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Should I change my major to Physics? Help please.

  1. Sep 25, 2014 #1
    I am currently a music education major at Penn State University at State College and I am very confused. I have always focused on music and never considered any other career path. I've always been very interested in science but with such a demanding musical education program, I never had the chance to explore other options. It's my second year at Penn State and I can't stop learning about physics. My bookshelf is lined with Physics books and I have asked all my friends who have taken physics classes to give me their notes and texts books (which they all have). I am taking astro-physics right now and I love it!

    The problem- I don't have a lot of background knowledge in math. I've only taken up to pre-calc in high school. What should I do? (I can't minor in physics because music ed requires around 25 credits a semester!)
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2014 #2
    Physics coursework requires a lot of Math, and you will need up to 5 semesters of it (Calculus 1, 2, and 3, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations). Some of those classes have to be completed before you can start taking Junior and Senior level Physics courses. If you enjoy Math, or just enjoy it more than practicing music, I would certainly encourage you to consider switching to Physics.
  4. Sep 25, 2014 #3


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    Perhaps consider engineering over physics?

    Why? Because the amount on the bottom line will matter to you sooner or later......more likely sooner.

    Doin what you like and making really good money beats doing what you love and making so, so money.

    I know several people would argue this opinon.....but the phrase "cash is king" aint never gettin old.
  5. Sep 25, 2014 #4
    As long as I'm paid enough to live comfortably, I'd give up the better wage to do what interests me more.

    There are jobs in Astrophysics that pay fairly well. It probably pays better than music, and getting the degree could be less work, especially for people who are good Math students. My friends in music seemed to do more work than I did as an Electrical Engineer, and Physics, for me, was less time consuming than Engineering.
  6. Sep 25, 2014 #5
    As a general rule my suggestion is if you’re torn between physics and something else, major in the something else. Basically IMO you should only major in physics if you feel compelled to major in physics. If you have to ask “should I major in physics?” then something else must have appeal and you don’t feel all that compelled to major in physics.

    That being said, most people I see who ask “should I major in physics?” are considering it as an alternative to majoring in engineering, comp sci or something else that I think is more likely to help them advance their careers later in life. Combined with the fact that many people with physics educations end up doing things completely unrelated to physics is the reason for my standard suggestion.

    I don’t know the marketability of a music education degree for a job you want, but I’d guess it’s not that great or you wouldn’t be considering changing course. Also, you seem pretty drawn towards physics, so (as long as you’re looking at a physics major as an educational endeavor and not job training) switching may be a good idea for you. I guess it’s just a matter of what a music education major has to offer you in terms of intrinsic interest and possible jobs in the future.
  7. Sep 25, 2014 #6
    We hire physics majors to program computers. They make good computer programmers and good engineers too. Physics is more difficult than engineering though. Engineering is basically dumbed down physics or chemistry or math. Only study physics, chemistry or math if you really like them. Otherwise, go the easier route.
  8. Sep 27, 2014 #7


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    If you change majors, you're basically going to be starting over as a freshman physics major. You'll have to take the required lower-division math and physics courses, but at least you will presumably have some of the general ed requirements out of the way. You could, of course, not change majors and just take physics classes for fun, but without an adequate background, your choices will be limited. In other words, whether you change your major or not, you'd probably need to take calculus and intro physics.

    I guess one question you should ask yourself is, why are you majoring in music education? With your newly discovered passion for physics, are you questioning your objectives? As you noted, you never really looked into other career paths. If you stick with only music, will you regret not exploring other possibilities? Does it have to be one or the other?
  9. Sep 28, 2014 #8
    The issue is not wages, but whether you can actually get a job that USES what you studied. Getting a whole degree for only hobby purposes is a bit of an expensive and time-consuming hobby. That being said, although I'm an amateur musician, I'd be terrified of music in terms of career prospects, so physics is probably a step up in that regard.
  10. Sep 28, 2014 #9
    Your assumption that engineering is on the whole an easier major than physics is dead wrong.
  11. Sep 28, 2014 #10
    I think that usually the opposite is true. Physics is easier than engineering. Not always, but usually.
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