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!

Majoring in CS solely to get a job

  1. Aug 31, 2013 #1


    User Avatar


    I am a second-year student studying mathematics at university. But give the pure nature of the subject, I have always worried about being unemployed after I graduate. So I thought of majoring in computer science because there are so many jobs in industry.

    However, I never liked computers. I actually had nightmares. I can't imagine myself staring at a screen 40 hours a week. I have taken three programming courses to brainwash myself into liking programming, and although I did okay in those, I never had a burning passion for them. Despite I can work in finance or business with a math degree, I don't think the job prospect isn't as good as a computer science major who can get like three offers the moment he graduates.

    On the other hand, I am worried about flipping burgers after getting math degree. Also, I it seems like I do not need to work in IT industry with a computer science degree, but I can also get a job in business or finance as a math major would.

    So, for those of you majored in CS to get a job, are you happy with your decision?

    I look forward to any advice. Thanks in advance.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 31, 2013 #2


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    Not a CS major but I think some people can bear to do it just for the money, some can't. I spent a year after I got my physics degree trying electrical engineering. I did it for the money (I had a kid on the way). I hated it, I'm more interested in the nature of things than their applications. So I went back to science. I have financial fears still though.
  4. Aug 31, 2013 #3
    Unless you enjoy it, you'll be bad at it and will get passed up a lot for people that are actually passionate/good. If you just want a job, you don't need college. There's plenty of resources online that can help you develop a portfolio, if you just want a job doing basic development.
  5. Sep 1, 2013 #4
    You have to find something that you have a passion, or else you never excel in the career. Try EE, take a class or two and see how you like it. With good math background, you are ahead of the game.

    Programming don't have to be just about programming. In scientific programming, you are require to have deep knowledge of math and physics. Programming like signal and image processing, you need to know Fourier Transforms and other math. You might like that better.

    But if you really don't like it, don't do it. 40 hours is longer than you imagine when you are in it. If you can't stand it, how are you going to survive in this for 30 years.

    On top of everything, you always have to work with other people sharing the task to write a big program. There are so much finger pointing and arguing during integration. I did programming early in my career. I finished one project and I determined to get out of it.

    You are only in the second year, don't declare a major, venture to other subject while you continue math. Math is the language of science just like English for everything else. Advanced level physics are explained in terms of calculus etc. You are not wasting time with math. Only you know what you like, just keep trying.
  6. Sep 1, 2013 #5
    Go for what you like, life is too short. If you have to passion and if you are good, you'll get ahead no matter what career. It is so important to do what you like, that's what life is all about.
  7. Sep 1, 2013 #6
    I think a little differently than the others here. The vast majority of people will never get a career that involves their pre-held passion. The easier and more common scenario is for a person to develop a passion about what they are doing after they start doing it. You are right to worry about job prospects. You could easily spend lots of time shooting for your passion and find yourself without career prospects. During that time you could have been fostering a passion for something else, something useful. But, if you think you can get into business or finance with your math degree then you dont need to worry. You can go back for CS later if things dont work out.
  8. Sep 1, 2013 #7
    I feel many people are brainwashed into thinking you can't get a job with a physics or maths degree.
    o_0 of course employment isnt 100% but as long as you have a plan and figure out WHAT is it that you want to do with the degree you will be fine.
    It's a matter of finding a job (one that won't be extinct in the next 20yrs hopefully) that you want to do and THEN figure out the roads that will lead to that job.
    that's how it should be for everybody imo
  9. Sep 1, 2013 #8
    You need a complete reevaluation then. Staring at computers 40 (or more) hours a week is what most everyone does. The civil engineers I know sometimes see the field, but most weeks they're at a computer monitor. Ditto for the EE's. Ditto for all computational and some theoretical physicists. Ditto for most of the 2,500 people who work at the insurance company that employs me.

    What is it you think you're going to do with a math degree that doesn't involve computers?? Find those 21st century paper and pencil jobs?

