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Engineering Should I study Computer Science or Physics in college?

  1. May 15, 2017 #1
    Hello,
    I am a high school senior in both IB physics and IB computer science. I have been accepted to college at UNC Chapel Hill next year, and I am trying to decide what to major in. I enjoy learning about physics a lot, but I also love computer science, and it seems like it has more job opportunities. Any advice? Would be greatly appreciated.
     
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  3. May 15, 2017 #2

    symbolipoint

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    Yes study those for sure!!
     
  4. May 15, 2017 #3
    Hello,
    I appreciate your response; however, I don't think I worded the question clearly. I am trying to choose between the two subjects, and hoped people would give me advice on which one to pick. I am really torn.
     
  5. May 15, 2017 #4

    StatGuy2000

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    Is it not possible to double major in both programs? There is overlap between physics and computer science, and both programs have similar math requirements, so it shouldn't be too tough to do so.

    At any rate, you don't have to make any immediate decision right now. My understanding is that in most American colleges/universities, you typically don't have to declare your major until the end of second year, so you can take the courses and see how you feel about them by then.
     
  6. May 15, 2017 #5
    You are more likely to get hired for computer science jobs with a degree in physics than for physics jobs with a degree in computer science. A lot of the computer science industry bases hiring decisions more on a combination of demonstrated experience and ANY STEM degree without being nearly as firm on the BS being in computer science than other fields.
     
  7. May 15, 2017 #6

    StatGuy2000

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    While I largely agree with you that the tech industry do hire those with a degree in physics for essentially computer science jobs, what you ignore is whether a physics degree holder is truly competitive when compared to a pool of computer science graduates for those jobs.

    For example, say a company (we'll call it HighTechCom, for this example), had 1 opening for an entry-level software engineer/programmer/developer. Suppose you have 2 candidates, A and B.
    Candidate A has a BS in CS with about a year's programming experience through internships and can program in various programming languages (C++, Python, etc.). Candidate has a BS in physics with about the same amount of programming experience through summer jobs/internships and self-study and can program in the same programming languages.

    Let's assume, for arguments case, that both candidates passed the initial screening interview and both were generally favourable. If it comes to a choice between A and B, who would the hiring manager more likely hire?
     
  8. May 15, 2017 #7
    One can always concoct a specific case where one degree is more likely to be hired than another.

    I think it is wiser to think about the job market as a whole (or specific local markets) than one specific position. Most people with real and significant programming skills don't sit unemployed very long in the US, unless they geographical constraints in a weak local market.

    On the other hand, there are a lot of jobs preferring physics and engineering degrees where the hiring manager won't even see the resume of CS graduates, because they won't make it past the HR screening.

    A degree gets you past the HR screening and into the interview. After that, the candidate has to win the job. A strong programming portfolio and interview matters much more than the subject on the diploma once you make it to the interview.
     
  9. May 15, 2017 #8
    I think what @Dr. Courtney is kind of trying to say, or at least one point he is trying to make, is that a physics degree is a great way of differentiating yourself to an employer. (correct me if I'm wrong).

    Someone with a physics degree who can also program would I think stand out from a person with a C.S. degree. (It is of course assumed that if you have a C.S. degree that you have done some programming.)

    The trick of course is that at some point you will have to learn programming skills. This won't automatically be part of your physics curriculum, but it can be learned.

    When I decided to go back to school I had already been working in I.T. for 8 years or so. The thought of majoring in computer science made me cringe, because it felt like it was just more job training. I decided instead to major in mathematics, which was much more intellectually satisfying, and because I knew I could stack the skills I needed back on top of that degree. I'm still doing the "stacking" but I have to stay it's been pretty rewarding. I do wish I had more programming classes, but I was trying not to spend too much time in school. (Then I decided to get a master's - whoops).

    -Dave K
     
  10. May 15, 2017 #9

    symbolipoint

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    Yes, I knew that but decided to give a very open, inclusive answer. STUDY BOTH, but you are who needs to decide which to give more emphasis. Study Physics to understand the world/the universe/the way matter and energy work; but study at least some computer science and computer programming because you will want that knowledge and skill, too, to apply in your physics, other science, or other life-activities and studies. IF you choose Physics or some kind of engineering or other science, you soon WILL want to create a data-handling program of your own, for YOUR objectives.
     
  11. May 16, 2017 #10
    Study CS. Majoring in Physics makes it harder and longer. You need extra time and effort - taking extra classes or self-taughting programming in addition to time-consuming physics major. If you study CS you pick up programming skills without great effort because it's part of your major. Then you can use that extra time to do interesting projects, learn new programming language or simply pursue physics as hobby.
     
  12. May 16, 2017 #11
    Basically "don't do it because it's difficult."

    Not going to ace an interview with that attitude.

    -Dave K
     
  13. May 16, 2017 #12
    Please, don't be hypocrite. Being well-established professional with 8+ experience is different than being fresh high school graduate. You could even major in gender studies and you would be fine because you already have the skills. Going back to school for fun and challenge is different than studying to become professional and nope. You won't ace an interview if you can't solve problem in most efficient way. Choosing more difficult way because it's more difficult is madness. Studying physics is not more difficult because it's more intellectually demanding. It's more difficult because it's less efficient if you want to get good job in IT. Like I said - instead od gaining in-depth programming/CS knowledge you spend your time studying academic field that won't give you many marketable skills.
     
  14. May 16, 2017 #13

    symbolipoint

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    Rika, you are missing the point or part of the point. Studying Physics can be good for someone. Studying computer science including programming gives practical ability for handling data and doing computations. Physics study will also make plenty of opportunity for making programs to handle information found and used in the study. More briefly, Physics is good for a person and computerization is often good for Physics. This is why also very briefly earlier, I said "study both". One would pick the major field of his choosing, but if Physics (or any other science or engineering) is the major choice, then include at least some computer or programming courses.
     
  15. May 16, 2017 #14

    symbolipoint

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    Here is one way to view this:
    Physics course and a lab class session - you measure some data, maybe many data points, data in some/whatever numerical form you measured. Now to finish the lab assignment you have some computations or calculations. You want a neat way of handling your information. You might design and write a computer program, using whatever programming language you know or like. Now once the program is ready, input your information and run the program to do the computing. ... THERE! You have your numeric results.

    Also be aware, you might want to learn about how to hook computers to equipment either to control processes or to take measured data AND handle the calculations from that data, so this means writing programs.
     
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