1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Tips in Double degree in B.S. Computer Science and Physics

  1. Apr 14, 2014 #1
    The thing is I love computers, and I think a degree in Computer science can amplify that passion. However, just this time, I began to have interest in Physics to which I have no idea that I have. I am sincerely considering taking a double degree in both of these areas. Unfortunately, I don't have any idea, even after searching at google, what jobs are available for me after finishing with these degrees. Furthermore, I am considering getting a PhD or Masters in Physics because I seriously feel hooked in its nature. What kind of jobs will I end up? Is it related to research? But does that mean I will end up in teaching or is it different from research. I am truly sorry if I sound naive, but I can't wait till someone to clarify these things to me and the information that I will get from your answers will benefit me truly.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 14, 2014 #2


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    The CS degree is where there is more earning potential. If you get a double major in CS and Physics you will likely be applying to the same jobs as people with just CS degrees. I don't think it is likely to help or hurt you. If you get a Ph.D. in Physics the landscape is different and there are 1000 threads on the subject here.
  4. Apr 15, 2014 #3
    I think there is application in the field of quantum computing but currently I don't think QC is promising in terms of jobs. Also, to get into QC, you most likely need a masters or PhD relevant to QC.

    If you get a job in CS, physics will likely not be very useful, i.e. it is unlikely that employers will prefer you over someone with just a CS degree. But if you go to graduate school in physics, CS can be very useful skills. I have a friend who is now doing his PhD in physics and also learning software simulating because he needs that in his PhD. Also, you will probably be able to make money freelancing while you are in physics grad school.

    I started off doing CS and physics double major but I dropped physics after first semester because there are zero opportunities in physics in my country and I don't want to go to graduate school. I changed to engineering...
  5. Apr 15, 2014 #4
  6. May 21, 2014 #5
    Suddenly I started to think that I am not interested in computer science, I think that programming (Fortran, C++) can be learned on your own. And that is only my goal in majoring at it in the first place but I think majoring in math is much more better and fun. Applied mathematics I think is agreat complementary for physics. Having said that, since I don't want to teach, and only interested in research since, and to be honest, I dont think I like teaching, where would I end up? I mean where would I work specifically?
  7. May 21, 2014 #6
    I really recommend taking programming courses. Sure, you can learn it on your own, but that doesn't really mean anything for employers. However, if they see that you took and passed programming courses, then that means a whole lot more.

    A bachelors in physics by itself isn't immediately very applicable to many jobs. A masters or PhD in physics offers a lot more opportunities. But chances are quite big that you'll end up with only a bachelors. This may be problematic if you didn't take time to develop other skills in your bachelors.

    I'm not trying to discourage you from taking physics. If you're interested in physics, then go ahead. But be sure to develop other skills. Taking programming courses like a CS minor or major would be a very great plan.

    I'm not sure how much a math major will help you with physics. Generally, a physics program will cover all the math you need in math methods courses. Of course, if you are specifically interested in theoretical physics, then math courses can't hurt. Still you should realize that the math done in math courses is very different than the math done in physics. A rigorous knowledge of math might even hurt you in physics since you will try to do everything rigorously, which is nearly impossible in physics.

    Also, a math major might not be very applicable to later jobs either. An applied math major might be better suited, but I don't know.

    You should be very careful about what you decide. Don't only think about what you like, but also what you would realistically be doing after college!
  8. May 21, 2014 #7
    Oh yeah I forgot cause this thread was a long time ago, I want to finish with a double degree in physics and I dont know what to choose between comsci or math, and afterwards a PhD in physics. Also I want to be a theoretical physicist, Do you think a comsci major would help me more than a math major? And also where would I work as theoretical physicist doing research only but not teaching in academia?
  9. May 21, 2014 #8
    It really depends on a lot of factors. First of all, there are many different kinds of theoretical physics. Mathematics won't be all that useful in some of them, but might be incredibly useful in others! Same thing, doing computer simulations might be very useful in some parts of research, but not in others. So I guess you need to be more specific.

