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Other Physicist, Electrical Engineer, or physician

  1. Aug 1, 2016 #1
    Hi, I am a rising junior in high school. I have always wanted to be an engineer. I eventually found out that I loved electrical engineering, ever since then my career path was focused on engineering. I discovered that I love physics as well. Every time I learn about a new physics topic I get jittery and happy. I thought " this won't be a problem, I'll just double major".

    However, I put some thought into this and thought about what it was like to actually be a physicist or actually be an engineer. I heard that electrical engineers don't actually build things ( or at least not often) and don't use what they learned in school. When I thought about physics I began to ask the question, "what will I do as a physicist" ? I new what the school portion was like, but I had no Idea what kind of jobs are available for physicist. I

    guess the physics and school part blinded me to ignorance. I'm sitting here two of my dream careers crushed wondering what the world had in store for me. I met a physician. And I thought about it as a career and I can see myself being a physician. Physician get good pay, are highly respected ,and have a job where I know what it's like.

    Now I have to choose dream jobs with possible disappointment or physician where I'm only kind of interested in the job. I want to know what you guys think I should do. I am not afraid of work and am willing to double major.
    Last edited by a moderator: Aug 1, 2016
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 1, 2016 #2


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    Physicians need to deal with people and their psychologies, and this is frustrating and often messy. You really need to be a person who likes interacting with people often in frustrating situations. The receivers of your care may not always be cooperative, and when they are, they may not communicate well. If you are good at learning the technical aspects of this work and can deal with this messiness, then maybe becoming a physician (after going through medical school) might be for you.

    Physicists are mostly scientists and they want to understand how matter and energy work, and how they behave. Physics depends heavily on Engineering, and Engineering depends on the progress of Physics as a science. Some physicists become engineers; and some become other things.

    Engineers focus mostly on designing equipment and designing processes. Some might build things, and some might investigate accidents; but building things is what happens AFTER an engineer/engineers have adequately designed what is to be. Engineers usually find jobs in the working world.

    All of this relies on Mathematics. The more, the better.
  4. Aug 1, 2016 #3


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    The first thing to keep in mind is that you don't have to choose a career right now. You're putting a lot of pressure on yourself to decide on your entire life, when you don't have to.

    You will soon have to make some decisions on your educational path though.

    Assuming you're in North America, if you want to keep medical school as a possibility, you need to do (at least part of) a different undergraduate degree first. Most medical schools will expect that you take several prerequisite courses, which are fairly common to most science programs anyway. These typically include: first year biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, etc. But the thing is, once you have this set of courses, the rest of your degree doesn't matter. So you can take physics or engineering and still get into medical school afterwards.

    Once you have an education out of the way, then you decide on what job you want based on the available options. If you want to end up doing what most people think of as physics, you'll be trying to get into academia which is a very tough egg to crack. You'll need a PhD in physics and even if you get that, your adds at an academic position aren't great - typically in the ballpark of 1/10. Most physics graduates end up doing quite well for themselves, but they usually end up leaving the field and working in other areas.

    On the engineering side of things, the field is too broad to make sweeping statements about what you would or would not actually be doing. People tend to gravitate toward the work they enjoy, so if you want to "build things" or use a particular skills set more than others, there will likely be opportunities to do that. Don't expect them to knock down your door though.
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