Should I take chemistry as a physics major?

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  • #1
FearsCatFood
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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
 

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  • #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.
 
  • #3
FearsCatFood
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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.

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.
 
  • #4
symbolipoint
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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.
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.
 
  • #5
KSG4592
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I think most physics undergrads require at least a general chemistry class. I think it would benefit you to take a class or two.
 
  • #6
Dishsoap
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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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #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.
 
  • #9
e.bar.goum
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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.

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.
 
  • #10
FearsCatFood
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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.

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.
 
  • #11
symbolipoint
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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.
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.
 
  • #12
FearsCatFood
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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.
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.
 
  • #13
e.bar.goum
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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.

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.

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.
 
  • #14
FearsCatFood
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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.
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.
 
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  • #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.
 
  • #16
symbolipoint
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Thank you, this is the kind of stuff I've been looking for, though that is PhD's, and I'm not entirely sure I want to go for a PhD in physics.
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?
 
  • #17
FearsCatFood
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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?
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.
 
  • #18
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the science behind machines
From another angle, do you want to get your hands dirty and your knuckles skinned on the machinery, or go the theoretical route?
 
  • #19
e.bar.goum
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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?

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!
 
  • #20
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false dichotomy ... ... between physics and engineering
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.
 
  • #21
e.bar.goum
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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.

I had a theorist once argue with me that CH2 (as in the monomer for polyethylene) was something that exists as a solid. So yes, I do agree with you there. ;)
 
  • #22
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the physicist asking the chemist if there might be some oxide of hydrogen he could use to examine some ideas about nuclear magnetic resonance.
To me, that doesn't seem to be a physicist unaware of chemistry, but an absent-minded physicist.
I had a theorist once argue with me that CH2 (as in the monomer for polyethylene) was something that exists as a solid. So yes, I do agree with you there. ;)
That one is about not knowing chemistry!
 
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  • #23
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Never been able to convince myself any of these stories are anything but urban legends. That said, if the OP is more inclined to experimental pursuits, chemistry is useful in terms of materials selection, and in terms of selection and definition of systems to examine/measure.
 
  • #24
e.bar.goum
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Never been able to convince myself any of these stories are anything but urban legends. That said, if the OP is more inclined to experimental pursuits, chemistry is useful in terms of materials selection, and in terms of selection and definition of systems to examine/measure.

That last one is definitely real, and I have witnesses! :wink:

As an experimentalist, I'd definitely agree that there are times that some knowledge of chemistry is useful. But the intro chem classes in undergrad always seem to be a repeat of a good high-school chemistry class anyway, so I'm unconvinced as to their utility, except for going onto higher level chem classes. On the other hand, if you didn't have a good high-school chemistry course, then the undergrad intro courses would be useful!
 
  • #25
radium
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You can most likely learn the chemistry you need by yourself.
 
  • #26
symbolipoint
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You can most likely learn the chemistry you need by yourself.
The laboratory exercises including a good laboratory manual, and a good textbook along with a degreed intructor/teacher/professor are necessary.
 
  • #27
radium
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If they want to do lab work the should have a lab course, but in terms of knowing chemistry I was a told by a soft matter theorist that was a one time in a chemistry department that they basically learned all the chemistry they needed by themselves. I would just take the intro sequence and you should be fine after that.
 
  • #28
symbolipoint
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This is misleading:
If they want to do lab work the should have a lab course, but in terms of knowing chemistry I was a told by a soft matter theorist that was a one time in a chemistry department that they basically learned all the chemistry they needed by themselves. I would just take the intro sequence and you should be fine after that.
A student must do his own studying, his own exercises, and ultimately, his own learning. MOST people who study Chemistry need some instructive guidance, and a suitably equiped and supervised laboratory, and must make formal use of a textbook for the course/courses. ALL people who study Chemistry must do laboratory activities. One must assemble and adjust equipment and learn to handle materials. Much of everything relies on the students actions and on the students thoughts.
 
  • #29
clope023
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I have a physics/engineering background but I now work in the chemistry branch of a national lab and I've been able to learn alot of the chemistry needed on my own through self study; granted I myself don't need to know as much as the actual dedicated chemists and material scientists since I'm working on the engineering end of things but it's good to know what concepts are being applied.
 

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