    Also, it's very nice to want to work as theoretical physicist. But you really need to ask yourself how feasible this is. Not everybody makes it as theoretical physicist. I am not discouraging you, but I am simply telling you to prepare a plan B. What will you do if you do not get accepted to a PhD position? What do you do if you drop out of grad school for some reasons such as not liking research? What will you do if you don't find a job as theoretical physicist for whatever reason?
  10. May 21, 2014 #9
    Or perhaps a major in Physics and PhD but a minor in math and comsci is a more better way of helping things? Well come to think of it if things didn't work out too well then a computer programming job will do. Computer science is really the first thing I am interested in. So that can work out well. However, I am not too sure of a specialization at this current time, (physics) unfortunately. So that maybe my problem at the moment, but again where would I end up doing research, for instance, if lets say I became a theoretical physicist? and wants to do be a scientific researcher, I am truly fine researching in universities though I really am not interested in teaching.
    Last edited: May 21, 2014
  11. May 21, 2014 #10
    You don't need a degree if you're passionate about a particular subject. I like economics and subfields such as game theory and sometimes I even end up reading a philosophical piece by Kant. However, while these subjects are very interesting, getting a job with a philosophy and CS degree won't make a big difference on my paycheck, unless you want to pursue graduate studies. Most math majors end up applying for the same technical jobs as CS majors, which is why you usually see "with a degree in CE, EE, math and physics or related field", physics not so much, though.

    Ask yourself: Do you want to go to graduate school for physics? Pursue a double major. I will tell you that this is not as easy as you may think, or what makes you think it is easy or affordable in the end. Tuition is not cheap, and you might be missing out on some real good cash with your CS degree in the software industry. Just keep that in mind.
  12. May 21, 2014 #11
    @coffeejunky Your right, however, I am not that interested in computer science as before, but strongly interested in physics and want to go to graduate school. And I am really thinking of being a scientific researcher specializing in theoretical physics. And I am fully aware of the tuition, regarding the graduate studies, and cash that I would acquire in the software industry, although, as I said I am not as interested as before in computer science. And don't have an interest as a software programmer and the like.
  13. May 21, 2014 #12


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    The first thing I might point out is that the first year of a physics or computing science major is likely to be fairly similar including first year calculus, the introductory physics courses, maybe a linear algebra course, an introductory computer science or a programming course, and some electives. So really whatever you decide going in is largerly just a placeholder until you get that first year out of the way. Then, based on what you like and what you find you have strength in, you can orient your academic path accordingly.

    As for what you would end up doing professionally if you pursue theoretical physics, it's important to keep in mind that only 1/10 PhD graduates go on into tenured research-oriented careers in academia. Others (perhaps another 1 or 2 of the 10) may stay within the academic perhiphery (permanent laboratory positions, teaching-oriented positions, a continuum of post-docs), but the majority it seems exit the field at some point to pursue other things. At the moment, financial work or "big data" are commonly discussed industries. A lot of theoretical work involves programming and so it's not uncommon for theorists to market that skill.
  14. May 23, 2014 #13
    @choppy Wow! That is something to consider thank you for saying that. You change my point of view of considering computer science. And I do think you are quite right since most of the calculations are based on modern technologies such as well a computer or a mainframe. And as micromass has put out it is not sufficient to only learn programming alone, but that is how it really works, however I need to be practical since that is not how the real world works :) Moreover, I need advice on programming and a teacher can supplement that knowledge of computer science and perhaps mathematics. Thanks guys.
  15. May 23, 2014 #14
    Why do you want to double major? Why not do a single major in physics (if you are certain you want to be a physicist) and take whatever classes you think are useful to you as a physicist? i.e. take a mixture of maths and CS classes.

    Edit: I just need to point out that CS != programming. Programming is only one part of CS.
    Last edited: May 23, 2014
  16. May 23, 2014 #15
    Hmm.. do you think that majoring in Physics and getting a Phd in it, while simultaneously taking courses in cs is sufficient enough for a career in Physics? Because I dont know maybe it will matter in the end. So please enlighten me. Because of what @coffeejunky said that I should pursue a double major I dont know which is right. Or perhaps a cs minor is a better idea? Cause yeah I really do want to be broad but not too broad in a sense that I want to concentrate on physics but cover enough regions within it.
  17. May 24, 2014 #16
    No. Careers "in physics" are so rare you need to be not only talented, skilled and hard working, but also lucky. But getting a PhD and taking/learning CS is a great way to get a career in STEM or something related with the possibility of doing higher paying and more rewarding work. Its not a bad path to aim for and the CS would be a good backup plan.

    I think a double major is a good idea, but its also harder and more costly. And it may eat into time that you could spend researching. Its a give/take situation for sure.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook