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What kinds of Jobs?

  1. Apr 29, 2009 #1
    Alright, so I am in the process of switching my major (again), and this time to physics. I started in management for 3 semesters, then building construction management for 3 semesters, and now I'm going to physics.

    So far I have really enjoyed physics. I'm just hoping I don't eventually become overwhelmed by it. One thing that bothers me a little though is the job aspect of it. People keep asking me what I'm going to do with it, and other than "I don't know really yet", I don't have a whole lot to say. I usually tell them I can be a professor, and that I've considered that, but I don't really know what to say other than that.

    Here at Purdue we have a couple options for majors. First is just general Physics, and the other I am considering is Applied Physics. General Physics is just pure physics, and with applied physics you take 30 credit hours of classes from another major (say, engineering) and you get a "specialization" in that. You do take 2 less senior level physics classes than general Physics to make up for that though.

    Now, I have a ton of credits from my other two majors built up, but they just count for electives basically. There are a bunch of electives in general Physics, but not many in Applied Physics (they are used up with the specialization classes). So I've been here 3 years and am kind of getting tired of it, and would have to be here 1 or 2 semesters longer with Applied.... But it might be worth it for a specialization like that.

    What jobs would be available to me potentially with those two majors? I'm sure i wouldn't be able to do much with general Physics without a Ph.D, but with Applied Physics and that specialization could I potentially be able to do something straight out of school?

    I've also considered some kind of engineering so I can only go to school for a couple more years and be done, but I don't know. My grandpa (metallurgical ph.d engineer) and my professor of my Statics and Strength of Materials class have tried convincing me to go with engineering (I'm #1 in my S&SoM class, which helps. lol). I really have always liked planes a ton too, so Aeronautical Engineering does sound potentially interesting to me also (depending on what they actually do on a day to day basis).

    So what kinds of graduate school/jobs could I, or would I have to, do with maybe a general Physics degree, an Applied Physics degree, or maybe an Aeronautical Engineering degree?

    Thanks for any help and sorry this was so long. I would really like to get this sorted out soon so I can attack this and get done with school.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 29, 2009 #2

    Vanadium 50

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    College is about becoming educated. Trade school is about learning to find a job.

    Most people who get degrees in physics end up working in jobs that don't have "physicist" in their title. The same is true for people who major in history, mathematics, literature, biology, economics...
  4. Apr 29, 2009 #3
    I found this to be true as well. I spoke to a couple of profs at my uni and they said that physics degree is seen more as a "generalist degree" with better maths. Less than half the students go on to work in the field.
    This is why I chose to study Materials Engineering.
  5. Apr 29, 2009 #4
    Well, i wouldn't want to just go to school to not do that for my career... So if I do physics I would like to do physics afterwards. lol

    But as far as answering that question... sounds like "I don't know" was the right answer...
  6. Apr 29, 2009 #5
    Alright, how about this specifically then. Purdue has a nice 5 year M.S. plan for Applied Physics majors. In just one extra year (so I would have about 4 left) I could leave here with a Master's in Applied Physics...

    What could someone with a Master's in Applied Physics do (Obviously depending on what the applied part was. Probably a type on engineering for me)?
  7. Apr 30, 2009 #6
    A degree in physics gives you a certain set of skills. It is your responsibility to sell you and your skills to different companies. It depends on company to company how receptive they are the physics people. I think a strong argument could be made for hiring physicist in almost any sector.
  8. May 1, 2009 #7

    Andy Resnick

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    IIRC Purdue has an excellent reputation in Physics and Engineering. Have you been to the student career center and asked what and where previous students have gone on to do?
  9. May 1, 2009 #8
    I do know their Engineering is supposed to be one of the best, but I don't know much about the physics program actually. I would assume it's pretty good from what I've sen so far though. I haven't actually been down there. It's called the Center for Career Opportunities here (unless you're talking about something else). I need to check that out. Their website doesn't have any listings like that. Unfortunately for me though looking at titles of jobs doesn't do too much. I would really like to know what they do day to day.

    So, is applied physics a common major among colleges in the sense that Purdue uses it (a complete normal physics degree with 30 credit hours of classes in a "specialization", i.e. Geophysics, Nuclear Physics, Mechanical Engineering, etc.)?

    I'm thinking that sounds like a pretty decent option right now. Learn everything the 'pure' physics students do, and then a bunch of stuff from the specialization. That would broaden my choices after I graduate quite a bit (Ph.D in physics, M.S. in Applied Physics, some grad school for engineering, engineering job potentially, and I'm sure a whole bunch more).
  10. May 3, 2009 #9
    I'm in pretty much the same situation. When I tell people I'm going to do physics, they ask: oh, do you wanna be a teacher? Then I'm like... well, maybe, I don't know ;) . It's not my 'goal' to become a teacher, although it could be fun I think if you're good at it. Anyway, I also considered applied physics which I thought might give some more job opportunities, so I went to a technical university. In applied physics students do more experiments (i.e. here in Europe), but when I saw what kind of experiments they did... it didn't really interest me. It's not that you don't do any experiment as a general physics major, it's just that you don't have to do as many. I have now chosen for a double bachelor in physics and maths. After my bachelor degree(s) I can easily switch to applied physics/engineering, even to econometrics or computer science, because of the solid maths I will have had by then. So not too much to catch up with.

    So what I've done, is that I created a lot of 'ways out' if studying physics turns out to be different than I expect.
    After all you just don't know what will happen... I think my heart lies at physics but it might change. Right now I pursue knowledge and a better understanding of the universe, rather than big money or many job opportunities. So that's what I'll be doing... :)
  11. May 5, 2009 #10
    Well you do sound a lot like me. I think our Applied Physics over here sounds different though (or maybe just Purdue's is different?).

    Applied Physics here at Purdue takes all of the core classes of the Physics degree (physics and college of science requirements), removes the 30 credit hours of electives, and replaces them with classes for your "specialization", whatever that may be. So basically you earn a full General Physics degree and take 30 credit hours of Nuclear Physics, Astrophysics, Electrical/Mechanical Engineering, Chemistry, Biology, or any other science/engineering subject in place of the electives in the General Physics degree. So basically you just learn a lot more than a General Physics major about science/engineering subjects (and are more diverse when it comes to looking for a job).

    Then they also have a program to get an Applied Physics Master's in a year after your undergraduate graduation. You take 30 more credit hours of graduate level classes this time, 12 of which are Physics credits, and 18 of them are for your "specialization" again. That would take one extra year.
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