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Physics Dual Major

  1. May 2, 2013 #1
    So Ive decided that Im going to become a physicist(a theoretical physicist , field is still undecided). I'd like to co-major in either math or engineering
    so I'd like you guys to evaluate
    Physics-Math Double Major as opposed to Physics-Engineering Double Major
    What are the adv/disadv of each and which of these would complement and help me in becoming a better physicist.. also I know I havent specified the field of Engineering but I have yet to decide .. If you folks have any idea as to which field in engineering would best complement my knowledge in Physics then I'd appreciate it. Thank you. Also Ive seen a similar thread but the answers are pretty vague.
  2. jcsd
  3. May 2, 2013 #2
    There isnt an area of engineering that compliments most theoretical physics content or curricula well.

    However, engineering may compliment theoretical physics in the sense that you cant get a job in theoretical physics, but you can in engineering.
  4. May 2, 2013 #3

    So Engineering Physics double major beats Math Physics Double major solely because it opens up greater job opportunities?
  5. May 2, 2013 #4
    From which country are you drphoton,
    if your country has 'engineering physics' degree for b.tech then you may take it, you can check about it in wikipedia, this branch gives you a basic knowledge in all branches of science and helps you to advance problem solving skills and modern use of technology, just search about it
  6. May 2, 2013 #5
    Depending on the course catalog, a dual major in physics and math may be the easier option. Perhaps not the more employable, but at least in my program the physics math majors who wanted work all got it. This will vary immensely by program, but at my university there were only nine extra courses required to make a physics major a dual physics-math major, because of the number of math pre-requisites in the physics degree. It was only three to minor in math, which is what I did. In retrospect, I wish I had done the extra six courses, which could have been statistics. I do a lot of statistics now, and it would have been useful to me to have studied it before I started my career instead of after. As an aside, many engineering students are under-prepared in statistics. Knowing the stats used in industry is very employable.

    Usually, the number of courses required to dual major in physics and engineering will be much, much higher than this. Outside of the introductory physics and calculus sequences, usually these courses of study have no classes in common.
  7. May 2, 2013 #6
    Double major in physics and math (: Nice , which second major would improve my skills as a physicist , math seems like the obvious answer but could it be engineering? I understand that taking engineering as a comajor opens up a lot of doors in terms of employment.. Did you being a math-physics major minor face any difficulties finding a job or did you go straight for masters (I dont plan on working after Bachelors , dont think id find a decent job even if I did).. Tell me more about your plan for the future and what you're currently doing ! Thanks :D
  8. May 2, 2013 #7
    As someone with a Physics/Math double major and an Engineering minor. If you want to be a theoretical physicist, math is the better choice. If you want to be an industrial/experimental physicist, engineering (especially electrical) will probably serve you better.

    Besides that, it's your choice.
  9. May 2, 2013 #8


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    Something else you may want to consider is that it may actually be to your advantage not to double-major in anything... depending on how this is done at the schools you're considering.

    The advantage of a double major is that is gives you an official "qualification" in both subjects. A physics major who wants to go to graduate school for math may or may not be seen as a qualified applicant, but if he or she has double-majored in physics and math, then there really isn't any question.

    But if your heart is set on physics graduate school, having a double major in another subject may not necessarily bolster your prospects. In fact, it could hinder you in that it pigeon-holes you into taking courses that you really aren't interested in just to satisfy requirements, rather than giving you the freedom to take the courses you want. In a single major, you may have more freedom to take the courses that you want.

    Basically what I'm saying is don't get too hung up on trying to impress anyone with the title of your undergraduate degree.
  10. May 2, 2013 #9

    That answered my question ( Ill go with the first one ) but is the workload of Physics/Math double major and an Engineering minor even tolerable?
  11. May 2, 2013 #10
    Thats a good question. To succeed, either in physics or engineering, you need to do more than take classes. You need to do research or internships. If you just pile up majors and minors without publishing research or interning then you are going to be less competitive than your peers. Thats the problem with trying to keep your options open, you spread your skills thin such that none of them are remarkable (or marketable).
  12. May 2, 2013 #11
    You have to love the material, if you don't, it'll chew you up and spit you out. As a more direct answer, yes it's tolerable, but it's a ton of work.

    On top of that, I'm also doing condensed matter research and high energy research, so you can imagine how it gets at times.
    Last edited: May 2, 2013
  13. May 2, 2013 #12
    Wow I didnt even take that into consideration.. Insightful ..
  14. May 2, 2013 #13
    I'm glad it seems as though you are getting some good advice here. One other obvious move...Do you already know what college you are going to attend? Is it close? If so, you'll want to drive on up there and spend a few hours with the academic advisors in the various departments. They will be able to give you the specific details of the programs you'll be taking and the potential conflicts and complements. Info you can't get here.
  15. May 2, 2013 #14
    I'm a double major in physics and electrical engineering, the physics background helps for some areas of EE such as integrated circuits, nanotechnology, solid state devices, plasma, etc. I've been noticed at some career fairs specifically because of my physics major though (Lockheed Martin's system engineering apparently likes physicists who can program and do simulations). I currently have a job doing printed circuit board design and have a summer research internship in fusion plasma diagnostics. The varied background can help you get noticed by lots of varied people, being a generalists will get you a job but being a specialist will also help you keep it.
  16. May 2, 2013 #15
    I'll give you my two cents. If you want to be a physicist, either of these options could give you useful skills and knowledge. The kinds of hands on experience you get as an engineering is really handy for an experimentalist. Knowing how to make your own test equipment, and troubleshoot problems is huge. You don't necessarily need to be an engineering student to learn these things. As an engineering major, you will also learn a bunch of stuff that will be completely useless for this career ambition. As Choppy said, having the words of two majors on your diploma isn't as important as knowing the stuff you need to know to do what you want to do.

    If you want to traipse off into industry, the engineering qualification can be useful for opening doors. Some places actually recruit physics undergrads/masters for engineering type roles, but others want to see that you have coursework from an accredited engineering program. You will need internships and/or research experience to be competitive for many desirable jobs. When I interview candidates, a lack of these things is usually a bad sign.

    As for finding a job with my physics degree, it was a mixed bag. I had an opportunity to work in defense designing warheads, but I didn't end up doing that. I spent a year working on a masters, then bailed out of that program once I had another job offer in medical devices. Personally, I'm glad I didn't go any further in school, because I hated school. Getting a master's degree is useful for many technical positions, but I didn't, and don't, need one because I'm good enough at what I do to impress interviewers regardless.

    Defense contractors in particular seem more open to physics majors than many other industries. After school I had leads at Raytheon Missle Systems and General Dynamics. I also noticed that my physics background gives me some insight into EE type work. I work as a mechanical engineer most of the time, but my physics background enables me to bridge the gap into EE work as well.
  17. May 2, 2013 #16
    I'm a physics major, but I was considering doing a double major with EE at one point. Talking to my academic adviser, she basically asked if I wanted to be good at physics or just okay at both physics and engineering. In other words, double majoring will take up a lot of time... time that you could be spending practicing physics (if that's your main goal). I decided right then that learning physics was my primary concern and that's what I should focus most of my energy on. Not to mention, I've had more time to spend in the lab doing research. Double majoring isn't necessarily a bad idea if it doesn't take too much longer, but it all really depends on your goals.
  18. May 2, 2013 #17
    False dichotomy, you can be good at both (I like having more technical skills than the average physics major and more theoretical knowledge than the average engineering major); the issue is taking the time and money needed to get to that level.
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