    Construction. Some sales jobs. Most medical jobs. Farming. Those are careers that don't sit in front of a computer monitor. I'm sure there are others. You need to identify which one or two of those you want to do and change your major so you have a shot at doing them.
  10. Sep 1, 2013 #9
    Its not that way though. We need to take care in distinguishing between the way things are and they way we want things to be. Its not as simple as "have a plan and figure out WHAT is it that you want to do with the degree you will be fine." Life doesn't work that way. Most people's plans have many unexpected twists and turns and virtually nobody ends up as they had planned. The better advice, I think, is to plan but stay flexible because life will most likely dump you somewhere you didn't plan for.
  11. Sep 1, 2013 #10
    CS and programming is very different from using computer to do work. I don't like to do programming much particularly tired of sitting in a group arguing whose program causes the problem. But I like using computer. Yes, Everybody is on computer all day doing something. I use computer to do RF simulation, draw schematics, laying out pcb etc. That is very different from programming.

    When the program get bigger, you have to keep track of thousands and one variables, house keep is a big headache.
  12. Sep 1, 2013 #11
    Good question, what can a pure physics major graduate do without a PHD? What kind of job available for them?
  13. Sep 2, 2013 #12
    As far I know this is physicsforum and I don't intend to do generalization, but why it seems that most of the posts seem rather discouraging in tone for those who are interested to be a physicist or pure theoreticians for that matter?

    From my point of view I think it's good and healthy to be well, sort of optimistic, on what you like to do the most. If you're interested to become a mathematician why suddenly you are thinking about flipping burger. I find it rather too extreme and disturbing at the same time.

    Is the world economical situation really that bad that students have to worry to such extent when they want to choose their major and what they'll do in the future?
  14. Sep 2, 2013 #13
    You can easily get a job in Computer Science that is less, "programming" and more math. Theoretical Computer science is a good example of this and is largely based in number theory, abstract algebra, linear algebra, graph theory, combinatorics, etc., also look into scientific computing.
  15. Sep 2, 2013 #14
    Of course it is. Unemployment is high, underemployment is high. Unless you are already financially set or blissfully ignorant you should absolutely be considering career options after college. I know that there are some on here that think you should just take college as a learning experience, they say not to treat it as a competition and not to worry about career options after graduation. I think only the richer families in our society can afford such a lax view. For me, and most of my fellow grads, we saw college as a means of entering or staying in the middle class (or higher) while also getting a career doing something somewhat enjoyable. Otherwise, why even go?
  16. Sep 2, 2013 #15
    I think physics is a very useful knowledge. By itself, I don't think there are lots of career opportunities, but it is so easy to combine with a little bit of other knowledge to make a good career out of it. As a retired EE, I still studying electromagnetics ( physics) because I see the usefulness of a strong math and physics background. Physics and math are like language of science, you'll get a much deeper appreciation of other science even if you don't use it directly. If I were to do it again, I would seriously consider major in physics with EE as minor as pure electronics are not hard, it's when mixed in with physics ( RF, antenna) then it's hard. You go much farther with good physics background.

    I agree with Mathwarrior, I worked in the field of mass spectrometry. All the programmer GOT to know signal processing, Fourier Transform, maybe even partical physics as they program step by step how to accelerate, bunch, deflect, detect, timing......every single step of the process. How can you know how to program without the knowledge of physics? But then if you work for B of A, then yes, it will be a waste of all the knowledge of physics!!!

    I don't agree that you should study for a field that you can get good money, but not thinking about jobs and money is not the right way to go.

    Well, I am open to be wrong, but can someone tell me what kind of job you can get with a BS in pure physics?
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  17. Sep 2, 2013 #16


    User Avatar

    Thanks for your advice everyone.

    To be entirely honest, I don't even know if I actually hate computer science. I mean, I like it for the first few weeks when the assignments are easy, then started to hate them when they get harder, then reconsider taking another course because I am so worried about getting a job.

    I think I shouldn't do CS.
  18. Sep 2, 2013 #17
    You're assuming that this trend will always continue, just look at the Great Depression, or other previous economic crisis, they were generally over quicker than expected, whilst being followed by a period of growth and expansion. Now, I'm not going to argue about economics but considering career options realistically and worrying about flipping burger in the future are two different things altogether.

