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Totally Confused

  1. Jun 21, 2008 #1
    Hi guys,

    Well I'm 17 and in a bit less than a year I'll be doing my A-levels and I'll have to choose what to study at university. I am really in love with math and physics (which are the subjects I am studying @ A-level) but I really don't know what I should choose. On one hand I know I would like to take BSc maths and physics but on the other hand I've been told and read that it's very hard to find a job later on.

    Probably there are a million posts like this. But I would really appreciate if someone could tell me the different interesting jobs one could get if he has at least a masters in maths and physics or some other degree. I already did a mistake once and choose computing at advanced level, i dropped it after a week because I was missing Physics too much, I'm not going to repeat the same mistake.

    One more question, if i were to take BSc maths and physics, will I be able to do a masters in a particular branch of engineering later on?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 21, 2008 #2
    If you're into physics that much, go for it. It may be hard to get jobs actually in physics research, but unemployed physicists are rare and there are tons of related areas. You can find a way to make it work if you want to do it badly.

    Lots of people go into engineering later. It might take extra work, and some fields are easier to enter than others (e.g. chemical engineering has loads of background that you won't get in a physics program).
  4. Jun 21, 2008 #3


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    I should add that because you're still young you may not exactly know what you want yet. Like you I had an interest in physics and maths but was dissuaded by my friends and family from pursuing a degree in those fields. I still matriculated as a physics major, but switched my major to engineering after I realised the limited employment opportunities (in my locality, may not be true for yours) for physics BSc holders as well as the fact that there's very little you can do with a bachelor's in physics unless you're contented with teaching high school physics. There's plenty of physics in engineering too, so don't count engineering out as being dry and uninteresting compared to physics.
  5. Jun 21, 2008 #4
    Ditto that. I decided to switch from Physics to Engineering and study Mechanical engineering now. I love it so far. You can always do bot if you're will to work that hard. Or you can study physics on your own time.

    The way I think about it is: if I am going to be hard pressed to find a job IN physics, why not get the next best thing (a well paying job that USES physics) and study physics in my own time? I know a couple of people who have never taken a 'modern' physics class. They are completely self taught, yet have still made contributions to the field. They just do other things to make a living (and they enjoy those things!)
  6. Jun 21, 2008 #5


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    It's important to keep in mind that university studies will give you an education, but not necessarily job training. There's all sorts of stuff you can do with a physics degree, but there just won't be as many openings that are looking specifically for someone with that background because "undergraduate physicist" is not generally a profession (the way way engineer, nurse, or lawyer is).

    I've known people that have gone from physics into:
    - geological exploration
    - meterology
    - scientific journalism
    - education
    - financial work
    - medicine
    - radiation protection
    - engineering
    - very successful entreprenurial endeavours
    - national defence
    - law enforcement
    - computer programming
    - network administration
    - sales
    ... and that's off the top of my head.
  7. Jun 21, 2008 #6


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    If possible, I would recommend any physics major to get the BS in physics, as well as engineering (essentially applied physics) if one decides one would like to focus on an engineering discipline. There is also Engineering Physics at some schools.

    Thirty years ago, one of my college mates got his physics degree (BS) and then went into oil exploration (well logging.) Other physics majors went into EE or Computer Sci/Eng. Still others went onto grad school.

    Computational physics is a growing area, and here the focus on micro-, nano- and atomistic scales is becoming increasingly important.
  8. Jun 21, 2008 #7


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    i am a mathematician in the US, at university, and know little about ophysics based jobs. But I have a lot of experience getting and keeping jobs in general.

    For one thing there is never any guarantee of getting a job just because you trained for it, and/or are qualified for it. I.e. there are other criteria for getting jobs that have a lot to do with dedication, tenacity, ability to ropesent well in an interview, confidence, luck, timing,etc...

    I am just reminding you not to equate training with getting a job. of course get the training, but if your goal is not just thinking about the subject you love, but also getting a job and living off it, then learn a little something about interviewing, retirement planning, etc....

    i say this because when a person asks "what do i need to do to become a physicist?" I assume he just wants to do physics, and the advice is oriented that way. If he asks, what kind of job can i expect to get in physics, the advice needs to be slightly more practical.

    still the others here know more than i do about this as well.

    Im just saying, some people can walk in and get a job and others cannot, with the same training, so if you want a job, learn why that is.
  9. Jun 21, 2008 #8
    I think I wasn't 100% clear earlier. I am willing to go further than just a bachelors degree. In fact I would love to do a masters, or maybe even more since i love studying. To be completely honest, I love math even more than physics. That's one of the main reasons that i had a bsc in math and physics in mind since it involves a lot of math ofcourse.
    However if I were to go for engineering I'd probably go for Aerospace or ME.
  10. Jun 21, 2008 #9


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    Something else to keep in mind is that at 17, in high school, you've haven't really been exposed to the type of stuff that's involved in pursuing these subjects at an advanced level. So what you may enjoy now, may not necessarily be what you enjoy in university.

    It's generally a good idea to do a general first year that keeps as many doors open as possible - so that you can decide on a direction once you know what you're getting yourself into.
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