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So much to choose from (Majors that is) What is the difference

  1. Oct 22, 2007 #1
    I am finishing up a 2 year Liberal Arts degree (how useless:rolleyes:) and will be transfering out to a 4 year school. I love math and physics. I have never taken an engineering class, but for some reason I can't stop thinking about whether to take on a major in it...or physics.

    I know this topic comes up repeatedly, but I am pulling my hair out here. I have until the end of the month before applications should be in (and no...I don't have all the time in the world; I am getting old).

    What is the difference between Applied Physics and Engineering?

    What have you studied in your Physics Major? Applied Physics Major?

    Why should I get a degree in Astronomy/physics?

    I like all of these subjects, but how the crap am I to decide what to major in if I do not know what job I want?

    I feel bad for kids today...Holy surmounting pressure Batman!

    Any insight is great...sorry for a repeat topic..but its my turn in the barrel:cry:

  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 22, 2007 #2


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    Take a look at this wikipedia page for the difference between applied physics and engineering (the first paragraph seemed useful) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Applied_physics. As for your dilemma, I'm afraid I can't really help you since I didn't studied physics, but good luck!
  4. Oct 22, 2007 #3


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    As a real life example, this summer I had research experience in applied physics working with semiconductor materials for the purpose of using them in future technologies. We were not building the technologies however, but analyzing physical properties of the materials that would be essential knowledge for someone building those future technologies. This is an example of applied physics.
    Last edited: Oct 23, 2007
  5. Oct 23, 2007 #4
    GO1~ That makes sense now. Thanks. I guess I just want to do everything. I want the degree that gives me the most options.

    I plan on doing at least a Masters but most likely a Ph.D. So I know that helps me to do more. BUt, I am not sure where to start. Physics/Math seems like a great foundation for everything. But I do not know what it would be like to try to do undergrad physics and then grad engineering.

    Is that years more added on to school than a regular PhD? Or is it commonplace to go to engineering grad school with a physics degree?

  6. Oct 23, 2007 #5


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    Yes, it is. At the small school where I teach, most of our physics majors go on to grad school for a master's in engineering. You have to take some more courses there than if you had come out of a engineering bachelor's program, but it doesn't slow you down a lot.
  7. Oct 23, 2007 #6


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    In my opinion, engineering deals with the application of scientific priciples to achieve a solution to a real life, everyday problem. Whereas, physics deals more with the "why" the problem exists or "how" is it occuring.
  8. Oct 23, 2007 #7


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    Also, you might want to consider the job market for a physicist and that of an engineer. I believe in general, if you only have only a BS in physics and not an advanced graduate degree you will be limited in where you find employment or at least in your salary. A BS in engineering, however, will land you a job with a decent salary starting out, and depending on what area you specialize in, may be quite lucrative.
  9. Oct 23, 2007 #8


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    Side note:

    I understand this attitude very well. Just a little advice from somebody who has learned the hard way: learn to focus. You have limited time and resources. This doesn't mean you don't look left or right. But you have to find out how many options you can cope with. Too few options is bad, too many options is also bad.
  10. Oct 23, 2007 #9


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    Triple O hit the nail right on the head. Plus, you can always continue your education after you graduate, which is actually a really smart thing to do so you can keep up with changing technology or new theories.
  11. Oct 23, 2007 #10
    Yes. My plan is to always continue with my education (hopefully until I am just too old to get to a college anymore and even then I'll just read), I am just trying to figure out where the best place to start is.

    I don't say that I wasted my time getting the Liberal Arts degree, because if I did not, I don't know when I would have rekindled my love for thw sciences. But, I am 27, and would like not to take too many more indirect routes...


  12. Oct 23, 2007 #11


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    So you're in the lucky position of not having to earn money ? Congrats ! :wink:

    Otherwise you will have to reason about why somebody should pay you for just learning. Usually you get paid for applying your knowledge (e.g. teaching or producing). And even if you're not forced to apply it (because your parents are rich enough), you might want to do so, because if you don't, your brain will soon start to forget what you have learned so far.
  13. Oct 23, 2007 #12
    You have made the assumption that just because one chooses to make education a lifelong journey, that one need not have any other obligations:wink:

    My parents are far from rich...and I am 27, not 7. From my experience, there is always time to learn.

  14. Oct 23, 2007 #13


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    No offense. If your concept works, then fine. I'm doing my PhD now after a few years of work in the industry, and I find it hard to reconcile this with caring for a child, high living standards, etc... It's a tradeoff between earning money and playing around. After all it would be quite helpful if I had rich parents. :biggrin:
  15. Oct 23, 2007 #14
    None taken. And rich parents would be swwweeeeetttttt:tongue2:

  16. Oct 27, 2007 #15
    THIS SUCKS. I need to pick something like yesterday.
  17. Oct 29, 2007 #16
    This is what I'm currently doing. Double majoring in Physics/Math, then hoping to go into aerospace engineering for my masters. Not too sure how it's going to work out, but hopefully it does haha.
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