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Physics major?

  1. Feb 2, 2009 #1


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    Hi. I have a question to ask the countless physics students on this forum.

    I just completed my gr 12 physics course (SPH 4U) and I absolutely loved it!! The teacher was awesome, he had so much passion for the subject and he would go out of his way to tell us about how he majored in physics and had a great time in university, about the application of physics. We also watched a documentary, "The Elegant Universe" and I was totally inspired by it.

    I have been accepted at Western and Waterloo and I was just debating that when time comes to choose, which one would be the right for me? While I do want to go to medical school (Mind you, I know how tough it is to get in), I also have this thirst to do physics in university. I am afraid that physics, related very much to engineering is REALLY hard in university. TO get into med, you need a high average, which I may be able to achieve through biomedical science at Waterloo, as it is mostly memorization. At the same time, I want to go to Western to do physics but will I be able to pull of a 3.7+ GPA? I worked efficiently in gr 12 (not my best as I had English during the same semester and it is my weakest course), yet was still able to pull of an 88-89. Through hard work, would it be possible, perhaps even easy to pull of a 3.7+ at Western Physics?

    Physics would also be my second career option as I would be able to pursue engineering if I decide not to do medicine or not get in med school. Please help.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 2, 2009 #2


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    Do something you enjoy. If you hate your courses, you won't get good grades.

    It's never easy to pull a 3.7+ in physics anywhere, but it's definitely possible with enough hard work.

    Why do you want to go to med school?
  4. Feb 3, 2009 #3
    Physics is hard work with very little reward. I wouldn't even bother getting a B.S. in physics unless you are dead serious about getting the Ph.D. It is pretty much a useless degree by itself. I received my B.S. in physics with a 3.6 GPA, and wish I had gone into engineering instead. Engineering students with good GPA's can make damn good salaries with just a B.S. or a masters. About the only thing you can do with a B.S. or masters in physics is become a high school teacher. The AIP wants you to think that the world is starved for physicists, but that's a bunch of nonsense. Engineering is where the jobs, glory, and money are.
  5. Feb 3, 2009 #4
    I've known of physics students at my university who have gone on to med school and law school

    You might want to keep in mind that the stuff in "The Elegant Universe" is more theoretical physics (different than engineering or applied physics).
  6. Feb 3, 2009 #5


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    I was in about the same boat when I finished high school.

    I would suggest that you take a first year science degree that will allow you to explore your options - with courses in physics, biology and chemistry. Once you have those under your belt (remember university can be a much different experience than high school), you'll be in a better position to decide on a field to pursue. You'll probably find that it isn't so easy to get good marks in any subject you don't particularly like. Further, in playing the "good mark game," you run the potential of cheating yourself out of the education that you're going to school for in the first place and still not getting into medical school.

    With respect to a physics B.Sc. being a "useless" degree - that just isn't consistent with the statistics:
    Nor is it consistent with my personal experience.
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2009
  7. Feb 3, 2009 #6
    Western as in Western Washington? Are you yourself Canadian? If so it might be alot more expensive to go to school in the US; however, I don't know the details of your situaton so ignore this if it doesn't apply.

    edit: actually you said grade twelve, you must be canadian :)
  8. Feb 3, 2009 #7
    I think he means Western Ontario University in Canada =P. I would recommend you to do biomedical science instead if your major goal is to go into med school. Why go through hard physical science when you can work less in biomed ;)..
    I am also a student at waterloo =) tho I am a math student but I was a science student majoring in physics during my 1st year. I decided to switch out, and its best decision I made so far.
  9. Feb 6, 2009 #8
    Two things you should know. First, you are not locked into your major (or your eventual GPA) in your freshman year; there's room to experiment. Second, whether you major in physics or biomed, there will be room in your schedule to do the other, and seeking out variety in the sciences will be looked on well by med school admissions committees. So if you think you love physics, then go do physics, and if it doesn't suit you then switch.

