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What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else?

  1. Apr 23, 2012 #1
    What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else??

    To those who read this post, thank you first for reading this

    I really need help as soon as possible. Currently I'm a freshman majoring in materials engineering. I chose that major because I thought it's a combination of chemistry and physics. I chose my major randomly when I applied to universities.
    I already didn't feel much passion for engineering and designing stuff ever since in high school. We did some windmill engineering design competition (high school level). All I did was mostly technical paper, drawing in computer, and some little addition to the windmill itself. It was great and I like it, but I didn't love it. I also took a seminar class about materials engineering as a whole, and still I wasn't moved.
    I've been really interested in physics and thinking to major in it. I'm currently reading books about modern physics and other physics-related articles in internet, and I like it when I read them. (cant wait to take the quantum mechanics and other modern physics classes :P) My problem is that I'm really really afraid about my income in the future.
    I know I'm not supposed to consider the salary factor that much, but I have no idea at all about the field. I searched online and there are so many different opinions about it. I mean, I don't hate engineering, it's physical science, it's just I like physics way better.
    Or maybe I'm just curious about how things work in quantum level.

    Is bachelor degree enough to fulfill my thirst for physics? I don't mind at all getting a graduate degree. which career should I choose? Why? What's the source of your opinion? Is there any other jobs that let me learn about physics and give secure income at the same time? I'm not greedy for being filthy rich; nice house and nice car are enough for me. Like middle class. You know what I mean?

    So, thank you very much and sorry for the long post. Your opinion will be very appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 26, 2012 #2
    Re: What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else??

    Anybody? Is there something wrong with my post? Or this is normal and I just have to wait? Thank you.
  4. Apr 26, 2012 #3
    Re: What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else??

    well why would you chose a major you didn't care for in the first place? and if you're a freshman you can still switch to actual physics. do what you love. and as far as jobs go, physics kind of splits into engineering (which is actually very broad and doesn't have to be as boring as you'd think. their's obviously material/mechanical as you know now but also chemical, computer, nuclear, petroleum along with different energy research, biomedical, aeronautical, hydro, etc). and the other major path is research in more theoretical fields which does require graduate work (usually a PhD) but sounds more up your alley from what you posted. as far as income is concerned obviously engineers tend to make more as they actually provide some sort of tangible product of sorts whereas researchers are mainly just on paper, but certain research fields do provide different opportunities including astrophysics which who knows, could land you a job with NASA which would pay well. Most standard researchers though make 40-50000 starting salary but it's hard work and for you may not be worth the small paycheck. writing books and stuff will earn you extra though. hope that helped a bit but I just scratched the surface, there are opportunities out there, you just gotta look
  5. Apr 28, 2012 #4
    Re: What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else??

    uhm because i thought engineers make good money? yea i know.. i kind of regretted it now. i'll start focusing on one thing at a time. thank you very much though. i'll look around :)
  6. Apr 28, 2012 #5
    Re: What to choose: physicist, engineer, or something else??

    A job is never a guarantee no matter the degree. You will have to go out and sell yourself to employers. Sometimes that means long-term and sometimes you'll consistantly be on the hunt again every few years. It all depends on YOU. You find your job. You make what you can out of what you know.

    If you're considering physics there are many useful guides around these forums such as this:

    There was also one that got pretty popular titled 'So you want to be a physicist' but the links I'm finding are dead. I recommend looking for this one because it was a game-changer for me as I am currently a physics undergrad.

    The most important thing I've learned from those two posts is that physics graduates rarely do pure phsyics. They apply models, physics/math, and critical thinking to problems that need solving. The key here is being well rounded. Don't just learn physics or engineering. Go beyond that and dabble in everything related. Computer programming and electronics often come up in related and useful abilities.

    The modern physics books I've read helped me get excited about end-game physics, too, but keep in mind that you basically have to be a rock star in the physics world to make a good living doing theoretical physics. Anyone can learn math/physics and try to figure out new theories but to make a living at it you basically have to have proven yourself already. However, that's only a tiny part of what being a physicist can mean. Like I said, if you end up studying physics you can apply that to a very large array of jobs if you're willing to diversify. Economics, computing, data storage/analysis, engineering, ... the list goes on and on.

    Whether a BA is enough to satisfy your thirst for physics depends entirely on your thirst for physics. The same goes for what degree to go for. No one can tell you what degree to go for because it depends entirely on what you want and finding out what you want is a journey in itself. I'll say this, though... if there is a degree for it then a good number of people already think it's worth studying. Every degree out there will have a community of people saying it's worth having. If you come to a physics forum then you'll likely find people telling you that physics is useful, and, well, it is!

    Engineering and physics degrees are both worth having and both can help you find good jobs but it's all about what you can do with them and how you market yourself when it comes to the money. How easy that is for you to do, though, depends on what you -want- to do.

    Speak up if you have any more questions and good luck!
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