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Jobs with BS in Physics

  1. Oct 1, 2016 #1
    I am a current junior physics major, I have done an REU and work closely with a couple professors who think highly of me. My GPA and classes are pretty average. I am debating on either sticking with Physics and graduating with a BS or switching to engineering. What would be best for job outlook, specifically is there anything I can do with a BS in physics.
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 1, 2016 #2
    Disclaimer: I'm a far less experienced physics major. This is just my vague two cents.

    I think one can do a lot with a physics background. What matters is what you mean by "best". What kind of questions and/or problems do you find interesting/important? How much are you willing to work? Because the interesting and important problems seem to be the most complex and challenging. And why? This is just how I look at things.

    If you mean "best bet for getting a job" (and after re-reading your post, I think you do) then probably engineering. I think people say mechanical and electrical have good outlooks. Maybe computer engineering too for AI/robotics. Bioengineering for genetics? Advancing technology doesn't necessarily mean jobs, right?
  4. Oct 2, 2016 #3
    I don't know, is there anything you learned to do (or will learn to do) while getting your BS in physics? Paper and pencil problems doesn't count.

    This question comes up a lot and can lead to contentious discussions. Everyone seems to agree that lots of physics undergraduate programs leave you with essentially no employable skills. Most arguments are over whether this is intended and well communicated.

    I think many also agree that the foundation of physics - mathematics and problem solving - can be a good platform on which to develop employable skills. If you also do that second part (which is probably NOT part of your curriculum) then you'll be fine. If not, you'll join the ranks of the bazillion "Can't find a job with my BS in physics" posts that have occurred in this forum over the past 12+ years.

    Best of luck.
  5. Oct 2, 2016 #4
    I understand the problem solving skills part that gets developed over the course of a physics education. I have done and am doing research in physics and its much different than school (more enjoyable really) and it does develop actually applicable skills.

    I am just more curious as to if I should stick with physics or go engineering. If I were to stick with physics I would be working closely with a professor has a lot of research opportunities for me currently and in the future. If I go to engineering I would be essentially starting from scratch, but engineering is more marketable supposedly. So is it worth it to give up the physics path for engineering.
  6. Oct 2, 2016 #5


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    Personally, I'd stick with physics as I found it more intellectually satisfying. Engineering by its nature is limited because it's about the practical application of science and math to build something. Some people like to design and build things. If that's you, engineering might be a better choice.

    The main advantage of an engineering degree is that it makes it easier to get an entry-level engineering job. Having a BS in physics, however, will qualify you for many of those same jobs. It's just that you won't get the automatic pass on the first cut that the phrase "engineering major" on your application or resume will afford you. The advantage of physics is that it's more general and wide-ranging. It's easier to go from physics and specialize in engineering than the other way around, if you later realize you chose wrong.

    Also, you should realize there's a wide range of engineering jobs. Most engineering majors aren't going to get designing jobs right out of college. A lot will be hired to provide application support, to do testing and quality assurance, etc. A lot of these position you can do with a BS in physics. The main obstacle is getting the hiring people to consider you in the first place.

    Have you discussed your options with the professors you work with? The department should have some interest in making sure its graduates can find good employment if they choose not to go to graduate school. They can probably give you a better idea of what your outlook after graduation looks like and might even be able to help you find a good position.

    Can you do a minor in engineering or simply take engineering courses on the side? I'd start with that, and if you find you really prefer engineering over physics, then consider changing majors. I wouldn't change majors simply because you think majoring in engineering is going to get you a job more easily.
  7. Oct 2, 2016 #6
    Would a BS in physics and Engineering be a good option? I have not talk to my advisor just yet but am planning on doing so but he seems to really encourage grad school and I can't tell if he's is just trying to get more students.
  8. Oct 2, 2016 #7


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    Why "give up" on Physics? Must you study no courses outside of Physics? Have you thought about 'starting over' with engineering but not going too far with it, but still mainly study to get B.S. degree in Physics?
  9. Oct 2, 2016 #8
    No I study plenty of courses outside of physics and enjoy them, but really I am just wondering if the label of being a physics major vs a label of being an engineer major would enhance or restrict my future opportunities.
  10. Oct 3, 2016 #9
    If you were soley focused on getting a job after you graduate but sticking with your physics BS, you could try to enter a masters program in engineering with a bachelors in Physics. Some companies DO hire physics majors by name though; those hiring for systems engineers, optical engineers, variants of electrical engineers, test engineers, software engineers and the like list physics as a satisfactory degree to work on those projects in their job descriptions; but the label of an engineering degree does carry more weight with HR since it's more clearly defined what engineering majors do.
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