1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Looking for a little guidance for choosing my major?

  1. Dec 23, 2011 #1
    Hey there, I've browsed these forums a lot but I never actually signed up, and I thought this would be a good place to ask this.

    In high school, I was very good at math, and when I took chemistry in tenth grade I really enjoyed it. When I took physics in twelfth grade, I thought that I also really enjoyed it as it explained a lot of things and was kind of like solving puzzles and really used math in a more interesting way than just doing math for math. So I looked in doing chemical engineering. I started college and am still currently in a 3-2 engineering track program, where I'd basically end up with a Liberal Arts degree in physics from my school and transfer to another school for a degree in engineering.

    The problem is, I found I don't really think I enjoy chemistry that much, I probably only enjoyed it in high school because it was the first science we hit that involved math in it. But my passion for physics has grown, and although I am not absolutely fantastic in it, I still love it. So now I'm stuck here at a standstill, I can still move on with another type of engineering, or I could still with physics, or I could even go the root of mathematics (something I am better at but don't have as much a passion for).

    The problem is, I'm TERRIFIED of upper levels. I have done very well so far, but I don't think I can handle upper levels. I want to learn, but I'm afraid of just not understanding the material. So here I am, two years into college, terrified of physics, not sure which engineering track I would want to do, and mathematics as something I could probably do but not something I really have the passion for.

    Then there's always math, which I am probably the best at, but never really enjoyed it and have never really felt there were that many interesting jobs in when I was looking for career options. Am I just looking in the wrong places? Are there actually a lot of really interesting jobs in math? It didn't seem like many of my math professors could tell me much about options.

    So my first question to you guys is, how do I find out more of what I really do like and not like? Right now I have a buffet of options and I don't know how to go about researching what careers are truly for me and which are not. When I try to look into differen paths I could take, I feel like I'm flailing around in a ball pit of options. Each major has so many options, there's so much info out there and so many choices I'm looking at, it's kind of overwhelming.

    Second question, I was kind of interested in how people who have already been through the jump from lower level physics classes to upper levels felt about it. Was it a huge jump? Is this the make it or break it part of the system? I feel like although I did well with all my physics classes, there were many things that I just struggled to understand. Did everyone struggle along with all their classes, even in early classes? What were some people's experiences in switching from early to upper level classes?

    Background info: I have a 3.91 GPA at this moment, 4 semesters in and have done well in physics orientation, University physics I and II, and modern physics, and I've taken all my math classes already needed. My only non-A classes were B+'s in honors English, Calc 2, and University Physics I.Although my grades are pretty good, I feel like a lot of the time I forget things when time passes after learning it, and I feel from watching the upper classmen work and study there is a HUGE difference between the work load. I'm taking Thermal Physics, Math Methods, and Technical Electronics for physics classes next semester, and I'm a little worried. It also kind of pushes me away from physics since I'm already worried about my classes, and I know they'll only get harder from here, I mean Quantum Physics terrifies me (although when finals were done, my physics professor talked to me for almost an hour on different things from quantum. VERY interesting subject, sounds like a VERY difficult subject).

    Sorry it rambles! I'm just a little confused about what I really want to do in life, and I'm a little worried about my classes at the same time :S
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 23, 2011 #2
    dont start a ChE degree if you aren't a fan of chemistry, or want the degree so bad that you are able and willing to work through it.
  4. Dec 23, 2011 #3
    Math gets very different from what you are used to once you get to upper level classes, so it's hard to say that you don't like it because, judging from what you say, you don't know what mathematicians actually do at this point.

    When I did upper level math, it was actually easier for me in some ways because it was more satisfying in terms of not being handed things that I just had to accept.

    As far as math career options, finance, operations research, actuarial science, or internet security are a few options.

    Not saying you should do math, but since I'm a math guy, I'm focusing on that.

    I guess if you are afraid of upper level stuff, my advice would be to check out some books from the library and try to read ahead to see if it's really as scary as it seems. But only read things that you have the prerequisites to understand, otherwise, you may skew your perceptions.
  5. Dec 23, 2011 #4
    A spin on this would be that it's all going to look scary, so just look at the books to see if it's the type of stuff you would be interested in learning. Ex. if you looked at an upper level ChE book and think this stuff looks cool, and you would like to learn it, then ChE might be for you; otherwise if you hate the sight of it, def start looking at other things.

    You should do this for engineering disciplines, math, and physics.
  6. Dec 23, 2011 #5
    I was thinking more along the lines of actually starting to work through the first sections of the book and seeing if it's understandable and then maybe skimming ahead to see what topics are covered. If you understand it, then, presumably it won't be scary.

    But I guess you could just take a look and see what looks the most interesting before you narrow it down and invest any time into studying the stuff.
  7. Dec 23, 2011 #6


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Are you implying that there will be some day that you do know what you want to do with your life? Hmmmm....not sure that will ever happen....but it's nice to be young! :)

    My 2 cents is this.....if you can pass Chemistry and Calculus 2.....then you should be able to accomplish anything. Both of those classes seemed impossible at one point right? Yet, you went to class, did homework, studied, and discussed with classmates...and did well.

    "Upper classes" are the exact same thing. Put in a very real solid effort...learn and succeed.

    As an engineer myself....maybe give engineering some thought. Your 3.91 GPA will be history...but so what. Graduating engineering with anything higher than a 3.0 is exceptional. GPA's don't mean a whole lot...except when you are in college maybe.
    The best class I ever succeeded at was Electronics II. I had the toughest, most notorious teacher ever in the history of the world. What did I get in the class? I got a "B-" I am more proud of this grade than any other and I graduated with a 3.1 .
    I may have gotten a B-.....but I learned more in that class than almost all the other ones combined. It's not your grade that counts....it's what you actually learn and can put toward your career.

    Good luck.
    Last edited: Dec 23, 2011
  8. Dec 23, 2011 #7
    Haha, yeah I realize that 3.91 GPA won't be around much longer, since I'm nearly done with all my easy A's (Hey, I had to WALK for my Wellness and Walking class! Oh man, the horror! :eek:)

    Was also looking into the math classes, what extra math classes would really help with engineering and physics? I've taken all my calculus (1, 2 and 3), linear algebra, and intro to differential equations. A lot of people I know take discrete, and some take different levels of statistics, but I don't know what would help and what would just be extra.
  9. Dec 23, 2011 #8


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Do you have an academic adviser? I don't mean just a "gate-keeper" that approves or denies the courses that you select, but a real adviser. I really didn't have one in engineering school, except for a professor emeritus in my honors program that advised me to switch from engineering to liberal arts. He was right. He knew that I was a musician (and technician, fixing and reselling guitars and amps) playing in frat houses each weekend to get enough money to stay afloat, and he wanted me to indulge my creative side. That was a drastic change, especially since I had just been awarded a 5-year pulp and paper scholarship in chemical engineering. Still, I wouldn't change a thing.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook