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What should i do with my life? (engineering or physics)

  1. Sep 25, 2015 #1
    I'm Joel and I am pretty much finished school in Australia and have to make a decision about university in the near future.
    I love science (especially Physics) and mathematics at school so am certain that I will go into Science or Engineering but I am not quite sure what type.
    Whatever I do I want to do something that benefits society and isn't just to make money or make a product.
    Over the past year I have developed a strong interest in Renewable Energy through reading articles on the internet.
    There are 2 degrees at the university I want to go to (UNSW) with a specific focus in Renewable Energy: Photovoltaics Engineering (http://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/undergraduate/plans/2016/SOLAAH3707.html) and Renewable Energy Engineering (http://www.handbook.unsw.edu.au/undergraduate/plans/2016/SOLABH3707.html). For a while I was set on doing one of these but more recently I thought that I should do a traditional discipline either Chemical, Mechanical or Electrical and focussing in on Renewable Energy later if it still interests me because I don't want to overspecialise and I don't really know whether the nature of the work will interest me fully.
    I wasn't really thinking about Physics but it has become on my forefront of my mind since finding about Talented Science Program's at university's for achieving a mark that I reckon I have a 50% chance of achieving at school. This contains plenty of research and networking opportunities in undergraduate leading well into a career in academic research. A career in physics research would be fascinating to me. If I can't make it in research there would be other jobs that would interest me such as working in another field such as data science or going into Science or Mathematics teaching
    I spend a lot of time researching different careers and degrees but can never really decide one or another.
    Question 1: Is doing one of these specific Renewable Energy Engineering degrees overspecialising and will employers in renewable energy prefer to hire an electrical engineer and a mechanical than someone with such a degree?
    Question 2: If I do pick one of the Renewable Energy degrees how easily would it be to move into a different engineering discipline in the future?
    Question 3: How would one decided between doing either Mechanical, Chemical or Electrical Engineering in general when they have researched all three but are unsure which they are most suited to?
    Question 4: How should I decide between Physics or Engineering?
    Apologies that my post is a little hard to follow and the questions are a bit ambiguous it is really a summary of a stream of consciousness of someone confused over what to do with their life
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 25, 2015 #2
    It doesn't matter much because once you start on the road in a career more opportunities will open up in other fields presently unknown to you. Try to obtain employment with an employer who treats you with courtesy and respect who pays a living wage. As time goes on you can change positions with that employer or continue to take classes or training for another position. I suspect that you really have no idea what it 'out there' and the way to find out is to get started somewhere and meet and talk to people in your chosen field. Again, five years into your chosen field, you'll be history, because you'll be working somewhere else that you like better.
  4. Sep 25, 2015 #3
    The answer should come from within you, from your own investigations and your own ambitions and your own desires.

    Asking us what we think you should do is almost guaranteed to leave doubts and dissatisfaction.
  5. Sep 27, 2015 #4
    What JakeBrodskyPE said, you have to follow your interests, good advice at the time can look terrible once a few years of hindsight are thrown in the mix. Problem is hindsight is indirectly proportional to age.
    But ill offer some advice I do wish I received a decade ago. Don't over think or try become a specialist too soon.
    You're undecided, so barrelling down a singular path can either go really well or just cause you to switch paths later on in life (also not a problem, really). Keep your options as open as you dare. Physics or engineering could easily be interchanged (mayhap switching to eng, if desired, slightly easier ) with a few extra credits later on in your undergraduate studies.
    Very few of us end up in a career we envisioned as bright eyed bushy tailed first years. (do people still use the term "freshmean"?)
  6. Sep 27, 2015 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    In the US, "freshman" is the term everybody uses.
  7. Oct 1, 2015 #6
    Hi Joel,

    I did a Renewable Energy Engineering degree in Austria, a loooooong time after I had completed my physics degrees. I had already started to work in 'renewable energy' at that time. The other degree was rather a post-graduate degree and I was interested in the 'networking' aspect (it was a program tailored to professionals working full-time).

    The program was not overspecialized as it tried to cover 'a bit of' mechanical and electrical engineering, plus non-STEM things like economics or law specific to renewable energy. I'm self-employed but from anecdotal second-hand evidence I'd say employers rather prefer specialists like electrical or mechanical engineers.

    Cannot say as such here such programs are rather graduate programs - you would have a bachelor in physics, engineering or chemistry and then do a more interdisciplinary master degree in 'renewable energy'.

    On your questions 3 and 4: Physics or engineering, and which kind of engineering:

    I'd rather not give any advice (agree with Jake). I picked physics, because I enjoyed it, and it was - perhaps - lucky I could pick up a lot employable engineering / lab / 'project management' skills as a graduate student. In some sense, some of tasks I did not like at the beginning turned out the most useful: Like being in charge of maintaining and troubleshooting technical equipment and doing project controlling and meeting with the funding agency's finance guy. Today, as a small business owner, I am actually enjoying such tasks do. I believe, that passion often follows mastering of skills.
  8. Oct 2, 2015 #7
    Hi, I understand your point but, If you are really confuse, try engineering physics course. It's a combination of both. This degree actually prepares students to have their job in the private sector or in national laboratories or to pursue an advanced degree in engineering. However, I think this course is not being offered in every school. By the way, I suggest that you should read more about related experiences of a physicists and engineers to help you decide and make your personal choice.
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