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Majoring in physics at a lower tier university/career options

  1. Apr 25, 2014 #1
    I am currently finishing my freshman year at San Jose State University. SJSU is not a very prestigious or selective university especially in the sciences. I was a bit of a slacker in high school, but I still managed to do fairly well ( >3.5 GPA, 2190 SAT I, lots of AP's). I ended up choosing to go here because simply because I did not get into my top choice, it is close to home and it has a large engineering program. I am currently an Aerospace engineering major. I wanted to major in physics all of high school, but senior year, I was convinced that it would be a bad career decision. I figured Aerospace was a good compromise between interesting and practical. Now that I am finishing my first year of college, I feel like I have made a mistake; I really want to major in physics.
    The problem though, I worried about my choice of college and my future career options if I switch majors. SJSU doesn't have a very reputable physics program; will this handicap me significantly? Will it be noticeable more difficult to get into graduate schools in physics, engineering, or other sciences if I get a bachelors degree from here versus higher tier universities? or will I be find as long as I have a high GRE and GPA with some research experience? Another thing that worries me are my career options. I'm really not certain what I want to do for a living; there are just too many fields and careers that interest me to decide. I know that a graduate degree is usual needed on top of a BS in physics for good jobs, but if I get MS (not necessarily in physics) will there be opportunities for good paying jobs. Getting a PhD is something that I want to consider, but realistically 10 more years of school plus post docs sounds daunting and like a huge sacrifice. I may what to get a masters in engineering or recently medical physics sounds like an amazing field and career choice. What I really want to know is: if I major in physics prepared to also get a master's, will there still be a lot of opportunities for good paying careers? and what are they?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 27, 2014 #2
    As an undergraduate also studying physics and astronomy at a school that is not exactly recognized for its physics and engineering programs, what I can tell you is that you should plan to be sprinting right out the gate. Don't feel you've dug yourself a grave by going to a school of lesser prestige, because there are still plenty of opportunities for you to advance and excel, but you just have to be willing to put in the extra time so stand out. First things first, keep your GPA up as much as you can. I know that is a given, regardless of institution, but it is more significant that you do so at these smaller universities. In my opinion, if you decide to go down the physics track, keep an eye out for research opportunities with your professors, or better yet go through their online bios and see whose research interests you. Then, ask them if they have any research opportunities for undergraduates. I can definitely tell you that having research experience will greatly aid you in your graduate applications.
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