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Math Major or Physics Major?

  1. Feb 25, 2010 #1
    Hey I'm sort of in a predicament at the moment, since I'm not sure what to major in. Physics has always been my passion as well as math. But, my current Physics class (high school) is making me wonder if I can put up with doing everything the professors way. I'm having a hard time with my teacher since he requires everything to be done his way, and currently getting B's on my Physics tests because I don't always show my work. On the other hand, I'm doing quite well in Calculus with all A's. Now, when I enter college, do the professors make you do it a certain way for problems or?

    Background: I'm currently studying Astrophysics 1 at the graduate level with some help from a professor at a university (PvN...if you know him). I love astrophysics, but I tend to do everything my way. Which is why I'm not doing so well in high school Physics.

    Any advice?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 25, 2010 #2
    Double major for now.

    High School is NOTHING like a half decent university course.
  4. Feb 25, 2010 #3
    I agree, high school is nothing like college. College is a whole new level. In regards to doing things the professor's way, well you'll probably have to deal with that no matter if you are majoring in physics or mathematics. Probably more so in mathematics. My first college physics course my teacher made us write down & derive EVERYTHING in a orderly way, her way. I hated it, then down the line I seen how powerful it was, as not being Einstein, that order is pretty important.

    Math is just worse in my opinion, no college professor I know of deals with the scribble & disorder people get away with in high school. Most of the ones I had say have a rough copy, then a final clean copy. Plus when you get a 3 page differential problem... well...

    Major in both if possible.
  5. Feb 25, 2010 #4
    Thanks for the replies.
  6. Feb 25, 2010 #5


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    Major in math, you'll get better job opportunities and pay when you graduate, which should help you save up enough to go to grad school, or just not have to eat cup ramen noodles for rest of your 20's
  7. Feb 25, 2010 #6
    Can you back that up? I've seen a lot of different "studies" putting physics or math ahead or behind each other in terms of average starting salary.
  8. Feb 25, 2010 #7


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    Average starting salaries: (as per bls.gov)
    Actuary: $53,754
    Financial analyst: $54,930
    Statistician: $46,547

    As a BS in Physics, you cant qualify to be an engineer for state license (PE), and you dont really take a lot of statistics courses to qualify to take actuarial exams.

    Also, if you teach yourself SAS, MatLab, Maple, Mathematica, LabView, etc, you will be able to get various jobs for math modeling for industries like petrochemicals, pharmaceutical, IT, etc.
    Last edited: Feb 25, 2010
  9. Feb 25, 2010 #8
    I've never had a college math or physics course where we had to do something a particular way. All that has ever mattered is that we provided correct justification.

    Actually, I'm taking a graduate course in complex analysis right now, and test grades are based only on the correctness of the final answer. Letter grades are assigned based on how many problems you got totally 100% right. (You get no partial credit at all for wrong answers, no matter what.) I don't like this policy, but I suppose it is an example of an extreme opposite of your predicament where you have to show work in a very particular manner.
  10. Feb 25, 2010 #9
    I made a very similar thread to this, and the responses seem different from that of the ones in this thread. I heard that a major in Physics is better to start off with because it's easier to transition from Physics -> Math than it is from Math -> Physics. Also, I'm a bit confused about being able to switch majors during Freshmen year. I know several private colleges that are lenient like MIT, but several UCs claim that you cannot change your major? It seems like you get stuck with what you get apparently. I was under the impression that many students would switch majors during Freshman year.
  11. Feb 25, 2010 #10
    Keep doing it your way as long as you are getting the right answers. High school physics is trivial. Real world physics has to be done your way, because there will be no one to tell you the right way to solve a new problem.

    As far as math vs. physics. You know the answer, you just need to make the honest and correct choice.
  12. Feb 25, 2010 #11
  13. Feb 26, 2010 #12


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  14. Feb 26, 2010 #13
    That's comparing a specific job title to a degree. It's not a competition, but that list is the top 2009 degrees by salary. Math isn't on it. To be honest, both degrees are equally admirable. They both will get you an excellent job, so pick the one that you simply enjoy the most. Go with your gut.
  15. Feb 26, 2010 #14
    What is the salary for a PhD in math? I'm going to go for a PhD which ever way I go.
    Last edited: Feb 26, 2010
  16. Feb 26, 2010 #15
    Did you even read the site?
    Physics $51,100
    Mathematics $47,000

    Most mathematicians do not become actuaries and it requires a specialized set of study. You could just as well compare it to engineers which is very close to physics which earns more.
  17. Feb 26, 2010 #16
    haha, that's the spirit.
    To the best of my knowledge science and math PhD's can expect something around 30K a year, plus room and board paid. At least, this is certainly true for physics.
  18. Feb 26, 2010 #17
    I don't understand why people going into physics, or mathematics would be concerned with income(as long as it's enough to live comfortably). I understand if doctors, and lawyers are concerned with income, but that's a different story.
  19. Feb 26, 2010 #18
    Naturally, since physics and mathematics UNDERGRADS are a unilaterally bright and inspired group of artistes who want nothing to do with good food, fast cars, nice clothes, and a big house.
  20. Feb 26, 2010 #19
    I would assume most people consider "good food, fast cars, nice clothes, and a 'big' house" as part of living comfortably.
  21. Feb 26, 2010 #20
    yeah cause they don't need to eat or a place to live or anything like that....
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