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Should I take chemistry as a physics major?

  1. Aug 12, 2015 #1
    Hello,

    I'm currently pursuing a bachelors in physics. My program does not require that I take basic chemistry to earn my degree, but I've recently been questioning how useful a bachelors in physics will be, I'm not planning on going into academia so I've read that I need to acquire marketable skills for employment in other similar areas.

    Would taking intro chem help me in finding a job in a physics related area?

    Thanks
     
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 12, 2015 #2

    symbolipoint

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    Physics course work is great for preparing and supporting the study of Chemistry. CHEMISTS, with undergraduate degree and higher, are actually what some companies look for; while PHYSICISTS are not as commonly what companies look for. You could, if you have the right interest, change major field to Chemistry and find work as a chemist. Generally, the physics you studied would not be wasted. Many of the concepts of Physics and Chemistry are shared.
     
  4. Aug 12, 2015 #3
    I'm not looking to switch to chemistry, I'm not a huge fan of the subject, but I'm wondering if taking courses in it would be beneficial enough to warrant taking those classes. I'm not looking to be a "physicist" per se, but I'm approaching my bachelors in physics as a way to learn skills to do jobs in related fields, I'm not sure of exactly where I want to end up yet so I suppose it might be a good idea.
     
  5. Aug 12, 2015 #4

    symbolipoint

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    Any undergraduate Physics program would require one year of General Chemistry. You can then rethink your goals based on that one. Physics coursework will be very good for learning Chemistry.
     
  6. Aug 12, 2015 #5
    I think most physics undergrads require at least a general chemistry class. I think it would benefit you to take a class or two.
     
  7. Aug 12, 2015 #6
    It's very strange that your program doesn't require chemistry, most do. If I were you, I would take 1 or 2 semesters of general chemistry, although if you had a good chem program (e.g., AP Chemistry) in high school, you would probably not be learning anything new.
     
  8. Aug 12, 2015 #7

    e.bar.goum

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    For the record, my physics program in undergrad didn't require any chemistry either, although many of my peers took a semester or so. I didn't, and I don't think it has done me any harm, really. Although, there have been a few situations where I have regretted not knowing some more advanced chemistry, it's not something I would have learned in the intro chem classes (as Dishsoap points out).

    If you're interested in chemistry, go for it, but I wouldn't fret about not doing it either.
     
  9. Aug 12, 2015 #8

    radium

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    I don't know why people think majoring in physics makes you unemployable. If you look at the list of majors with the top salaries, physics is always at the top. It is actually significantly better than chemistry in most of these lists.
     
  10. Aug 12, 2015 #9

    e.bar.goum

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    Right? It's a persistent myth that gets perpetuated in these forums, for reasons that are beyond me. If I had a signature here, I'd have this https://www.aip.org/statistics/employment/bachelors in it.
     
  11. Aug 12, 2015 #10
    I think it's because there's not many job postings that say "BS in physics or equivalent" I've been really nervous lately that i'm wasting my time in college with physics, that stat looks good but I can never find examples of what people go into.
     
  12. Aug 12, 2015 #11

    symbolipoint

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    Double-major, or pick a related field and include several Physics courses if you feel that way. Physics study WILL help you in other courses involving science and technology.
     
  13. Aug 12, 2015 #12
    Physics is something I know I want to do, I don't know what else I would want to major in, I just get nervous that there's this super low unemployment rate, but there's no set jobs that physics sets you up for, like engineers. I couldn't see myself being an engineer or anything else.
     
  14. Aug 12, 2015 #13

    e.bar.goum

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    That's because physics gives you a "toolbox" of skills that you can apply in a bunch of places. The AIP has a list of the kinds of jobs that physics majors get, but it's not very specific:
    https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/statistics/employment/careersfactsheet-p-10.pdf

    Personally, I know physics majors who have gone into the public service, into defence jobs, into start-ups, into high-tech non-startups, and into finance.

    The AIP has also done a PhD +10 study, which is obviously not totally applicable to you, but it might give you an idea of what a nonspecific thing like "physics" can mean for careers. https://www.aip.org/sites/default/files/statistics/phd-plus-10/physprivsect-jobduties.pdf I find it a really great example of the kind of breadth involved.
     
  15. Aug 12, 2015 #14
    Thank you, this is the kind of stuff I've been looking for, I'm still not entirely sure I don't want to go for a PhD in physics.
     
    Last edited: Aug 12, 2015
  16. Aug 12, 2015 #15

    George Jones

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    Adding to e.bar.goum's examples.

    Many of my friends who studied physics (in Canada) ended up with decent jobs (granted, this wasn't yesterday). The largest portion is in IT (including one who writes embedded software for pacemakers), two ended up in finance (one quite high up in Toronto's financial district), two are meteorologists (one with Environment Canada), two became lawyers (one a patent lawyer), a few became high school teachers, including, e.g., my wife, etc.
     
  17. Aug 12, 2015 #16

    symbolipoint

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    Why Physics? What do you know about the engineering field? What other subjects or courses have you studied at least two-semesters' worth? How do you relate to them (or them to you)? Do you want primarily to learn to understand matter, energy, and transformations between them? or do you want to design or study processes, or design equipment?
     
  18. Aug 12, 2015 #17
    Because I've loved my physics classes, I took three years of them in high school and enjoyed every one, and I've really enjoyed my physics classes in college. I know about engineering, but I can't say I've found a topic within it that interests me, I have studied circuits somewhat in my E&M intro class and they're not really for me, I don't know much about what you do with mechanical engineering admittedly. I only have two semesters worth of classes in every subject because I haven't even started my sophomore year, if I were to move to engineering I'd imagine I'd have to do it by the end of this year. I really enjoyed learning about the science behind machines such as mass spectrometers and velocity selectors, basic as they may be, I do enjoy learning how stuff works. I'm just not sure what that fits into.
     
  19. Aug 13, 2015 #18

    Bystander

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    From another angle, do you want to get your hands dirty and your knuckles skinned on the machinery, or go the theoretical route?
     
  20. Aug 13, 2015 #19

    e.bar.goum

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    This is a bit of a false dichotomy though, if you're trying to differentiate between physics and engineering. As an experimentalist, you can definitely still get your hands dirty!
     
  21. Aug 13, 2015 #20

    Bystander

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    Unintended --- OP sounds very much like an experimentalist, and that's an argument for picking up chemistry --- saves reliving embarrassing anecdotes (true or not) about "the physicist asking the chemist if there might be some oxide of hydrogen" he could use to examine some ideas about nuclear magnetic resonance.
     
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