will never get a technical job. I'm now taking classes again working towards a BS in electrical engineering.

This is just my experience, but I do not think its that out of the ordinary. Keeping in touch with my classmates from undergrad and grad school, those without PhDs have a hard time getting any tech job at all. Some are doing things unrelated like IT or school teacher, many are doing things completely unrelated like truck driver and restaurant worker.
 
Here is one example in my area. Notice the major is interchangeable and doesn't matter whether you have an engineering degree, math degree, or physics degree.

https://ngc.taleo.net/careersection/ngc_pro/jobdetail.ftl?job=401131&src=JB-10200

Also, I've have heard before that when you have an advanced degree this is disqualify you for many jobs due to you being "over-qualified". I think general supervisors don't like someone higher than them working under them, because they can feel inferior to their own job. I don't plan on getting anything higher than a bachelor's until I set myself in a job firmly. Then I will pursue my masters.
 
Will you be able to support your family financially while studying for 4 years, at the very least?
 
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Here is one example in my area. Notice the major is interchangeable and doesn't matter whether you have an engineering degree, math degree, or physics degree.

https://ngc.taleo.net/careersection/ngc_pro/jobdetail.ftl?job=401131&src=JB-10200

Also, I've have heard before that when you have an advanced degree this is disqualify you for many jobs due to you being "over-qualified". I think general supervisors don't like someone higher than them working under them, because they can feel inferior to their own job. I don't plan on getting anything higher than a bachelor's until I set myself in a job firmly. Then I will pursue my masters.
Yea, but that is not an entry level position either. It requires 5 years of experience. I'll still apply for it though, thx for the link.

I have applied to places by listing both my masters and BS, I have also applied with only my BS on my resume with the same thoughts you mentioned here. I have also applied to jobs with no degree on my resume at all, and these are the jobs I actually get interviews for. They are not tech jobs, but working in a restaurant does pay the bills.
 

esuna

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Yes we don't like to be pigeonholed which is what makes a physics degree so enticing. But if you take a look at the typical physics curriculum at most universities(unless it is engineering physics, or you are able to pick up some kind of engineering minor) are there any courses that cover any topics in, say, computer engineering? Typically not.

The typical undergraduate curriculum for physics is classical mechanics, electricity and magnetism, thermodynamics, quantum mechanics, etc. These course cover the most basic, general representation of the theories therein. None of them cover VLSI design or RF or signal processing, or vehicle control systems.

With this in mind, is it logical to assume that someone with a physics degree would be qualified for any positions in engineering such as those that deal with the topics above WITHOUT rigorous on-the-job training IF it is provided (in most postings I've seen, usually not)?
 
Will you be able to support your family financially while studying for 4 years, at the very least?
Absolutely. That's what I'm doing now. Furthermore, I won't need four years. I've already managed to acquire 42 credit hours, some of which won't count because they are in a different major program of study, but most of them will.
 

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