Should I double major in Applied Math and Physics?

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  • Thread starter GrizzlyBear
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  • #1
GrizzlyBear
Hello, I am looking for some advice. I am currently going into my 4th year of my Physics degree, going to be graduating in spring of 2018. One of the other students in my major has come up with a way to finish his major in Physics, while also taking the required classes to finish the Applied Math major without staying an additional year. He wants me to join him and in anticipation of doing so, I took a bunch of classes over summer break to free up space in my schedule.

I've been reading around on these forums a lot lately as I'm getting close to graduating, and I'm getting more and more nervous about my job prospects out of college. At first I had thought I was going to continue my education and work towards my Masters, but I just don't think I have the motivation to continue going to school at this point, especially with how negative the consensus seems to be about job opportunities with this degree. I would hate to spend more time and money towards furthering my education, only to be unable to find a job. At this point, I'd really just like to start working, living on my own, and paying off my debt.

So my question is, is it worth it to put all the extra effort towards getting a double major in Applied Mathematics? Will it make me look better during my job search? I've heard of people being over qualified (not that I have any experience yet so that may not apply) or over specialized and turned down. Also, I've searched around these forums and found a lot of people suggesting taking Computer Science classes or Engineering classes, just to have the extra experience in those fields as it seems that with only a Bachelors in Physics, CS and Engineering jobs are two that I should be looking for.

Basically, I'm wondering what will make me look best to interviewers/HR. A double major in Applied Math and Physics, or taking miscellaneous Engineering and CS classes to show interest/skills in those fields? Or maybe some other avenue I haven't considered yet.

Thanks for taking the time to read and respond!

-Curtis S.
 

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  • #2
Vanadium 50
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As they say, if you don't know where you're going, any path will take you there. I think being more specific about your goals and future plans would be a good step in figuring out which classes you want to take.
 
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  • #3
GrizzlyBear
This may not be the answer you're looking for, but honestly at this point once I'm out of college I'd just like to find a decent job with a decent wage so I can start paying off my debt and moving on with my life. I don't have any particular job in mind, and honestly am more concerned about finding a job in general with a degree in Physics than I am with getting a particular one that I desire. So my main "goal" right now is to be as marketable as possible to employers. That's why I am specifically asking if I should try and fit in the double major or if I should take CS/engineering misc classes.

I did have goals in the beginning to continue my studies towards a degree in Astrophysics, but I can just tell when I'm in a class surrounded by my peers that I am just not on the same level as them when it comes to understanding the material, getting the grades, and just being a productive and professional adult. So there would be no reason for me to further my education towards Astrophysics, which is obviously an extremely competitive field, when I already don't compare well to my fellow undergrads.
 
  • #4
gmax137
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I really never understood the whole "double major" thing. Probably not a popular opinion here, but to me a double such as physics & math just suggests an individual even more one-dimensional than the typical STEM student. As a physics major you have already studied more mathematics than anyone other than an actual math major. So why do you feel compelled to pile even more of that on? If I were interviewing a grad, I'd be much more interested in a physics major who also studied something else -- Russian, history, literature.... anything that shows you can talk and think about things outside STEM. If you're entering your fourth year it's too late to concentrate on anything else but maybe you could take a class or two to broaden your horizons. I work in engineering, with a bunch of other engineers, we're together 8 to 10 hours every day. We certainly spend considerable time talking about work and technical issues. But really, we talk about a lot of other things too. Getting hired is about qualifications and coursework, but it also about fitting in with the rest of the team, and being someone that people want to spend all day with, day in and day out.
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50
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I'd just like to find a decent job with a decent wage so I can start paying off my debt and moving on with my life.

So why not take some business classes?
 
  • #6
Choppy
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A double major in physics and mathematics is unlikely to make you much more employable than majoring in physics alone. The possible exception might be if the mathematics major was really in statistics, but even then, I think a lot of statistician positions are willing to consider physics majors (perhaps @StatGuy2000 could comment).

If you're not sure what kind of professional work you want to do after you graduate, it might be a better use of your time to use your elective credits to explore different fields. Take courses in engineering, computer science, or business to see where your other strengths might lie. You might find that you excel in another area (and that your physics background really helps you) and then can decide to focus your energy in that direction. You might decide to pursue something further if you have an interest in it. Sure, it might be hard to figure that out now and have to spend even more time in school, but that's better than not figuring out your passion at all.

In the end though, remember that you only need one job. And you're likely going to have it for a while, so it's best if you try to aim for one that you'll like.
 
  • #7
StatGuy2000
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A double major in physics and mathematics is unlikely to make you much more employable than majoring in physics alone. The possible exception might be if the mathematics major was really in statistics, but even then, I think a lot of statistician positions are willing to consider physics majors (perhaps @StatGuy2000 could comment).

If you're not sure what kind of professional work you want to do after you graduate, it might be a better use of your time to use your elective credits to explore different fields. Take courses in engineering, computer science, or business to see where your other strengths might lie. You might find that you excel in another area (and that your physics background really helps you) and then can decide to focus your energy in that direction. You might decide to pursue something further if you have an interest in it. Sure, it might be hard to figure that out now and have to spend even more time in school, but that's better than not figuring out your passion at all.

In the end though, remember that you only need one job. And you're likely going to have it for a while, so it's best if you try to aim for one that you'll like.

Thanks for mentioning me, and apologies for coming in a little late to this thread (my laptop just died yesterday )

At any rate, @Choppy is correct that companies and organizations advertising for statistician positions will consider physics majors, with a caveat - most such positions tend to look for those with at least a Masters degree. Data science positions tend to be looser in terms of qualifications, but from what I've heard, even there at least a Masters is typically expected. Also much depends on whether the physics student has taken statistics courses or has much experience in data analysis (either through lab work, projects, or internships).

To the OP: depending on the specific sequence of courses, I don't see any harm in pursuing the double major in applied math & physics (especially if statistics courses are included). In addition, if you are interested in statistics or data science jobs, I would strongly recommend pursuing a Masters degree in statistics. Even a PhD in statistics is not a bad investment either, but a Masters is a good place to start. Just my 2 cents worth. I would further recommend getting firmed up with your coding skills - focus on things like Python, R, SAS, SQL, etc.

Just my 2 cents worth.
 

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