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Not sure if a physics major is right for me. Need insight into lifestyle

  1. Oct 20, 2008 #1
    I've been on the fence between a physics major and an engineering major (of some sort) but I have a few problems associated with both.

    First off, what is it like to be a physicist? I really don't want to sit around and crunch numbers all day and not actually do anything with all the material I learn. That seems a tad pointless to me. I really enjoy physics and learning how the universe works but I want to be able to do something with all that knowledge. I've also heard the job market isn't exactly great and there is a good chance I won't even end up working in a physics related field. Right now the physicist's lifestyle doesn't sound too appealing.

    Now for engineering. I don't know exactly what do to here. I really would like to go to University of Kentucky but aerospace engineering isn't offered there. The closest thing is a certificate for what I think is grad students. Obviously doesn't help me much. I've come across one other college in the very general area that even offers aerospace but it's far too expensive. Aerospace isn't offered anywhere in Kentucky.

    So do physicists do anything practical or do they merely think up stuff and leave it to the engineers to apply it?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 24, 2008 #2

    I had a similar dilemma between physics and engineering during my undergrad, and was often tempted to switch from physics to engineering. I was, and still am, really into both the amazing science that you study in physics and the fascinating applications you build in engineering.

    In the end, it's the questions that motivate research that differentiate between engineering and physics. Physicists search for better understanding of nature and the laws of how things work. Engineers use that better understanding to build things. So, I've found myself happily as an experimental physicist, where I still build a lot of experimental apparatus and use that apparatus to study the laws of nature.

    Taking the skills you learn as an experimental physicist would put you in a decent place to work in either industry or a national lab.

    In short, many experimental physicists do all sorts of practical stuff, but the motivating factor is usually exploring a realm of the laws of nature that we don't know as well yet.
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