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How to decide on a major

  1. Nov 3, 2007 #1
    I'm only in my first quarter in college right now, but I'm really undecided on my major (even though I am officially declared in a major). I don't really have much time to choose because I will be very behind in chemistry if I decide to change in a chemistry-related major since it's not required for my current major. My question is: How did you decide on your major while in college? When is it time to change your major?

    Some majors that I might be interested in are physics, materials engineering, and electrical engineering, but honestly, I really don't have an idea what they're about, but they sound interesting. I'm taking a physics class right now and I really like it, but I don't like my computer science class (and I'm currently in computer science). Also, how easy is it to get jobs with those degrees? Are the jobs very location specific (like you have to move to a certain place to find a job in that field)?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 3, 2007 #2
    1) Trial and error, mostly.
    2) When you want to do something different. If it's going to drastically postpone graduation, you may want to reconsider just completing your current program and getting the degree, and find ways to learn the other material you want to study after it's completed.

    Some {Physicists, Material Engineers, Electrical Engineers} do {Physics, Materials Engineering, Electrical Engineering}. Majoring in one doesn't forever bar you from working with or studying the others, it just roughly sketches out what experience you're expected to have when you graduate.

    Everybody does programming. It will be a Good Thing if you can at least do it without being too miserable. Programming is not Computer Science.

    I too wish I was going to know more about chemistry when I graduate...but picking up the level of competency I want will require about three sequential year-long sequences. That's not going to happen at this point in my degree. So...either decide you're not going to do chemistry professionally, or pick it up later. Graduating doesn't mean you can't take classes anymore, just that you'll have to pay higher tuition rates and deal with the issues of doing education stuff while you're doing career stuff. If the education stuff is at all relevant to the career stuff, employers can be pretty supportive (on a seriously YMMV basis). Some careers even require "continuing education" stuff, it really varies. All of them will expect you to keep current in your field one way or another, so...
  4. Nov 4, 2007 #3
    At the moment, EE is probably the highest paying and most demanded by the current industry. Electrical Engineering involves circuit design and hardware-software interface. These are the people that build the physical chips that software is run on. You could work for companies like Intel, nVidia, AMD, and Apple.
  5. Nov 4, 2007 #4
    ya im like you bubbles
    like i liked physics (even though it was an intro course) and i like math but havent gotten high enough yet to take the physics classes i want to take.

    like how do you know what kind of engineering you want to do or likeya...

    i dunno over the summer i went to usc and they said if i get a's or b's in calc differntial and linneir and in my physics classes i have an atomatic transfer.
    but i still dont know what im going there for.
    sry for the spelling would go back and change it but my hands hurt and typing is easier
  6. Nov 4, 2007 #5
    Thankfully, if you do science courses, you'll gain a lot of overlap. My suggesting is just poke your heads into the fields you are interested in. You don't have to graduate in 4 years, a lot of people prefer graduating in 5 years. Take your time and learn.
  7. Nov 4, 2007 #6
    I think I will wait at least one more quarter before I decide to officially change if I ever will since only students in the school of engineering are allowed to take CS and Eng. courses. I still don't know whether I should continue in CS since my intro to c++ class is boring (we are doing the basics and we get "projects" every week), and I like my other classes more. There's not going to be a lot of overlap after second quarter since MatE and physics require third quarter physics and EE and CS require EE and CS courses, but I guess I could do summer sessions if I fall behind (but it will be expensive).
  8. Nov 4, 2007 #7
    I decided on a whim. I picked up one of my dad's Scientific American magazines one day and after reading some article on Astrophysics I said "Hmm... this physics stuff is interesting. I think I'll do it for a living."

    HOLY CRAP that was a stupid thing to do. Luckily for me, I really did enjoy my first physics classes and still want to do it for a living.
  9. Nov 5, 2007 #8


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    If you're completely undecided, take intro courses in a variety of subjects, and see if something really lights up your world. Which class is it that you enjoy attending and even enjoy the homework assignments for; that might point you in a direction for a major. Are there ones that you just force yourself to do every day; those are ones to stay away from for a major.

    Anyone who has done any amount of undergraduate academic advising knows that a lot of students pick majors for poor reasons...it's what they were good at in high school; it's what their parents want them to do; it's something they think they'll get paid well for even if they hate it; it's something they think they need for the professional school they think they want to apply for later; it's something they picked quickly to write on their college applications and think they're stuck with. If you're thinking consciously about it as a freshman, you have a good chance of making a wise choice. Many students realize too late that they're in the wrong major when they show up in their academic advisor's office as a junior or senior inquiring what to do about the class they're failing that's going to keep them from getting into grad school or med school or... it can be very difficult then to help them find something that works without starting over.
  10. Nov 5, 2007 #9
    Hell, I'd hang around for longer than that if they'd let me. Financial aid gets cut off after 5 for the most part. :frown:
  11. Nov 5, 2007 #10
    The only class that I'm really enjoying right now is my first physics class, and ironically, I hated physics when I was in high school (I didn't have a good teacher). I think math and computer science are okay, but I can't imagine myself being a programmer after I graduate. I think working on a lab and doing tests and analyzing data would be something I want to do (though I don't know whether there exists any jobs like that in the real world).
  12. Nov 6, 2007 #11
    Plenty. It's often called a lab tech or research assistant position (plus a plethora of other titles) if you're basically working under the header of someone else's research project. You think maybe data analyzes itself? :wink:
  13. Nov 6, 2007 #12
    ya i would like to be in a lab or something figuring things out.

    i really want a job like myth busters. like that job would be a dream now all i need is enough money to get a ferrari f430 scuderia.

    ya i like physics i have only taken one class but i need more math to move up.
    what can i do with physics?

    sry to steal your thread bubbles.
    what year are you in.
    cause like im on my second and right now as it looks ill be in college for at least 6 years
  14. Nov 6, 2007 #13
    1) Physics, which is has *very* broad applications in the modern world.
    2) Jobs that want you for your strong math background and analytical / problem solving training. Other relevant experience a physics major tends to give you is in lab work, programming, or just learning really hard stuff in a hurry.
  15. Nov 6, 2007 #14
    I've been doing a Computer Science Bsc for about two years and I realized what I really want is physics. What are the best areas in physics, considering job oportunities and the money you can make. Also it would be nice to know some really good european universities in physics.
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