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Question about double major/minor

  1. Aug 25, 2009 #1
    I'll be entering college soon (3 days!), and I know its kind of early to be thinking about this, but I have some questions about what major or minor is best to complement my Physics major. I hope to earn a Ph.D in Physics. Right now I'm more interested in the theoretical and basic side of science than in the applied side, although that could obviously change in 4 years and I'm keeping my mind open.
    I'm a motivated physics student, but I would be lying if I didnt say I was worried about employment and paying for my undergraduate and graduate education. So with that out of the way, what other major or minor will best complement my Physics education and improve my employability (maybe in areas outside physics)? If I only major/minor I can take more advanced Physics classes (possibly all my school has to offer if i schedule it right :smile:), but if I double major I'll have more knowledge in my fall-back area (not sure how much a major in Math will help with physics as opposed to a minor)

    So what should be the other major/minor: Math,computer science, EE, engineering science, astronomy, applied math?

    edit: btw: i know this question has probably been asked before, so please excuse the duplication
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 25, 2009 #2


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    I'd go with computing, especially if you're thinking of entering the workforce out of college instead of pursuing a Ph. D.

    It certainly helps knowing how to program and code. All the mathematics you need will be taught in the physics classes you'll be taking (or you can self-study).
  4. Aug 25, 2009 #3
    I do plan on pursuing a Ph.D but i may need a side job or a year or so to earn money (depending on scholarships and my financial situation). If it makes any difference, as part of my Physics major i'm required to learn C+++ (or fortran) and BASIC (or Pascal).
  5. Aug 25, 2009 #4
    As far as employment goes, Economics might help and is rather math heavy (if you choose the right courses), and is a nice social studies complement to a physics major. It also has far more practical applications as far as employment opportunities.

    Usually it is relatively easy to pick up a Math Major along the way to a physics major (since Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, and Multivariable Calculus are usually prerequisites for middle level and higher level physics courses), and it will be EXTREMELY useful in higher study of physics. Complex Analysis, Topology, Differential Geometry, Partial Differential Equations, etc. are all very useful for upper level physics and usually are some classes to complete a math major.
  6. Aug 25, 2009 #5
    If you're thinking you may want to look for employment after undergraduate, some form of computing would probably be the best for a double major.

    If you're looking to boost your status for grad school applications, as n1person said, it's usually not that many more courses to pick up a math major as the second major. It won't be the most important thing you can do to boost your resume, but it certainly can't hurt if you're looking into theoretical physics for grad school.
  7. Aug 26, 2009 #6
    I figured math would be the easiest to pick up (if not to actually do). I'm not sure how well i'll do with the computer classes,but i guess i can always take those as electives and test the waters.
    Since math is integral to calculus (no pun intended) i suppose its best to major in that and try to take some computer electives or teach myself stuff on the side. I'm more worried about grad school than anything else, i was just thinking, if i have to minor or major in something else might as well make it useful.
    Anyway, thanks for the advice!
  8. Aug 26, 2009 #7
    you are required some Math courses for Physics major (namely Calc I, Calc II, Calc III, Intro DE, and maybe Linear Algebra). If you add few more course (1 or maybe 2) you'll have your minor in mathematics.

    as per computer stuff is concerned, well, if you decide to go with Mathematical Computer Science you'll only need to take 3 or so courses for minor as well (given that you already took Calc I, Calc II, and Calc III).

    edit: MCS and Math major has too much in common, even at higher lvl course. For instance, if you choose to major in Theoretical CS and Pure Mathematics, i think you can take some cources like logic, topology and fulfill requirement for both. Likewise, if you choose to do Computational CS and Applied Mathematics, you could take courses like Intro DE and Applied DE.
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  9. Aug 26, 2009 #8
    Honestly, if you're interested in theoretical physics, add philosophy to your list. There is a large amount of philosophy done by professional theoretical physicists and a little training and background can go a long way. Philosophy can be very analytical and if nothing else it will help you write better research papers and will keep you from getting bogged down in old questions. Stick to topics like rationalism and empiricism, philosophy of mind, metaphysics, and logic.
  10. Aug 26, 2009 #9
    Interesting idea about the philosophy courses and theoretical physics. I was planning on taking some philosophy of science courses anyway to fulfill some core requirements (like about the quantum moment or the nature of matter) but outside the core requirements (which do take up a lot of time) i'm not sure if its worth it.
    My school doesnt have mathematic computer science, just computer science and computer engineering. As for the math, I'm required to take: calculus III and IV, linear algebra, applied real analysis, and applied complex analysis for the research program and I'm required to learn two computer languages (one basic one high-level) for the Physics major itself. Its not enough to pick up a math major, but are there any courses outside those that would be particularly useful?
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