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I need help, I am undecided and frustrated!

  1. Jan 13, 2013 #1
    Hello, I am soon going to attend college though I am helplessly undecided between majoring in either physics or mathematics. I find them both ever so enticing and feel that it is like deciding between two identical Italian sports cars that only differ in color; and they both happen to be two of your favorite colors. (sorry for the stupid analogy =P). I have tried to list the pros of each that are unique and different from the other to help but to no avail. I am going to list them below and I would greatly appreciate if you can give your opinion on them and ultimately help me put an end to this.

    Pros for physics:
    1) I really like science and mathematics and I used to feel that this would be the perfect major since it really is a combination of both.

    2) I am led to believe that (I'm not sure if this is true so correct me if I am wrong) it would be "easier" to get into physics graduate school than mathematics graduate school since there seems to be more undergraduate research opportunities.

    3) Physics interests me since it is the most fundamental science and I am a sucker for quantum mechanics/astronomy/nuclear physics/etc and would love to engage in research (more specifically theoretical physics).

    Pros for mathematics:
    1) I think it would be a much more organized/less stressful/more streamlined major since I would be attending just math courses instead of learning math and physics simultaneously as a physics student; which I have a feeling can become a bit overwhelming (correct me if I am wrong).

    2) Direct mathematics interests me just as much physics and I would equally like to engage in either pure or applied mathematics research.

    3) Math is very fundamental and theoretical as well; which I am a fan of.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2013 #2


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    You can take both physics and math classes for a few years and then make a decision based on which one is more interesting to you at that point. You should also try to decide what kind of job you want, and where the degree(s) you have in mind might get you.
  4. Jan 13, 2013 #3
    That is what I was thinking of doing but I feel that it is better If I knew of the bat. I would like to be as active as I can in the field I chose to go in, even from the beginning so I thought being decided would give me the ability to go full in. But If it has to be the way as you describe it, I guess it can work as well. PS. about the job thing, I have thought about that too and like both paths equally XD. And thanks for your help!
  5. Jan 13, 2013 #4
    Why not double major?
  6. Jan 13, 2013 #5
    I don't know much about double majoring but I am assuming that it is very difficult. Also, I want to take as many classes as I can of the major I choose (ultimately to get a bachelors of science) but I will definitely take this into consideration as I learn more about it!
  7. Jan 13, 2013 #6
    I am a double major and they just made me take 30 extra credit hours over and above the requirements for the first major (10 classes). The thing is, if you are a physics major you will probably already have to take around 4-5 upper level mathematics classes anyways. So you are already halfway to a math major.
  8. Jan 13, 2013 #7
    I don't think one is easier than the other. For some people, math will be easier, for others, physics will be easier.

    I wouldn't say right off the bat at all, but after a while, there starts to be a trade-off between specializing in one or the other. I pity mathematicians who have never even taken one physics course. That would strike me as quite an impoverished view of math. Ironically, the best thing that ever happened to me from a math point of view was when I studied physics for the first time.
  9. Jan 13, 2013 #8
    Majoring in both fields will still leave you room to take extra classes in both, but be prepared to take many credits. I am currently studying for a B.S. in physics and math, and I have usually been taking 18/19 credits every semester.

    There is a decent overlap for the first two years of a physics and math degree (depending which classes you decide to take). I wouldn't feel too pressured as this is a large amount of time to decide what you would like to devote your time towards.
  10. Jan 14, 2013 #9
    I was on the same boat few years ago. I opted to do a double major in Theoretical Physics and Pure Mathematics. Since there were a lot of overlapping courses, (i.e. some math courses required to fulfill both degree requirements) I was able to pick up a few courses in other departments as well! I took Molecular Biology and Philosophy and Physical Education courses and they were a relief (A chance to get away from the numbers! :P)

    I'd say do double majors in both instead of doing specialist in one. It leaves you more room to wiggle and experiment. =)

    Also if you decide to take the applied route and leave theory alone, in either of the two fields, make sure you pick up some programming skills along the way.

    Good Luck

  11. Jan 14, 2013 #10
    Wow, thank you all so much for your replies!
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