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Physics Vs Chemistry for Undergrad

  1. Dec 3, 2013 #1
    Hi,

    I'm an undergrad student in India doing a BS program. I've studied all the subjects for past one and a half years and now have to choose one to major in. I'm really torn between physics and chemistry.

    Unlike many other people I have no firm idea about what I want to do in future and is open to almost anything that interests me. I've done some basic Mechanics, Electrodynamics (Griffith) and QM in physics and QM (Krane), Physical Chem and Basic Organic and Stereo chemistry in Chem. I found both of these subjects interesting and can't decided between the two.

    Physics seems to be interesting because it can explain everything around us and I really enjoy reading about theories and trying to hypothesize. However I had little math in high school and my progress with math has been glacial, so I'm worried that would hold me back a lot ! Even in the above mentioned courses I had to really work hard and still did not get a very clear idea of the subject even though I got decent grades.

    Chem on the other hand is easy for me but seems to be less rich in abstract ideas or theories which I love. I like Organic etc but am not very sure if I want to spend my life on it ! Also unlike in physics, my chem basics are somewhat strong.

    Any help would be greatly appreciated !!! :D
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 3, 2013 #2
    Its good to think about what BS you enjoy pursuing. But of course its also good to think about what you want to do after.

    Since you are choosing between two science degrees, I assume you want to do some kind of graduate school? A research PhD, MD or other professional scientist degree? This is the stuff I would think about when choosing my BS degree.
     
  4. Dec 3, 2013 #3

    radium

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    I would do physics since it is very easy to switch to chemistry later on, especially for graduate school. My research advisor majored in physics and chemistry and did his PhD with a physicist in physics and chemistry and now is a professor of theoretical physical chemistry.
     
  5. Dec 3, 2013 #4
    This isn't a true. A physics degree is essentially worthless for organic, inorganic or analytical chemistry. A physics degree would limit him to physical chemistry primarily.
     
  6. Dec 3, 2013 #5

    radium

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    Not if he took a few chemistry classes/did a minor it wouldn't. I've known of plenty of physicists switch to chemistry or chemistry-like fields of engineering.
     
  7. Dec 3, 2013 #6
    Adding a minor is adding an entire second degree, that's different than a physics major simply switching to chemistry. If he wanted to do, say, organic chemistry he'd need at minimum a year of organic chemistry with lab, inorganic and either more organic classes or research.

    The main point being that the physics degree would not have been helpful and it isn't necessarily simple to just switch, though it can be done, of course.
     
  8. Dec 3, 2013 #7
    Also, if one plans to stop at the BS level a chemistry degree is more marketable than a physics degree. Although each really need a graduate degree to be competitive for careers.
     
  9. Dec 3, 2013 #8

    radium

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    That's not true at all. The job market in chemistry is much worse than in physics, even at the post graduate level. It also much easier to change fields with a physics degree. Many of my friends have gone straight from undergrad to work in fields like programming, engineering, start ups, venture capital, and finance.
     
  10. Dec 3, 2013 #9
    I'm glad someone else said this because this is certainly the impression I have. I don't have hard statistics but even a higher level chemistry degree is tough to sell at the moment (it seems).
     
  11. Dec 4, 2013 #10
    Thank you guys for such quick replies !! :) I was caught up between exams hence the late reply.

    I'm not really looking for a job directly after B.S, I will do a PhD or MS or any other science degree after this. So I'm not that worried about getting a job directly after BS, though I'm concerned about the possibility of getting into one of the nice places for PhD.

    As for the switching part, I have been thinking about that as well and it seems (from what I have heard, which might be wrong) that going from physics to chemistry is somewhat easier compared to going from chemistry to physics.

    I love the ideas in physics but I don't know if I've enough math muscle to be a good physicist. I want to be good at what I do :D Chem on the other hand seems easy and easy but I can't really see myself doing it.

    I'm not going to let go of either :D I'll take a minor in one and major in other. If I do that would it be hard for me to switch to the other later on ?
     
  12. Dec 4, 2013 #11
    Ha, I dont believe that at all. Chemistry is a easier sell than physics and there are more jobs available for a chemistry graduate than a physics graduate. The chemistry PhD and MS students from my lab got employed faster and with higher pay than the physics grads. In the years that I have been looking for a career job with my MS and BS in physics I have seen many more opportunities for chemistry grads than physics grads.
     
  13. Dec 4, 2013 #12

    radium

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    I haven't seen that at all, especially in condensed matter physics where I know several people who got jobs at IBM or Intel (although perhaps this is because I go to a highly respected university which has some of the best on campus recruiting opportunities, especially for undergrads). It's true that high energy has a terrible job market in academia, but those people can easily go work for a hedge fund or in a programming job. Experimentalists may also be able to get a job in medical physics (I have heard of this before). In general chemists have less math skills (not in pchem though, the chemists in my theory/DFT group know a lot of math and programming) and math skills are highly sought after in the job market. Many of the industries where chemists could formerly find good jobs (pharmaceuticals for example) are having a ton of trouble. I also seem to remember a survey from the ACS which didn't seem to bode too well for job prospects in chemistry.
     
  14. Dec 4, 2013 #13
    I was at an Intel booth at the last career/internship fair I was at. They had no interest in a physics graduate. I do know that Intel hires physics PhDs though, but they dont generally get hired from career fairs. Intel has hired many chemists from my group. I know they do hire relevent physics PhDs but I think Intel needs chemistry grads more than physics grads. I dont think that high energy graduates can easily go work for a hedge fund or a programming job, unless they have some very specific programming skills. Experimentalists go into medical physics? I dont think so, not unless they go to graduate school for medical physics... Also I think your comment about math skills smacks of a teachers platitude rather than what industry actually wants. I been to half a dozen industry/internship fairs at my local universities, none of the potential employers mention any math skills being sought after. What math skills do you refer to I wonder? What I have learned is that industry wants computer programming skills.

    What you are saying is what I am used to seeing on these forums. Lots of enthusiasm and positivity with respect to job prospects with physics degrees. In my experience this is not the case. Physics is a very hard sell unless you have a specific professional graduate degree or PhD. But I did not go to prestigious universities. I did both undergrad and grad school at a PAC10 state university. There is no recruiting of physics grads at all at any of the universities I went too or went to career fairs at.
     
  15. Dec 4, 2013 #14

    radium

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    Well finance, consulting firms, venture capital firms, and hedge funds tend to be very conscious of prestige, so it makes sense they would hire from less prestigious schools. But from my experience at a prestigious university, a physics degree is very marketable.
     
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