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What to do with a physics degree?

  1. Jan 24, 2007 #1
    I am a sophomore in high school, and I will be taking AP Physics my Junior year along with Calculus. I want to go to college to get my masters in some field of physics, but I am not sure what. I am very good at math, and a lot of my previous classes went much too slow for me. My goal is to get accepted and attend MIT (and WPI as a backup).

    I don't want to teach, but it would be fun. I am looking to learn what some good jobs would be with a physics degree. I live in New England (not that it has too much relevance, but I would like a job near by).

    Also, what's a good field to major in?

    Thanks in advance, all comments are appreciated!
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 24, 2007 #2


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  4. Jan 24, 2007 #3
    Thanks for the help.
  5. Jan 24, 2007 #4
    But, say I wanted to major in Theoretical Physics, is there really anything I can do?
  6. Jan 24, 2007 #5
    Read. It will solve all problems
  7. Jan 24, 2007 #6


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    Do you know how to flip burgers?

    <ZapperZ runs and hides>

  8. Jan 24, 2007 #7
    C'mon ZapperZ, he said theoretical physics, not string theory :tongue2: .

    <runs and hides w/ ZapperZ>
  9. Jan 24, 2007 #8


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    I doubt he'll know how to flip burgers but he could give you a complex report about the dynamics of flipping a burger along with several predictions about burger flipping that will not be able to be tested for several decades because the equipment necessary has not yet been manufactured.
  10. Jan 24, 2007 #9
    you could use your string theory degree to help you figure out why the burger wont be converted into a wave of potentials

    <Hides under unit_circle>
  11. Jan 24, 2007 #10
    First off, you don't major in "Theoretical Physics." Physics has many subfields, and usually the people working in these fields are called "experimentalists" or "theorists," but there are also gray areas like computational physics and phenomenology.

    Second, a degree in physics doesn't mean you have to work a as "physicist." You can apply your skills all over, like in engineering, computer programming, finance, the list goes on and on.

    But hey, your still in high school, you got a while before you have to pick a major at a university.
  12. Jan 24, 2007 #11

    Dr Transport

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    My degree is in theoretical physics and I work in industry, string theorists need not apply. In industry as a theorist you can run and develop computer models, perform simulations etc.... We tend to design systems give realistic predictions and build test parts at the end of the design phase. If prediction matches measured, we declare victory and go on tho the next level of development, if not we look at adding complexity to our models and keep going. Building and testing parts is expensive and when the customer is happy with our prediction codes and methodology they don't force us to build, test, model...repeat to get to their expectations. The future is in mathematical modeling. My co-workers nephew is going to Olin in Boston for engineering. He has to design systems via solidworks and perform tests and simulations, if you have a part wrong the robot or whatever is being designed pops apart or the gears break etc.....He then has build it and compare reality to his model.

    You can do the same with a physics degree if you are patient and willing to work towards a goal.
  13. Jan 24, 2007 #12
    Unless he becomes a string theorist
  14. Jan 25, 2007 #13
    I can cook, not that it has any relevance to what I want to do in life, because I will never work at a McDonalds or Burger King...

    And, NO, I didn't want to be a string theorist. Although it interests me, I see jobs for it except at major universities, maybe.

    But I have one more question, what does theoretical physics have to do with computer programming? Are you talking like circuitry programming or like Java, Pascal, C, C#, etc...?
  15. Jan 25, 2007 #14
    There is a field of physics often referred to as computational physics, which uses a high degree of mathematics to model physical systems/phenomena in combination with (I am assuming) complex computer programming to create detailed and accurate simulations.

    From what I understand, for instance, one might be able to use the relevant maths and physics to create an accurate representation via computational modeling, of a particular phenomena (e.g. modeling the evolution of a black hole or the early seconds of the universe). Although, I am sure in industry, they probably model more relevant, less theoretical simulations and more real world applications.

    Although, I am sure Dr. Transport will provide a much better explanation than I, as I am not even confident that my answer even roughly describes that particular field.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  16. Jan 25, 2007 #15
    Getting a degree in physics isn't all about learning physics. A lot of it is also the learning, critical thinking, problem solving and analytical skills you pick up learning all that material. Those are the things that translate to succeeding in jobs outside a straight physics career. Don't make the mistake thinking that a physics degree means you have to do something physics related. That's pretty narrow thinking. Use the skills you develop during your learning to apply to other fields.
    Last edited: Jan 25, 2007
  17. Jan 25, 2007 #16
    I would like to do something that involves aerospace design or something similar.
  18. Jan 25, 2007 #17
    Have you explored any aerospace engineering curiculums offered at universities to decide if that is the general field you are interested in?

    Are you more interested in building, design or both?

    Are you interested in attending graduate school afterwards, if so, have you looked into aerospace graudate programs to see if physics majors have good retention rates in your programs of interests (or if they are even admitted into a specific program)?

    I am completely retarded when it comes to aerospace and anything related to it, so I tried to think of some questions that might help guide your interests so others can help. If my questions are of no significance, please disregard them.
  19. Jan 25, 2007 #18
    Yes, briefly though, I am planning to do more research once my midterms are over with. :zzz:

    I am definitely planning to go to graduate school. I would like to attend MIT or WPI for either undergrad or grad (or maybe both if I can come up with the money).

    I think I would want to be more involved with the research side and design rather than the actual engineering.
  20. Feb 24, 2007 #19
    Just a quick word of advice. If you get into both MIT and WPI, and you want to go to MIT for grad, then you should go to WPI. From what I hear, MIT very rarely, if ever, allows undergrads to be in their grad program. This may be a rumor but I've heard it from several different people. The reason is that they want the MIT taught student to go out and contribute to other institutions.
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