Should I become a physicist or a mathematician?

In summary, the conversation discusses the speaker's interest in deep thinking and their preference for physics over math. They also question whether they would do well as a quantum physicist and how to decide between pursuing math or physics as a profession. The conversation also delves into the difference between math and physics, and the importance of understanding both subjects in order to excel in either field. The speaker is advised to keep their options open and seek guidance from experienced professionals. Ultimately, the decision between pursuing advanced education in physics or mathematics is recommended to be based on personal interest and aptitude.
  • #1
atharv kapila
1
1
I am a person who likes to think deep and can't keep himself from delving deeper into concepts. Even though math is the subject in which I outshine my counterparts, it is physics that I find more fascinating. Also I feel that physics gives math a sense of direction to work upon.

But I am a 12th grader so my knowledge is therefore limited. Will I fare well as a quantum physicist ? Does quantum physics involve more of manipulation and understanding or imagination ? (For instance mechanics involves a lot of imagination while integration demands fresh point of view and some manipulation)

Also , solving some hard problems of competitive exams across the world does give me some confidence but it also forces me to question if solving some Olympiad problems are sufficient for me to decide whether I'll do well as a mathematician/physicist or not. Whether I'll even like university math or am I someone who's just built to do some basic math really well but not advanced math. How do I decide between the two professions ?
 
Physics news on Phys.org
  • #2
Your question is in my opinion firstly a question about languages. Physics is written in a specific mathematical dialect, namely coordinates. You need coordinates to measure something, and you need to measure something to support your theories. Mathematicians notoriously dislike coordinates because they block the view of what is really going on.

This is in my opinion the real difference between mathematics and physics. Of course, you can master both of them, and good physicists are usually good mathematicians, too, or as a mentor of mine once put it: "There are two types of physicists: mathematicians and blacksmiths." Conversely, mathematicians are usually very interested in physics and not complete laymen. Both fields have developed, develop, and will develop in parallel.

So the answer to your question is simple: What is a linear transformation to you? A matrix, or a combination of rotations and stretchings?
 
  • Like
Likes atharv kapila
  • #3
It is hard to guide students to a good answer to that question unless they've at least seen some calculus on the math side and physics in a challenging algebra-based high school course.

If you have not had those yet, keep your options open until you have had at least one semester each of Calculus and Physics in college, and then circle back and ask again. Especially pay attention in your physics laboratory, since experiment is really what separates physics from math.

In the meantime, you might also benefit from watching the Feynman Lectures in Physics.
 
  • Like
Likes DeBangis21, atharv kapila, symbolipoint and 1 other person
  • #4
Something to keep in mind is that you're not deciding between professions. At this stage of the game, the choice before you is much more along the lines of what to pursue for advanced education.

The good news is that the first year of university between a physics major and a mathematics major is generally common enough that you can easily switch between the two. Some people will even pursue a double major, at least until it becomes clear that they have a favorite.
 
  • Like
Likes atharv kapila and Zexuo
  • #5
I would echo Choppy's comments. I would add that, if the physics department has a "math methods" course, you may prefer to take the courses in the math department covering the topics in that course, even if you end up pursuing physics. Ask your advisor about that option.
 
  • Like
Likes atharv kapila

1. Should I choose physics or mathematics as my major?

It ultimately depends on your interests and strengths. If you enjoy applying mathematical concepts to real-world problems and have a strong foundation in math, physics may be a good fit for you. If you have a passion for abstract mathematical theories and enjoy problem-solving, then mathematics may be the better choice.

2. What career opportunities are available for physicists and mathematicians?

Both fields offer a wide range of career opportunities, including research positions in academia or industry, data analysis and modeling, teaching, and consulting. Many physicists and mathematicians also work in fields such as engineering, finance, and computer science.

3. Which field has better job prospects?

Both physics and mathematics have strong job prospects, with employment opportunities in various industries. However, the demand for mathematicians is expected to grow faster than that for physicists in the coming years.

4. Is a graduate degree necessary for a career in physics or mathematics?

While a graduate degree is not always required, it can open up more advanced job opportunities and increase earning potential in both fields. Many research and teaching positions also require a graduate degree.

5. Can I switch between physics and mathematics if I change my mind?

Yes, it is possible to switch between these fields, especially if you have a strong foundation in both. However, keep in mind that each field has its own unique set of skills and knowledge, so you may need to take additional courses or gain experience in your new field of choice.

Similar threads

  • STEM Academic Advising
2
Replies
43
Views
4K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
12
Views
800
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
3
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
4
Views
2K
  • STEM Academic Advising
2
Replies
60
Views
8K
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
6
Views
1K
Replies
4
Views
1K
Replies
6
Views
832
  • STEM Academic Advising
Replies
9
Views
2K
Replies
2
Views
717
Back
Top