    For the record, Waterloo also has an outstanding physics program: http://www.findoutmore.uwaterloo.ca/programs/full_description.php?program=Physics" so you'll be able to switch no matter where you go.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  10. Feb 7, 2009 #9
    AIP does not differentiate between people who have a physics bachelors, and people who have a physics bachelors AND engineering, or mathematics, or chemistry, or business, or...

    After the experiences of the several physics (pure) bachelors I knew while going through school, as well as my own, I would be disinclined to recommend a pure and exclusive physics bachelor's degree to anyone. At the very least, double major in something flexible (engineering, chemistry, etc.).
  11. Feb 7, 2009 #10


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    Fair enough, but I don't think that proves the futility of an undergraduate physics degree when it comes to the job market. On the contrary one might argue that including physics in conjunction with something else increases one's marketability.
  12. Feb 7, 2009 #11


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    A job doing pure physics will be somewhat tough to get with only a B.S. but that doesn't mean a physics bachelor can't have a successful career in industry.

    I discussed the issue of employment with several friends who have gotten jobs with a B.S. in physics. (Many of the jobs are engineering related.) They are convinced, and so am I, that many physics bachelors can't find jobs because they do not market themselves correctly.

    A physics bachelors degree (including cognates courses) gives a person a ton of experience in:

    computer science and programming
    laboratory techniques
    general analytical problem solving

    There are many, many fields where these skills will be useful.

    If you just put down B.S. in Physics on your resume, you may not get hired because most people don't know what that means. They don't know what you have learned or what skills you have developed.

    The moral: Market yourself correctly, and chances are you won't have trouble finding a job with a Physics B.S.
    Last edited: Feb 8, 2009
  13. Feb 8, 2009 #12
    I agree with the last comment, I know lots of people who have relatively high paying jobs with just a BS in Physics. Including, engineering jobs, physics programming for computer games, physics special effects for movies, etc.
    I imagine a lot of Physics BS may be a bit on the anti social side and aren't able to market themselves properly, at least from my experience with a lot of undergrads in pure physics.
  14. Mar 16, 2009 #13
    Physics or math undergrads can lead to a huge variety of jobs in industry, economics, finance, etc. Even in 'less thinking' fields, a 'smart sounding' degree (like physics or math) will make less intelligent people just assume you are competent at other things. You could get a job doing practically anything, or at least an interview, because people will assume you are smart, even though you'll probably have no practical or social skills.
  15. Mar 17, 2009 #14
    Please ask the AIP if those statistics are for people who have a Bachelor's in physics and ONLY a bachelor's in physics.

    I've asked. They've never been able to give me an answer. Maybe you will have better luck.
  16. Mar 21, 2009 #15
    Wow! You seem to know a thing or two about this. I'm a nurse returning to school for a career change and interested in renewable energy. I'm majoring in physics with engineering option. I will get my BS in four years, masters in 6. What's your take, or anyone else out there for that matter, on majoring in physics with eng or just eng? I'm 35 years old now. I NEED a job when I'm done with my BS. I'm no spring chicken! hahaah

  17. Mar 23, 2009 #16
    Hey VPV!

    I have been reading your thread about physics and medical school! I just wanted to let you know that there is a career in Medical Physics out there that you may want to check out. I have made an article on ehow that outlines the process and what the career entails based on personal experience. Check it out. Feel free to drop me an email if you have any further questions.


    Sincerely, MedPhysGuru
  18. Mar 23, 2009 #17
    Do whatever interests you. Opportunities will arise no matter what subject you decide to study. You got into two great universities, use your first year of undergrad to explore different areas of study that seem interesting to you. You can get into medical school with any degree.

    A lot of people say that they want to become a doctor when they begin their undergraduate education, but a large proportion of those people end up pursuing different interests. The path to becoming a doctor is a long and hard one, filled with hard work, long hours, lots of stress, lots of pressure, and a boatload of debt. If you are considering becoming a doctor I would recommend doing a lot of research into what it takes.

    In regards to physics, a background in physics can get you into areas like medicine, law, engineering, politics, and business, to name but a few. I find that a lot of students get hung up on the question of "what can I do with my degree?" when the question that they should be asking is "what do I want to do with my degree?".
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