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Seeking Career Advise (Engineering, Physics, Molecular Biology)

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  1. Sep 23, 2014 #1
    Hello,

    While I'm reading though various threads here on PhysicsForums, I thought I'd make a post asking for some advice/insight from those who have already gone though the process of finishing a degree and gained valuable life experience. I have a few questions which I'll post at the latter half of this post.

    I need to choose an undergraduate degree.

    Engineering seems like it might be a good pragmatic choice. I'm just trying to decide what stream to take.

    There's:
    -- Biomedical and Electrical Engineering
    -- Communications Engineering
    -- Computer Systems Engineering
    -- Electrical Engineering
    -- Engineering Physics
    -- Mechanical Engineering
    and lastly,
    -- Software Engineering

    ENGINEERING AND PHYSICS QUESTIONS:
    ========================================
    (Q#1) PREAMBLE: Engineering Physics:
    The courses in Engineering Physics seem similar to those in BS (Bachelor of Science) Physics. According to accounts of BS (Bachelor of Science) Physics graduates on the internet, it's hard to get employment as a Physics graduate. In contrast, Engineering graduates generally have good employment prospects. However, I've yet to see a breakdown of salaries and employment prospects of Engineering graduates by Engineering program-types. The students statistics I've found show that the starting salaries of BS Physics graduates are on average about half of what the starting salaries of Engineers are.

    (a) Since the Engineering Physics program is similar to BS Physics, would Engineering Physics graduates struggle to find employment the same way BS Physics graduates do?
    (b) Would the stating salary of Engineering Physics (ie. EP) graduates be about the same as Software Engineering, Electrical Engineering, or Mechanical Engineering? Or, would EP graduates probably be expecting salaries closer to what BS Physics graduates makes?
    (c) How is the work and jobs of Engineering Physics graduates different than that of BS Physicists? Please provide some examples if possible.

    (Q#3) Any thoughts on Software Engineering vs a BS in Computer Science? Please consider all aspects, such as possible enjoyment, salaries, employability, etc..

    (Q#4) For someone who's not sure what Engineering program to choose, from those I listed above, which would you recommend and which would you caution against taking, and why? Please consider all aspects, such as possible enjoyment, salaries, employability, etc.. I would also be curious to hear what people's experiences have been in each of the different Engineering streams.

    (Q#5) Generally speaking, I'm interested in research--am I really going to go crazy in Engineering (vs going into Science) or am I just over-thinking things? I mean, I like a lot of things and I'm also good at computers. As you know, not everyone knows what they want to do. Also, there's rarely if ever a perfect career path out there. Therefore, choosing a career path is a bit like picking the best multiple choice answer. So, while I'm not entirely sure I want to go into Engineering, is it really that big of a deal in the end? I'm not all about money but when you consider the hardship one might have to endure with regard to employment prospects, moving, and relatively low salaries in the Sciences verses good prospects for Engineering, well, which of the two would you recommend? What has real life taught those of you who have been though all this and now can look back in retrospection?

    ----------------

    I'm also considering going into BS Molecular Biology Program. My primary interest would be research, specifically genetic engineering, but I want to consider all angles before I jump into it.

    BACHELOR OF SCIENCE MOLECULAR BIOLOGY QUESTIONS:
    =================================================
    (Q#1a) Would you say I almost certainly would need to get a Masters to ensure good employment prospects? How easy is it to get employment in Molecular Biology?
    (Q#1b) How would employment prospects differ between a Bachelors and Masters with Molecular Biology? Ie. How are the jobs different, what would I be doing, where might I be working, etc. in both cases?
    (2) Would I need to move a lot like BS Physics graduates do?
    (3) What is the average starting salary of Molecular Biologists?
    (4) Do Molecular Biologists struggle to find jobs just like BS Physics graduates?


    BACHELOR OF SCIENCE PHYSICS QUESTIONS:
    =================================================
    (Q#1) Is it really true that to succeed as a BS Physicist you'd need to move a lot?
    (Q#2) If you're primary interest in Physics in doing research, what is the minimum level of education you'd need? (I'm assuming at least Graduate-level?)


    //////////////////////

    So, that concludes my questions for now. Any insight would be appreciated.

    Thank you in advance.
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 23, 2014 #2
    Q#1 No. If by succeed you mean be marketable with a career type job then you need to do a graduate program of some sort. A physics BS by itself will not open many doors. You may need geographic flexibility, but that is not the same as moving a lot. The notion of moving alot applies to getting your PhD, then post-docing, then doing permanent positions. This applies more to your question 2.

    Q#2 Usually, a PhD. Often a couple post-docs afterwards too.
     
  4. Oct 5, 2014 #3
    Thank you for your clear reply to my Physics questions ModusPwnd.

    Anyone care to tackle my Engineering questions? I would really be curious for a comparison of people's experiences among the different Engineering streams and pros and cons against each stream.
     
  5. Oct 8, 2014 #4
    I'll wade into the biology side of this.
    BACHELOR OF SCIENCE MOLECULAR BIOLOGY QUESTIONS:
    =================================================
    (Q#1a) Would you say I almost certainly would need to get a Masters to ensure good employment prospects? How easy is it to get employment in Molecular Biology?
    (Q#1b) How would employment prospects differ between a Bachelors and Masters with Molecular Biology? Ie. How are the jobs different, what would I be doing, where might I be working, etc. in both cases?
    (2) Would I need to move a lot like BS Physics graduates do?
    (3) What is the average starting salary of Molecular Biologists?
    (4) Do Molecular Biologists struggle to find jobs just like BS Physics graduates?​

    Yes, you need a minimum of a Masters in Biology. Jobs are tight in this field, in my opinion supply exceeds demand. A Bachelors degree is considered to be a qualification as a technician in molecular biology. With a Masters degree, you can start in a supervisory role doing the same work, but managing the techs. You generally need a PhD for work with much independence. Generally this is wet lab work. It is possible to branch out into related fields.
     
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