I need career advice please -- Computer Science vs. Physics

In summary: I don't think nationwide averages are useful when any country is far from uniform. I think you should be getting 100k+ easy at an entry level position with FAANG in SF. It pays well, so obviously the competition is pretty fierce. But they do hire a lot of people.
  • #1
Cha0t1c
15
5
> In case you find this post too long, you can find the question written in bold under the Question section.

Note:there are additional questions under the Additional Questions section.

I am a computer science major, I got into computer science because at some point in the past I was very interested in computers, how they work on a more abstract level, and in hacking/cybersecurity and because it offers better career prospects.

But, if you ask me what is the field that I am most passionate about, my answer won't be computer science, it is physics. So, no matter how much I try to focus on computer science, not matter how much I try to find something in this field that I could be more passionate about, I always fail. It is in the beautiful equations of physics that I find myself. I am not exaggerating, physics for me is more that a science, it is more of a spiritual pursuit where I find myself at peace!

But let me not dive too much into my dreams. I am a realist/rationalist, that's my curse! My decisions are based on reasoning and logic alone, I see life as a bunch of parameters, some need to be high, some need to be low. Long story short, I take decisions based on the option with highest materialistic outcome, and with little concern to the emotional outcomes.

Question:

So, is there a way to get a lucrative career in physics?

It doesn't need to be in research, though I'd like it to be, but all I want is that if someday, I felt like I need to do research in physics, I could go into it directly without the need to through university for another 10 years!

Additional Questions:

I have an idea. What if I study physics while learning all about computer science on the side. Would I be capable of getting a software engineering job? What privileges would computer science graduates have over me? Can I get software Architect positions at some later point in my career?
 
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  • #2
Cha0t1c said:
not dive too much into my dreams. I am a realist/rationalist, that's my curse! My decisions are based on reasoning and logic alone, I see life as a bunch of parameters, some need to be high, some need to be low. Long story short, I take decisions based on the option with highest materialistic outcome, and with little concern to the emotional outcomes.
Consider the major field of Engineering! Any sort or kind of Engineering. You could pick several elective courses from Computer Science and Physics. (If you have enough time.)
 
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  • #3
Cha0t1c said:
Long story short, I take decisions based on the option with highest materialistic outcome

That would not be "physicist".

Cha0t1c said:
So, is there a way to get a lucrative career in physics?

How lucrative is lucrative? Could you become a millionaire? Yes. Could you become a trillionaire? No.
 
  • #4
What counts as physics to you? There's a lot of people working on imaging --- be it medical, prospecting for oil, or computer graphics based on physics (both simulation and rendering). That might be an interesting combination of physics and computer science, and a career where you don't need to have a PhD to contribute or get employed (though many will have one).
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50 said:
How lucrative is lucrative? Could you become a millionaire? Yes. Could you become a trillionaire? No.

Well, lucrative for me, is a job that would pay at least $100K+. Though being a millionaire is cool, I don't expect to get that much money just by being a physicist or engineer.
 
  • #6
Päällikkö said:
What counts as physics to you?

I like to know how everything works. So, I can't choose a specific part of physics, I might be interested in E&M today but tomorrow you could find me learning about Thermodynamics. The best field for me, is a field that includes multiple other fields in physics. Also, I lean more towards the applied aspect of science.
 
  • #7
Cha0t1c said:
s a job that would pay at least $100K+.

You do know that the average starting salary for recent college graduates who are software developers - the highest paid category - is $67,236, right? So I think you should be asking yourtself "why am I worth 50% more?"
 
  • #8
Vanadium 50 said:
You do know that the average starting salary for recent college graduates who are software developers - the highest paid category - is $67,236, right? So I think you should be asking yourtself "why am I worth 50% more?"
I don't think nationwide averages are useful when any country is far from uniform. I think you should be getting 100k+ easy at an entry level position with FAANG in SF. It pays well, so obviously the competition is pretty fierce. But they do hire a lot of people. Also, if money is the goal and you aren't getting 50% more than what you started out with in 5 years' time, you're doing it wrong --- I don't think OP said that they would need the 100k+ straight out of college.

Cha0t1c said:
I like to know how everything works. So, I can't choose a specific part of physics, I might be interested in E&M today but tomorrow you could find me learning about Thermodynamics. The best field for me, is a field that includes multiple other fields in physics. Also, I lean more towards the applied aspect of science.
I mean, fair enough, but that's not how jobs usually work: You kind of do need to choose what specific aspect (of physics) you'd like to specialize in and craft a career in it (thus a suggestion of e.g. computer graphics, or imaging more generally, which is a blend of computer science and physics). Of course you can change course down the line, but "generalists" are not really needed, especially ones straight out of school without any true "generalist" experience.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
You do know that the average starting salary for recent college graduates who are software developers - the highest paid category - is $67,236, right?

Well sure I didn't mean to say I should be getting 100 grand as a fresh graduate, the number that I mentioned is meant to be a mid-career salary, which I think is the right amount for such level of experience, at least that is what I found by checking the website of the Bureau of Labor Statistics and some dozen other websites...

Vanadium 50 said:
"why am I worth 50% more?"

I would like to ask myself a different question. "Why shouldn't I be worth 50% more?"

Because I am not lazy, I always try to keep up with the progress in my field, I learn new technologies, I learn new programming languages, I learn soft skills...etc. Plus, of course, I go into fields with high demand...
 
  • #10
Päällikkö said:
I mean, fair enough, but that's not how jobs usually work: You kind of do need to choose what specific aspect (of physics) you'd like to specialize in and craft a career in it (thus a suggestion of e.g. computer graphics, or imaging more generally, which is a blend of computer science and physics). Of course you can change course down the line, but "generalists" are not really needed, especially ones straight out of school without any true "generalist" experience.

