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Unsure about physics or engineering

  1. Aug 14, 2015 #1


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    Hello PF !

    I am going back to school in September to start a bachelor degree in Physics in a university in Europe (I already have a degree in software dev).

    I absolutely love using physics and maths to solve problems but I am not sure if I want to be an engineer or a physicist.

    If I decide to become a physicist, I would probably prefer the experimental side.
    I love renewables energies (huge fan of electric cars, batteries, photovoltaics, ...) and the university has research unit in the following area :
    - photovoltaics
    - energy materials
    - nanomagnetism
    - polymer physics
    - experimental soft matter physics
    - theory of soft condensed matter physics
    - complex systems and statistical mechanics
    - theory of mesoscopic systems
    - theoretical solid state physics

    My plan is to get a bachelor degree in Physics and either do a master in engineering or a physics master in condensed matter physics (which will lead me to a PhD 2 years later).

    The thing is... I am scared of academia. I'll be in my mid thirties when I finish my PhD which means post doc until I am probably 40 years old and I am not sure that teaching is the thing for me.

    I'll try to join a research group as soon as I can to figure out if I like research or not, of course.

    If I decide to get a PhD in Physics (experimental condensed matter physics) and realize that academia is not for me, would it be "easy" to go work in the industry in sciences jobs (engineering kind of jobs for example) ?

    I absolutely do not want to work in finance. I like developing software but the functional area needs to be science related (computational physics for example).

    I am asking those questions just because I will be 10 years late compared to someone who started a physicist path when he was 18 years old and I am scared that all my hard work for the next 8 years will be for nothing if I can't find a job I finally like.

    Thank you.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2015 #2


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    Depending on where you are planning to go to University, some European universities offer degrees in engineering physics. Just mentioning it as an alternative.

    Most PhDs do not go into academia and even fewer than those who go for a postdoc stay in academia for life (either by choice or by the fact that the job market is very competitive).

    If you have an affinity for programming, I do not think you will have difficulties finding a job.
  4. Aug 14, 2015 #3


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    My options are limited because of money and location, and there is no engineering physics where I live.

    I don't mind programming, I actually like it, I am just very picky in what I like in programming. I would like my skills in software development to be used as tools, I don't want to get paid just to build software if that makes any sense. If I don't like the functional area, I get bored really fast.

    I am quite sure that I would find great pleasure in building simulations needed for sciences research for example.

    A PhD in experimental physics seems to be more employable compared to a PhD in theoretical physics. That's why I hope that if I do a PhD in Physics and don't stay in academia, I can more or less easily find a job in the industry that combine maths, physics, programming.
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