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How to dear with fear and uncertainty regarding switching majors

  1. Jul 29, 2014 #1
    I've always been an incredibly indecisive fellow, from decisions ranging from "would you like coke or sprite?" to "what would you like to do with your life?" So ever since junior year of high school (I'm about to start sophomore year in college), I've been debating about what I should major in. I always felt I should major in physics, but I settled with electrical engineering (you know, jobs and all that).

    So all throughout my senior year and first year of college, I've debated about whether it's wise to switch my major. And at first it was the decision: settle for electrical engineering or go with physics.

    But there was one more problem. I don't like either of them. In fact, I only liked what preconceived notions I had about what electrical engineering was and pop-sci notions of what physics was. However, based on what university-level experience I DO have, I have absolutely loved my math classes. I've taken calc I and calc II, and this summer I've been working through Spivak's Calculus (for fun!) to increase my understanding of the concepts I didn't think were properly introduced in my calculus classes.

    So all of this taken, I'm at the point where I have to switch between electrical engineering and math. The deadline to switch and still be able to graduate in 4 years in rapidly approaching, and I'm no closer to deciding. Of course, I say that, but in my head, I've already decided. I love math. I love doing math. I love teaching people what math I know. And I feel I have an above average ability in math. Knowing all this, I feel like it should be easy to decide: switch to math. But it's not that easy. I feel like I'll want to move on to grad school after my bachelors in math (which I'd probably do for EE anyway), and I find it hard to deal with the uncertainty. What if I can't work in academia? What if I can but don't like it, and if I don't figure it out until I'm quite old? What if I switch and regret having left what seems like a very safe option for a good job?

    Assuming I do get a Ph.D in math, I know the job options aren't abysmal (the annual survey of scientists shows a 1% unemployment rate and 4% involuntary out of field rate, though the ~9% only part-time employed in math is somewhat discouraging). It's just so difficult having to make a decision from something that feels so safe to something that might not be.

    I apologize for the length of this, but sometimes typing something out like this does as much good as hearing responses.

    TL;DR bad at making decisions. Probably better off living as a hermit. :D

    Does anyone else here have similar experiences with making the jump to a "less safe" major? Any advice regarding that? Has anyone NOT made the jump and regretted it (or are even glad that they didn't)? What about personal experiences specifically regarding math?

    Thanks all
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 29, 2014 #2
    Since you know you want to go to graduate school I think a "less safe" major like math is more justifiable.

    People change careers and change fields all the time and few end up where they originally planned. This will be the case no matter what you study. As long as you are flexible and not dug in on one and only one path you can make the most out of what you have done and explore the different opportunities life gives you.
  4. Jul 30, 2014 #3
    But when is it a good choice to commit to something where I could be 30 and just out of grad school when I realize I don't actually like it (or am not as good at it as I think)? At what point should something you love move from a hobby to a potential career?
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