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How to keep your options open

  1. Apr 20, 2013 #1
    What kind of undergraduate degree would leave the greatest variety of options open in areas of maths and the sciences?
    Last edited: Apr 20, 2013
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 20, 2013 #2


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    Options with respect to what?

    If you're struggling with trying to choose a major early on, you don't have to worry too much. The first year of university among students in the physical sciences, mathematics, and the various engineering disciplines is pretty uniform. It's only once you get into your second year or so that the programs really start to diverge and even then, if you really decide you've made a mistake, it's usually not too costly to backtrack and go in a different direction.

    Programs to avoid are those that get too specialized too quickly. In physics for example it's my opinion that you really don't need to specialize in any particular sub-field until you get to graduate school. So an undergraduate major in "astrophysics" or "medical physics" really isn't necessary. You're not "doomed" if you do specialize, but keeping things reasonably general through undergrad is a good idea.
  4. Apr 21, 2013 #3
    What are you interested in?

    I started out in biological engineering and discovered very quickly that it was way to restrictive as far as career options and areas of study. If you're interested in engineering, then I would suggest trying one of the broader areas such as electrical, mechanical, or chemical. Also, if you're not interested in grad school, engineering is probably the best way to go.

    I would say that if you REALLY want to keep your options open and don't mind going to grad school, then something like physics might be the best choice. If you're willing to go to graduate school then you can study almost anything with a physics degree (including engineering) because you will have such a broad degree of understanding. I ended up switching over to physics after my first year and I am very happy with my decision. It has allowed me to explore my interests in other fields and pick up a minor in geology.

    Really, the answer to your question depends on your career goals/interests.
  5. Apr 22, 2013 #4
    I think computer science leaves the most options open. You could work on other projects with physicists as a developer and have the option of being much more employable.
  6. Apr 22, 2013 #5
    In my recent hunt for STEM jobs this is pretty much the case. There are a bigger number of computer scientist jobs at scientific institutions than there are for any given science degree at the bachelors level, particularly in the realm of physics/astronomy.
  7. Apr 22, 2013 #6
    I suspect that keeping options open very much correlates with having no specific marketable skills. This is not something you want. A graduating high schooler with no college has very broad options, more open than any graduate. After (hopefully) getting marketable skills in college options are more advanced, but less broad and open.
  8. Apr 22, 2013 #7
    Are you hearing yourself? You can still apply to unskilled labor, retail jobs, or anything else a fresh high schooler can do with a college degree. There are plenty of people who do this either temporarily or for longer periods. If you were making the argument about a phd trying to get a job bagging groceries, I would agree he/she'd be turned down unless they tweaked their CV a lot, but fortunately employment isn't that bad for phd's yet.

    A college degree used to be a rare thing in entry level jobs, now a relevant degree is a de facto requirement even for paper pusher work that people did with high school diplomas 30 years ago.
  9. Apr 22, 2013 #8
    I don't think the ability to bag groceries after graduation is what the original poster means by "open options". The OP is looking for open options in areas of math and science.
  10. Apr 22, 2013 #9
    And how do you suppose a fresh high schooler is going to get a job doing science, math or engineering, when most don't even take a calculus, physics or a machine shop class?
  11. Apr 22, 2013 #10
    By going to college of course.... I don't get your line of questioning. Before college you have open options, you can do any major and any type of internship or research. After college you have specialized, somewhat, and hopefully have some deeper prospects in a narrower field. You dont have to know what that field is when you start college, but hopefully you have one at the end. Otherwise you are back to where you started with open options. "You can do anything with that degree" - means, it doesnt train you for anything specific and you are back at square one.

    To answer the OP, I would agree with the other posters. Computer science seems pretty open and also has a lot of people hiring. It may have among the best balance of providing open options and marketable skills. You cant do anything with those skills, but you can do a lot with them.
  12. Apr 22, 2013 #11
    In this case and in many subjective cases "open" is relative which is why I suggested CS to be relatively more "open" in regarsd to options than physics.
  13. Apr 22, 2013 #12

    Vanadium 50

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    While I think ModusPwnd took it too far, I think there is an important idea there. Eventually, one has to specialize, and that means closing some doors. As they say, "not to decide is to decide".
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