Yeah I know, this is a specialist's world and it kinda sucks, to be honest...It only creates people who do not know anything beyond the boundaries of their very narrow fields. But I see the necessity of it in our modern-day society. It kinda makes me wish that I was born in the golden age of Polymaths. LOL
 
  • #11
Have you looked into medical physics at all?

It can certainly include lots of other fields of physics, as well as other sciences. A lot can depend on where you decide to go with any research you do.

It definitely leans toward the applied side of things.

And since it's a professional branch of physics, it tends to pay well once you've gone through the certification process.

How to Become a Medical Physicist
 
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  • #12
Cha0t1c said:
I go into fields with high demand...

The $67,000 number was for fields in high demand. That's why it's $67,000 and not $50,000.

Cha0t1c said:
Because I am not lazy,

Are you saying others are?

Cha0t1c said:
I always try to keep up with the progress in my field,

Are you saying others don't?

Cha0t1c said:
I learn new technologies

Are you saying others don't?

Cha0t1c said:
I learn new programming languages,

Are you saying others don't?

Cha0t1c said:
I learn soft skills.

Hmmm...

I think rather than trying to plan your life out to the micron right now, you would be well-served taking class on business and how it works. Your local CC almost certainly has something suitable.
 
  • #13
Vanadium 50 said:
Are you saying others don't?

I didn't say anywhere in my post that other people are not doing the same things that I do. However, not all people do these things, and that's the difference between brilliant engineers and average engineers...

Vanadium 50 said:
The $67,000 number was for fields in high demand. That's why it's $67,000 and not $50,000.

I don't know man, but I think there's something wrong with your numbers here...I've read in many many places that software engineering salary could get much much higher than that figure of yours. Plus, I've asked multiple people who are working in the field about the salary range and their response was that it could go well beyond $100K for good developers. So please, could you provide a legitimate source to support your claim?
 
  • #15
Cha0t1c said:
Well, lucrative for me, is a job that would pay at least $100K+. Though being a millionaire is cool, I don't expect to get that much money just by being a physicist or engineer.
People who make $100k+ should be millionaires before they retire. Just to put a fine point on it, usually "millionaire" refers to net worth/wealth, not income. Income of over $1m is very rare, but wealth over $1m is middle class.
 
  • #16
Vanadium 50 said:

@Vanadium 50 , it's worth keeping in mind that the first link you provided deal with entry-level salaries for various professions or jobs -- the OP is referring to mid-career salaries. Also, we see average wages -- are these the mean, or median wage?

I also want to note that the article in the first link makes the following statement:

"Graduates should keep in mind that averages can mask variations. For example, within STEM-related careers there are some specialized areas that pay significantly more than average"
 
  • #17
To the OP:

I have a few questions/comments:

1. You clearly seem to have an interest in both physics and computer science. Are you not able to double-major in both at your school?

2. With regards to studying physics and taking computer science on the side -- many students have done so, and subsequently worked on areas related to both (scientific computing, image processing, data science, etc.)

3. Careers in physics research (whether in academia, national labs, or in industry) will usually require a graduate school education (typically a PhD). Is this something you are open to pursuing?
 
  • #18
StatGuy2000 said:
it's worth keeping in mind that the first link you provided deal with entry-level salaries for various professions or jobs -- the OP is referring to mid-career salaries

He's said both. He said mid-career, but he also said he's worth 50% more than the average at entry-level.

Obviously, the better defined question he asks, the better an answer he will get.
 
  • #19
Why not do a bunch of both? Some of my favorite folks are physicists who are also excellent software engineers. There's plenty of fascinating work being done on the forefront of physics and CE, including leveraging modern machine learning methods to solve physics problems.

And it's possible to leverage that into the software-based analytics space, where hitting $100k is pretty trivial (our hires hit that in a few years, at most).

Beware the boxes the university curricula can stick you in. Build a very strong math and software background and then go do something interesting with it.
 

Related to I need career advice please -- Computer Science vs. Physics

1. What is the difference between Computer Science and Physics as career paths?

Computer Science is a field that focuses on the study of computers, their design, and their uses in various industries. Physics, on the other hand, is a field that focuses on understanding the fundamental laws and principles that govern the natural world. While both fields involve problem-solving and critical thinking, they have different applications and career opportunities.

2. Which field has better job prospects?

This can vary depending on the current job market and individual skills and interests. Generally, Computer Science has a higher demand in industries such as technology, finance, and data analysis. Physics has a wide range of applications, including research, engineering, and education. It is important to research the job market and consider your own strengths and interests when making a decision.

3. Which field offers higher salaries?

Again, this can vary depending on the specific job and location. In general, computer science careers tend to have higher salaries due to the high demand for skilled professionals in the industry. However, physics careers in certain industries, such as engineering and research, can also offer high salaries.

4. Is it possible to combine Computer Science and Physics in a career?

Yes, it is possible to combine these two fields in a career. Some examples include pursuing a career in scientific computing, working in a research lab that uses computer simulations, or developing software for physics-related applications. It is important to have a strong foundation in both fields and be able to bridge the gap between them.

5. How can I decide between Computer Science and Physics as a career?

The decision ultimately depends on your interests, skills, and career goals. Consider researching both fields, talking to professionals in each field, and gaining hands-on experience through internships or projects. You can also consider your strengths and what you enjoy learning and working on. It is important to choose a field that you are passionate about and will enjoy working in for the long term.

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