To do a math or physics degree?

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I'm currently about to be in my third year of university courses. I'm having trouble deciding on majoring in mathematics or physics and it's almost too late to choose. I can not double major at this point. I'm currently taking a condensed six week senior level complex analysis course and I just left community college... the most recent course I finished was calculus 3 and ODE which is technically sophomore level- so needless to say I absolutely adore math (and those all too common bursts of dopamine when a difficult problem is solved, lol!). However, I think physics is pretty interesting and will offer me insight into the universe that is unattainable by other majors (and it is harder for me which I like because I have to think more). So i don't want to ditch physics for mathematics, but I don't want to ditch mathematics for physics... any advice? I know math has better job prospects than physics also though, the job outlook is 21% whereas physics is zippo. I've been vacillating for two years and that needs to come to an end pretty soon...
 

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  • #2
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Welcome to PF!

What about applied math? best of both worlds maybe.

Or you can take one or more the core physics courses of Classical Mechanics, E and M Theory and Quantum Mechanics to satisfy your interests.
 
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radium
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It's definitely not true that physics has worse job prospects than math.
 
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It's definitely not true that physics has worse job prospects than math.
Well, as of 2013 (can't find any more recent surveys) according to the NSF's survey of doctoral recipients, mathematics Ph.D holders have an unemployment rate of 1.2% vs 2.9% for physics Ph.D holders.

Granted, both of these are pretty good, but mathematics also has an involuntary out-of-field rate of 3.7% as opposed to 7.4% for physics. It seems that, across the board, mathematics Ph.Ds were doing slightly better than physics Ph.Ds, but that's not to say any of them were starving. Also, this only applies to Ph.D holders. I believe the APS has relevant statistics for undergraduate degrees, but you'd have to find corresponding statistics for mathematics degree holders.

Of course, I encourage anyone to look at the data and to keep in mind that it is 3 years old:
https://ncsesdata.nsf.gov/doctoratework/2013/
 
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Welcome to PF!

What about applied math? best of both worlds maybe.

Or you can take one or more the core physics courses of Classical Mechanics, E and M Theory and Quantum Mechanics to satisfy your interests.
Yes if I were to go for mathematics (which as of this moment I am leaning towards) it would be applied. Im one course away from a minor in physics, the next course is modern physics which covers quantum mechanics cosmology and relativity at my college which should be pretty suitable to "fill me up" lol. And thank you!
 
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radium
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Well either way, it is innaccurate to say there are no job prospects in physics. That's just not true. A PhD in physics will provide you with very marketable skills, especially if you can program. People who leave academia often go in to jobs in industry research (people in condensed matter experiment can get research positions at places like IBM and Intel), consulting, finance, etc. I know of several examples. Basically everyone I directly know who graduated in the past few years has been able to get a good job without a problem.
Recently I have also been hearing about research done in industry which is pretty fundamental and allows one to directly apply there physics knowledge (this is stuff that someone in CMT could do).

I'm not exactly sure how much pedigree matters for these jobs but it is probably important.
 

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