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How much programming in a physics degree?

  1. Aug 21, 2015 #1
    So I recently posted on here how I am torn between the two courses, computer science and physics, I am leaning towards computer science as I really want to head into the software engineering side of things e.g. game development etc. However, I feel like programming isn't as large a part of the course as I was expecting, and a fair amount of the computer science course wont feel relevant to me. So I am now questioning whether it is worth while spending 4 years doing a degree in a field I wont really enjoy as much as physics and on the side I could learn sufficient amounts of C++ to allow me to break into the industry.
    What are your opinions?
    Physics is fascinating, but I also enjoy programming!
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 21, 2015 #2
    It may not seem relevant, but that's only because you don't know anything about it. However, many students share your sentiment and are disappointed after the first couple years.

    The best advice I can give to college students wanting to become software engineers is to learn all the computer science and mathematics you can. It will help you later on. It may not seem relevant at the time, but don't blow it off or neglect it. I've been in this field over a decade, and I can tell you from first hand experience that it tends to separate the men from the boys, so to speak.
     
  4. Aug 21, 2015 #3

    SteamKing

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    If you want to become a software engineer, study software engineering. Expecting to pick up the skills for one discipline by studying a completely different discipline is a tad optimistic at best, more often wholly irrational at worst. o_O
     
  5. Aug 21, 2015 #4
    I do agree, but I have a lot of pressure by my parents to do physics at uni since I am naturally talented at physics. To me too it feels like a tad of a waste, but at the same time, I would prefer a job as a programmer than a physicist. You see, the thing is I don't want a job in physics, I just really want to know more about it, whereas for comp science I am both interested in the degree and job. I feel i'd prefer the physics course over computer science, but not after that point when I want a job..
     
  6. Aug 21, 2015 #5
    Fair point, you wouldn't mind me asking where you've worked and/or what you've worked on?
     
  7. Aug 21, 2015 #6

    SteamKing

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    If your parents want you to be a physicist, then they'll have to prepare themselves to wait until you get a PhD., 'cuz there's not a lot of demand for physicists with lesser degrees, unless you want to go into teaching HS physics.

    Still, if you're phy-curious, you could always major in SE and minor in physics, just to see if you still swing that way, or until you satisfy your curiosity.

    Remember, you've got to live your life for you, not your parents.
     
  8. Aug 21, 2015 #7
    Unfortunately, I live in the UK, so we don't have a major/minor system, if we did it'd be much easier, my choice is either computer science or physics. Only very few unis/courses allow you to take an elective subject (any 1 module from a course you want) but that is only for year 1 and then you're not allowed to take anymore.
    I could always do a joint honours degree, 50% physics, 50% computer science, however simply my curiousity for physics will be eating into my computer science time :/ Just need to find a balance, or maybe I'll have to deal with it and see if I could get the unis to be flexible and allow me to take a physics module here and there..
     
  9. Aug 21, 2015 #8
    I work for a software/hardware development company that has developed a platform for automation, device control, and content services typically marketed to the hospitality industry. We also have in-house developers that develop custom applications for our platform using a domain specific language and a custom IDE (integrated development environment). I have developed the DSL and IDE. It's very similar to Microsoft's Visual Studio in both looks and use.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2015
  10. Aug 23, 2015 #9

    StatGuy2000

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    Sounds to me that the join honours degree that is offered would offer you the perfect combination of satisfying your interests in physics while also allowing you to study computer science.

    BTW, is it really the case that universities in the UK do not allow any type of flexibility in their study? What about changing degree programs (say, from physics into, say, history, as a hypothetical example)?
     
  11. Aug 23, 2015 #10
    Comp Sci is very important. If you hire a guy with a physics background she/he doesn't have several years of developing shippable software a person their same age has.

    If they also have no idea how a compiler really works, how memory is used and how a processor or gpu calculates stuff, they have a big disadvantage. It is nice that they are good at math and did do some decent programming in a physics context, but that's about all they know. They probably don't know about most things they don't know yet.
     
  12. Aug 23, 2015 #11
    Generally speaking european system (be it UK or continental Europe) lacks flexibility so yes - usually you have to start from year one. Sometimes you can transfer after 1st year if you study subjects with similar fundamentals - like Physics and EE.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  13. Aug 23, 2015 #12

    pasmith

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    It depends on the university; you may have to restart from year one.
     
  14. Aug 23, 2015 #13
    Outside of the US, degrees are full degrees. You do 180 credit worth of work on the same subject. There is no major, it is just your degree.

    Things like humanities or history, they are already covered in high school.

    So if you change programs, unless course material overlaps, you still need all 180 credit to get a degree. You can't get half a degree.
    It is not like you score 180 points worth of credit and that they call a graduation and inside is whatever content was put into it. No, in general it is all quite specific.
     
    Last edited: Aug 23, 2015
  15. Aug 26, 2015 #14

    f95toli

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    I think you have to make a choice. Physics degrees in the UK are extremely narrow in that you are basically taught physics and maths. In most(?) other countries a physics degree would always include a bit of programming and at least some "engineering type" courses (e.g. electrical circuits with some practical labs). Hence, don't make the mistake of reading advice directed to students from e.g. the US and assume that this automatically applies to the UK as well.
    Most undergraduate students in the UK don't even know enough about programming to do fairly basic data analysis (I often come across students who have never even heard of Matlab), so even the ones that do decide to do a PhD are often at a disadvantage compared to students from elsewhere. The only students I have come across that knew anything about programming were essentially self-taught.
    Hence, I can't imagine why any software company would hire someone with a "only" a physics degree (unless that person was self-taught and somehow had as proven track record of developing software)
     
  16. Aug 26, 2015 #15

    StatGuy2000

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    If that is the case, then does it follow then that there is a greater emphasis in the UK on physics degree holders gravitating toward the theoretical side of physics? And does it also follow that physics graduates are less employable or marketable in the UK compared to physics graduates elsewhere?
     
  17. Aug 27, 2015 #16

    f95toli

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    I think it is certainly true that there is a lot of emphasis on the theoretical side when it comes to the undergraduate degrees. However, the UK is no different than any other country in that most of the people who actually end up working as physicists are experimentalist; meaning the students who decide to pursue an experimental PhD are probably less prepared than students in many other countries. That said, I don't think it is the lack of actual knowledge that is the biggest problem (they quickly catch up), it is more the fact that many of them have no idea what experimental physics is like when they apply for a PhD position. I did my undergraduate degree in Sweden and I had at least some idea of what it would be like to work in a lab when I started my PhD.

    I am not sure whether physics graduates are less employable than elsewhere. It is certainly true that they would be less prepared for a technical job. However, you need to keep in mind that the "culture" (for lack of a better word) in the UK is quite different from most of Europe (and I believe the US) when it comes to university degrees. Traditionally, university degrees are much less "vocational" than elsewhere and it is not all uncommon for people to study something they have no intention to work with. If you look at what e.g. business leaders, politicians,journalists, senior civil servants etc have studied you will find that many of them hold degrees in "traditional" subjects such as Classics, English, philosophy etc. ; it almost doesn't matter WHAT you study as long as you do it at a good university and get good grades. I have a relative who recently completed a degree in Philosophy and Psychology from Bristol, and when he graduated he was immediately offered a very good job at a bank.
    It seems many people think of physics in the same way; a physics degree from a good university will open many doors for you (the same is true for maths), meaning it can be a good choice even if you intend to work in say marketing (I know someone who did exactly that). But again, it might not be the best route if you want to end up in a "technical" job.
     
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