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Physics for Me?

  1. Jul 6, 2007 #1
    Hello all,

    I recently graduated from high school, and accepted my offer to a pretty good university in the faculty of science. I am going to be majoring in physics and/or chemistry. I just want to know if it is right for me. More specifically, what do people do out there with a physics degree besides work towards their PhD and become a professor/researcher?

    I am too young now to decide what to do with my life, that's why I am studying physics, it is what I like best. With a degree in physics, are the options open for engineering? It seems like a very broad field which might suit my interests, however it is too early now for me to commit to an "engineering" degree.

    Such things as renewable energy, alternative fuels, and nanotechnologies interest me. I could have applied to the faculty of engineering for an "electrical engineering" degree, or "nanotechnology" but once again, I feel that I am too young to pick one thing for the rest of my life.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 6, 2007 #2
    eh, i don't think anyone here can answer that question

    No worries though, you'll get a better taste for it once you're in there taking courses, talk to different people...

    At most schools, you can switch over to engineering from physics since there's a lot of overlap between the two. Some people even do both! Make sure you check though. My school, for instance, is very departmentalized, and transfers into engineering are really tough, usually requiring a repeat of a few terms.
  4. Jul 6, 2007 #3
    Engineering programs train students for engineering jobs, while physics programs are more open-ended - the point of a physics degree is to learn about the universe, rather than to acquire job-specific skills and knowledge.

    Of course, there is a lot of overlap between physics and engineering, especially in materials science (which is what you seem keen on). The skill set of someone in materials engineering is often pretty similar to someone with a physics background in materials. In practice, research in this area is carried out by people with backgrounds in both engineering AND in physics.

    Undergraduate engineering physics students take many of the same courses undergraduate physics students take, but engineering students often require more practical courses and may need to take ethics/communications classes. Physics students have a bit more freedom to choose how they will specialize (astro? biophysics? condensed matter?) and typically take more math courses than engineers.

    If you think you'd like to go to grad school, or if you think you'd like to learn about particles and relativity and astronomy, then physics is a good option. If you'd probably like a job when you finish your undergrad, then engineering is the best bet.
  5. Jul 6, 2007 #4
    From my personal experience, I can say that there are jobs out there for physics bachelors, but they aren't "physics" jobs per se. With a physics BS you can get a job as a computer programmer, an analyst, or an engineer. If you don't plan to go to grad school then I would recommend majoring in engineering physics, if your school has such a degree. If not, then you should probably double major in physics and engineering.

    Another thing I figured out in undergrad: they say that a BS and a BA are essentially the same thing. This isn't entirely true. I've seen job postings that specifically require a BS, and will not accept a BA. It doesn't matter so much for those of us who went to grad school, but if you want to get a job, a BS is the best idea.
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