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Should I Do Physics At University?

  1. Oct 20, 2013 #1
    Hi, I'm new around here and I have a little bit of a problem. I'm a year 10 student (I know it's a little early) and I love the sciences, especially Physics. I really want to do a science at university but my parents don't want me to be a scientist. They want me to be a lawyer or a doctor or something. I spent ages contemplating Radiology because that combines Medicine with Physics but my dream is to be a Particle/Astrophysicist at CERN. I live in England and I am doing my GCSEs next year (Maths, Physics, Chemistry, Biology, English, English Literature, French, Chinese, Latin, Greek, RS and maybe Astrology) and I have already chosen my A Levels (Physics, Latin, Biology, Maths, Critical Thinking or Chemistry). My Biology and Physics teachers have both told me that I am leaps and bounds ahead of everyone in my year and that I have to potential to be a great scientist.

    So my question is it worth having my parents practically disown you to do something you love in life and to dedicate yourself to something you are so passionate about or to do what they have planned for you and go through years of doing something you hate?
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 20, 2013 #2
    Oh and before you ask, it's in the Relationships section because firstly, I couldn't find another section for it and secondly, because it the relationship between me and my parents.
  4. Oct 20, 2013 #3


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    Actually relationships is supposed to be romantic relationships, I'll move this to general discussion.
  5. Oct 20, 2013 #4
    Are your parents OK with engineering?
  6. Oct 21, 2013 #5
    I don't think so. They have this idea that as long as you have a very high paying job, you'll be happy even if it's doing something you don't like.
  7. Oct 21, 2013 #6


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    To the OP:

    To be fair, I think your parents are worried about what the future holds for you once you graduate, and probably reasoned that if you study law or medicine at least that would guarantee a job and a potential for a decent middle class lifestyle, particularly given the economic situation in the UK.

    Such attitudes are quite common among immigrant communities, particularly those from developing countries in Asia and Africa, both in North America and in the UK. If you don't mind my asking, are your parents immigrants?

    As to your original question, ultimately it is up to you to decide whether or not studying science is worthwhile for you. If you know in your heart that this is something you feel passionate about, I would argue you pursue it, regardless of what your parents may think. However, keep in mind that making a career as a scientist may not be easy, and that regardless of how bright or promising you are, it's possible that you may end up ultimately working in an area unrelated to your field of study.
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2013
  8. Oct 21, 2013 #7
    My father is English and my mother is Chinese (Asian Tiger Mom). Also, my parents know that people from my school sends quite a lot of people to Oxbridge and Ivy League so they know that I could probably have a set career in Law or Medicine.
    Also, my parents come from a poor background and I am an only child.
    How far away from my original field could I end up? Say I started in particle or astrophysics.
  9. Oct 21, 2013 #8


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  10. Oct 21, 2013 #9


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    Welcome to PF, toric36!

    My first instinct is like ainster31 said, try for engineering. There's not telling what the job market will be like by the time you are looking for a job. It's possible your parents are right - and possible they are wrong.

    I don't know how the medical education system works there - here in the US you have to have a bachelor's degree (4 years, after high school) before you even start medical school. And you can major in any subject, as long as you take medical school prerequisites. You could theoretically major in physics and still be pre-medicine. How does the system work there?

    We can't make this decision for you, of course.
  11. Oct 21, 2013 #10


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    In North America you more or less have to do an undergraduate degree prior to entering medical school and so long as you do the prerequisite courses, you can do it in whatever field you want. I know there is some data that suggests physics majors tend to do very well on the MCAT (the standard medical college admission test).

    Another option you might want to look into is medical physics. I've found it to be a very rewarding, though competitive profession.

    All of that said it sounds like your main question is really about a conflict with your parents. With conflicts like that, there's no perfect answer, I'm afraid. Respect their input. Listen to what they have to say. But ultimately the decision is yours to make.
  12. Oct 22, 2013 #11


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    Correct me if I'm mistaken, but from my understanding, in the UK medical studies begin at the undergraduate level (something akin to a pre-med studies) and typically you decide what undergraduate study you choose at your "A levels" or "O levels" (something akin to your second last or last year of high school in the US). Therefore you cannot major in physics and then proceed to medical school (as is the case in the US and Canada) nor can you switch from physics to some other field without considerable difficulty.
  13. Oct 22, 2013 #12
    I want to go to America anyway, but in England it is really difficult to change professions after A level.
    Thanks for all the positive input everyone. It really has helped. I'm going to try to talk it over with my parents and I'll post the results later.
  14. Oct 22, 2013 #13


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    Good luck with your parents. I understand that you have a tough situation. Another member here has the problem that unless he goes to the school his parents chose and majors in what they selected, they won't help pay. Not to mention the anger from his parents.

    I gave up going into science because my dad refused to pay for a science education saying I'd be poor, so I caved in (I wanted to be an astronomer/archaeologist). Yes, I made a ton of money in the career he selected, but I always regretted not getting the education I wanted.
  15. Oct 22, 2013 #14


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    Correct. To become a doctor in the UK takes 5 years of university starting at any point after 18 with relevant A-levels (biology, chemistry etc). There is no major or grad school system in the UK, the degree you sign up for is all you do.

    Having said that there is a lot of scope for interdisciplinary "side-lining" after undergrad. For example; both a biomedical student and a physics student could apply for a postgrad course in medical physics.

    Who told you it was hard to change professions after A-level? So long as you have two relevant qualifications you can get on a course and medicine IIRC will have similar requirements as law (I base this off the fact that my A-levels allowed me the option of applying for law as well as biology, I picked the later). Hell I know people who have retrained after getting their degrees.

    I say speak to your parents as calmly as possible. You could even show them how law is very oversubscribed in the UK and there's been a lot of talk about a growing need for STEM students. One thing that could be useful is to look into if there are any career fairs going on at local universities or schools (your careers advisor should be able to help there) and go along with your parents.

    Best of luck :smile:
  16. Oct 22, 2013 #15
    Thanks everyone :)
  17. Oct 25, 2013 #16


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    BTW Evo, as an aside, what education did you end up pursuing? In your profile, you state that you were educated in gardening -- did your father select this career for you? :confused:
  18. Oct 25, 2013 #17
    She invented the internet while pruning petunias...
    ED- and that's why I told you, milady to add 'the meet the mentor' threads in the GD classics sticky...
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