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Theoretical Physics or Electrical Engineering?

  1. Mar 10, 2014 #1
    Hey Guys,

    I'm a junior in High School and am trying to be proactive by having an idea on what I want to major in once I get to college. (Yes I know it's far too early) From a young age I excelled in both Math and Science and have always had a natural pull to physics. For years I've had my heart set on Electrical Engineering. Recently though, I've been looking into physics careers and they seem to really interest me. I'm leaning to Theoretical Physics that consists of mostly Quantum Mechanics. (Since that's what interests me most) What I'm wondering is how hard is it to find a physicist job? I'd be planning on earning a PH.D so I can truly engulf myself in the subject. Is it worth going into the physics field, or is it safer to stick with engineering? I just want a job that can assure me a position out of college, and a moderate to high starting salary.

  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 10, 2014 #2


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    There are 5000 posts on here about how hard it is to get a job as a Physicist. Do a little searching around.

    The good news is you really don't have to decide if you want to be an Engineer or a Physicist until your junior year in most colleges as the course work is very similar and in some cases close to identical.

    Depending on the college you may have to initially declare as EE but then you can switch to physics later if you want.

    When I was an undergrad I signed up as EE but planned to switch to Physics. I got a research job after my sophomore year in High-Energy Physics and that's when I decided to stick with EE. I'm really glad I did, as I truly love Engineering.

    Nothing is certain in life, but typically it is a bit easier to get a moderate to high starting salary with an EE Ph.D., especially in an in-demand area like circuits or software.
  4. Mar 11, 2014 #3
    I honestly had no idea that finding a physicist position was so difficult. It seems like the biggest problem is within the medical branch of physics.
  5. Mar 11, 2014 #4


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  6. Mar 12, 2014 #5
    You said:


    Which is it? I'd only go into physics if you are absolutely passionate about it, in the way that Van Gogh had an absolute passion for painting sunflowers. Do you think Van Gogh thought that painting would assure him, "a position out of college, and a moderate to high starting salary"?

    If you aren't passionate about anything, and really do just want a certainty of a high paying job, I'd look around for jobs that are (i) highly paid and (ii) easy to get into. Physics is neither. Not sure that electrical engineering is, either. Maybe IT? Law? Medicine?
  7. Mar 12, 2014 #6


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    We have had SEVERAL of this type of threads, where the member asked for two, extreme opposite of the spectrum, as IF there's nothing in between. I mean, c'mon. Is there nothing in between "theoretical physics" and electrical enginnering? Do you really have to choose either one extreme or the other? I bet you don't even know what "theoretical physics" really is! Would you even be surprised if I can point to you an area of physics that OVERLAPS physics and electrical engineering, AND, has a lot of "theoretical work" in it?

  8. Mar 12, 2014 #7


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    Or even condensed matter physics. Both theory and experimental sides have some overlap with EE.
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