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New member here, I really need some advice picking a major

  1. Nov 9, 2015 #1
    Hey everyone, first of all I'd like to point out that I do plan on becoming an active part of this community, because I love physics! That being said, I am currently a sophomore in college and am currently taking a bunch of EE classes because I had decided to try to get into the EE program at my university. I had decided to try to make this switching after becoming absolutely infatuated with Classical Physics II (circuit theory, magnetism, optics). Lately, however, I've been having A LOT of physics thoughts, so much so that I am contemplating switching majors with my enrollment date coming up in just 3 days. I am so torn because I know an EE degree would almost guarantee me a job after graduation. I do enjoy EE and I have fun designing things, but I feel as if my true passion is physics. I am absolutely fascinated by E&M, quantum physics, relativity, etc and would love to be a research physicist. My only issue is that these positions are apparently few and far between according to most people. I should note that I do attend a very very research-oriented school with close connections to a national lab, but I know that doesn't guarantee anything.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 9, 2015 #2
    Becoming a research physicist is less impossible than many make it seem, provided that you keep your options open. True, becoming a research professor at a university is a very difficult thing. But there are physicists outside universities. For example, developing technology for a company.
    If you keep your options open (meaning taking certain courses like programming), you are almost guaranteed a job as a physicist. But then you need to be aware that you might land a job which isn't a research physicist. But you won't be jobless. (Of course, if you don't keep a plan B in mind and take a lot of courses only on topics like neutrino's in stars and nothing else, then you'll have a difficult time. So do try to keep in mind that you'll need to develop abilities outside of pure physics, trying to land internships in companies would be a good idea to try too. There are many other things to do).

    Of course, you might also try to double major in EE/physics. But really, if you're a bit smart about your decisions during college, and if you take into account that you might get a job that doesn't use physics heavily (like being a quant), then you will almost certainly end up with a nice well-paying job.
  4. Nov 9, 2015 #3
    Thank you for your response. I am currently learning C and as a result of everything I've read about I'll probably pick up C++ or Java as well. I do plan on adding an EE minor if I do decide to major in Physics and I would be taking more courses than required for the minor because as you said I want to keep my options open (leaning towards Digital Signal Processing if anything). A double major would be quite difficult but I suppose not impossible, I'd have to speak with advisors regarding scheduling, but I want to go to graduate school.
  5. Nov 10, 2015 #4
    Check to see if your university offers an Engineering Physics major. Usually it works as a sort of streamlined double major between engineering and physics.
  6. Nov 10, 2015 #5
    I looked around and there are very few schools which have that major (only one of which is a possible option for me). Furthermore, it's basically just a physics major with a few engineering classes of the students choice. I could easily just do the physics major and take lots of EE classes and end up with the same credentials. I just don't know how that'd look to an employer. My school does have an EE master's degree with concentration in Quantum Electronics and Semiconductors, which is something Im definitely interested in. Part of me wanted to to make the next big leap in physics and finally explain gravity using string theory (or something of that magnitude), but thinking more realistically I don't think I'm smart enough to do something like that. Is there any way that I can self-study Quantum physics/relativity? Because I really hunger for that knowledge. Physics makes me emotional and I feel very strongly about it (weird?). But yeah, sorry for the babbling by the way, I really needed this off my chest.
  7. Nov 10, 2015 #6
    It's not uncommon for electrical engineers to take undergraduate quantum mechanics, depending on their specialty. You can also take a modern physics course which should include special relativity (this is often a prerequisite for QM anyways).
  8. Nov 10, 2015 #7
    That's what I was thinking. Thanks again for your input!!!
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