    I've never mentioned that career options should be ignored. I'm just worried that people who will do fine in the future will simply back away or be discouraged excessively from what they like to do the most simply because their career options don't have good outlook now, if indeed that is the case, which I also doubt for there are many decent options for pure theoreticians.

    Of course the consideration is significantly different if one's goal is to live in opulence straight after graduating, regardless of one's interests.
  19. Sep 2, 2013 #18


    User Avatar
    Gold Member

    For me, that's true. But I know people that take the painfully boring job that pays well, and just wait until weekends and evenings to do what they like. And they can afford to like a larger variety of things. For them, it's not important that their work is meaningful or intellectually fulfilling, and I'm happy for them (I wish I was like that!)
  20. Sep 2, 2013 #19
    I cannot do that. Luckily I never had to. I still like what I did and I am still study more physics and math right now.

    I don't think you need to give up physics at all. When you get to higher level EE designs, there are a lot of physics involved and it is an advantage to have the physics background. Case in point, I am studying physics and math to enhance my electronic knowledge..........It's my hobby and passion......And.....You never know, with this economy, I never take for granted I would never work again.
  21. Sep 2, 2013 #20
    People, I asked a few times what kind of job you can get with a BS in physics? I can't think of much. BUT, I can think of a lot of job possibilities if you combine with others like EE and CS. I personally don't see why you have to draw the line of physics. You branch out a little into CS and EE, lots of jobs and you can apply your physics background to the job. I mentioned those a few times that you need knowledge in physics and math for CS and EE. Particular in microwave and antenna design, it is electromagnetics, all based on EM!!!

    To me, CS and EE are kind of like a tool....a way to achieve the result from ideas originated from physics a lot of times. For example, Ultrasound medical scanner was an idea from physics, the doppler effect, phase array summing and subtracting........Those are physics in every sense. CS people programs the signal processing, EE design the circuits, those are just means to achieve the result from a theory of physics. Knowing physics gives you the advantage in inspiration and designs. I just don't see what is so bad that after you get a degree in physics, you become an EE or programmer working in scientific field.

    If I am not mistaken, you'll likely to find a job in EE and CS that uses your knowledge of physics than if you insist in getting a job in pure physics. Without a PHD, you likely be a technician building something for a scientist. In EE or CS, you actually design, create your project that you can call it your own.

    I worked with plenty of PHDs in Charles Evans, I would not trade my job with most of them. You really think all the physicist are inventing things that change the world? If you have that idea, you might want to rethink your career. This is real life, the cold cruel world.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  22. Sep 2, 2013 #21
    There's a reason you haven't gotten the answer you want.
  23. Sep 2, 2013 #22
    I really think physics and math are the two majors that easily adapted to most scientific career and gain advantage. If I were to do it again, I would seriously consider physics major and minor in electronics. I designed a lot of electronics, from RF to micro controller and FPGA. Other than RF ( that's the real deal), you really can learn on your own if you survive physics. CS? Get a book!!!! It's really not that big a deal for people that survive physics. Then find a job in the scientific field like what I had, Medical scanner and mass spectrometer/metrolysis equipments etc. You really see the physics in action. Apply for an engineering job in SLAC etc.
    Last edited: Sep 2, 2013
  24. Sep 2, 2013 #23

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    This whole thread has the implicit assumption that college is trade school: it's job is to give you a credential that will get you hired. This is not the case - on both ends. College is not trade school, and no employer will offer someone a job solely because they have a degree. Even in CS.

    The employer wants to know what you can do to make him money. You should know what you bring to the table before applying. Chances are that sitting on your butt and regurgitating what you have heard is not going to impress a prospective employer. He has Liberal Arts majors for that. :devil:

    So you should not be thinking "which majors will get me a job?". You should be thinking "what do I need to learn that will make me more employable".
  25. Sep 3, 2013 #24
    Most average computer science majors plan on getting a job in the IT field as soon as they graduate. On the other hand, I , and a few others in my program who are very passionate about theoretical math and writing proofs, are going to apply to computer science Ph.D programs, like AI and cognitive computing.
  26. Sep 3, 2013 #25
    There isn't really that much difference between the two, different majors entail learning different things. Some are more employable than others, like CS vs Math.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook