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Should I major in physics or engineering?

  1. Jan 23, 2016 #1
    I'm a high school student, and I am not sure if I want to get a degree in engineering (electrical or aerospace) or physics? I would like to go to graduate school eventually and get a job in industry.
    My interests: I love everything about space, and I would love to work for a company like SpaceX or NASA to design and work with spacecraft. However, I am also interested in some physics-heavy fields. For instance, it would be awesome if I could work on a quantum computer, or even work at CERN and experiment with particle physics.
    I am wondering what a good path to follow would look like. So far, my options seem to be
    - Aerospace engineering bachelors and eventually masters
    - Electrical engineering bachelors and masters
    - Physics bachelors and then PhD (is that how it usually goes?)
    - I have also read about Applied Physics and that really interests me. However, with applied physics, what degrees do people normally get? Is it usually an undergrad followed by a masters or a phd?

    With a physics or applied physics degree, could I still get jobs that are normally reserved for "engineers" by title?
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 23, 2016 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    You're looking too far ahead. You need to focus on getting into a good college, one with strong physics and engineering programs, and to make your decision after a year or so - after you have taken both physics and engineering courses.
     
  4. Jan 23, 2016 #3

    micromass

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    So to be blunt, you want to pursue science because it "sounds cool" to you.

    First try to get some actual experience with physics and math classes and see how you like those. That will determine a lot.
     
  5. Jan 25, 2016 #4

    russ_watters

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    Don't knock it: I chose the Naval Academy over the Air Force Academy largely by counting the posters on my bedroom wall.

    I get that "sounds cool" is naive/immature, but nobody in high school really has a good idea what is in store for them. "Sounds cool" is as solid a starting point as any, in my opinion.
     
  6. Jan 25, 2016 #5

    Vanadium 50

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    Not because a Navy aviator breaks ground and flies into the wind, but an Air Force pilot...
     
  7. Jan 25, 2016 #6
    You can always major in one and get a minor degree in the other. Or if you are willing, you can get a dual-major.
     
  8. Jan 26, 2016 #7
    I agree with this. For instance, how does an undergraduate who wants to go to graduate school decide on what to specialize in? Why, I suspect many of them look around at various subfields, decide "this one looks cool," and ask around the department to work in a lab in that area before they're ever exposed to it in courses. Nothing wrong with that. Sometimes you find the field isn't as cool as it sounds, but you've gotta start somehow.
     
  9. Jan 26, 2016 #8

    SteamKing

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    I doubt it. A person looking to hire an engineer is going to want to hire someone who studied and trained to be an engineer. Colleges and universities don't set up schools of engineering so that people who wash out of the physics program have a place to go; engineering is a scientific discipline in its own right, and there are many courses which engineers take that the typical physics student is not offered, and vice versa.

    If you want to obtain licensing as a professional engineer, it's a lot easier if your degree says 'engineering' on it rather than 'physics'.
     
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