Which degree should I take?

  • #1
QuantumPhyZ
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Due to economic problems I only can take one of these two degrees, in my local university, Software Engineer degree or a Math degree. However after taking one of those degrees I’m thinking of saving money to take a Physics degree in another University (I will be 26 after taking the Bachelor of one of those, and depending on what I work on, where I live, I would only need to save for 1 year).

So my question relies on this, should I take a math major because it would be a better choice when going to physics as I would get a better basis in math even though I would most likely need a Masters (I was thinking on mathematics physics) to land a job, or should I do a Bachelor in Software Engineering and land a job right after taking the degree, save up and minimize the time I would need to go into a Bachelor of Physics?

To further context, I had to leave university before finishing my physics degree in my last year of the Bachelors, due to two nervous breakdowns and losing my scholarship. So I already have more knowledge in physics than 99% of the population (I think).
 
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  • #2
Neither is likely to be enough for entrance into graduate school. So I don't see that it matters.
QuantumPhyZ said:
I already have more knowledge in physics than 99% of the population (I think).
Won't cut it. ~99.95% is where you need to be.
 
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  • #3
Vanadium 50 said:
Neither is likely to be enough for entrance into graduate school. So I don't see that it matters.

Won't cut it. ~99.95% is where you need to be.
Maybe I paraphrased what I said wrong. My question is focused in what degree should I take before taking a new physics degree (starting from 0), the "further context" I added, seems to not be as relevant as I thought it was going to be. Not only that, it seems mathematics physics seems also a good career path or isn't it? For someone who wants to learn physics?
 
  • #4
QuantumPhyZ said:
Maybe I paraphrased what I said wrong. My question is focused in what degree should I take before taking a new physics degree (starting from 0), the "further context" I added, seems to not be as relevant as I thought it was going to be. Not only that, it seems mathematics physics seems also a good career path or isn't it? For someone who wants to learn physics?
You could also argue that a software engineering degree is a great degree to have if you wish to pursue computational physics; a software engineering degree would also provide for a reasonable Plan B should you not pursue physics at all. Regardless of your choice, if you wish to pursue graduate work in physics, you should complete the courses that a physics undergrad major would.
 
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  • #5
CrysPhys said:
You could also argue that a software engineering degree is a great degree to have if you wish to pursue computational physics; a software engineering degree would also provide for a reasonable Plan B should you not pursue physics at all. Regardless of your choice, if you wish to pursue graduate work in physics, you should complete the courses that a physics undergrad major would.
Wouldn't a math major work as a plan B as well? The main point is that I need to save money for the physics bachelor after I take one of the main majors I referred (Software Engineer or Math; Note: my local University doesn't have a physics bachelor, that's why I need to save up money to go to another university. With this said, it is also important to note that I will re-earn my scholarship if and when I go to a Masters program). My objective is to go to grad school and focus in theoretical physics in the least amount of time, that's why I'm not sure which degree should I take, if it is math (Note: It is also important to note, that if I indeed choose math, I will most likely enroll in a master programs in Mathematics Physics and most likely pursue a PhD that encompasses physics), I'm well of to pursue that objective but will lack a good job opportunity, or should I take Software Engineer, have a good plan B as job opportunities stand?
 
  • #6
For what it's worth neither is necessarily a bad option. Engineering is a professional field, and so when you finish you should have lots of option for work (although software engineering as I understand it is less regulated than other branches). With mathematics a lot will depend on the details of the skill set you develop. Jobs for "mathematicians" are generally not as plentiful, but there are jobs for statisticians, or actuaries, for example.

In my experience though most students in full time programs have a hard time saving up for a second program. I bring this up because it seems like your plan is going to be: Complete BSc I (math or software). Get a job. Climb out of debt from BSc I. Save up for BSc II. Complete BSc II in physics. Apply to graduate school.

Why not figure out the fastest way to earn the money you need to do that now (i.e. get the highest paying job you can today) rather than spending your time and money completing a degree that you don't really want? That would get you into the program you really want sooner, wouldn't it?
 
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  • #7
Choppy said:
For what it's worth neither is necessarily a bad option. Engineering is a professional field, and so when you finish you should have lots of option for work (although software engineering as I understand it is less regulated than other branches). With mathematics a lot will depend on the details of the skill set you develop. Jobs for "mathematicians" are generally not as plentiful, but there are jobs for statisticians, or actuaries, for example.

In my experience though most students in full time programs have a hard time saving up for a second program. I bring this up because it seems like your plan is going to be: Complete BSc I (math or software). Get a job. Climb out of debt from BSc I. Save up for BSc II. Complete BSc II in physics. Apply to graduate school.

Why not figure out the fastest way to earn the money you need to do that now (i.e. get the highest paying job you can today) rather than spending your time and money completing a degree that you don't really want? That would get you into the program you really want sooner, wouldn't it?
The skill set I want to develop in math are: differential equations, algebraic topology and algebra to supplement my future degree in physics and grad school on it (even though I might need a Masters and a PhD in math). In Software Engineer the skill I want to develop is Machine Learning. I know that both are great, however I do enjoy math a little bit more, even though there is more job opportunities in Software Engineering.

I won't be in debt since I live in Portugal and University is rather cheap, the problem really is the cost of living in the another University I want to go to and redo my physics degree. However you did sum out pretty nicely what I want to do. With this said, it would also be easy to save up where I live, as my parents have a house and are not in debt. So I can easily save up. I already did the math and it should take me about ~1 year in savings to go back to the bachelor in physics.

I already tried to figure it out, but the time it would consume me wouldn't be necessarily as efficient as taking another degree that could work as a backup plan and work there. The salary difference between having a degree and not having one is great in Portugal, and it totally makes a difference. Plus is not that I don't want a degree in math or software engineer, because I would love to learn both. However like my wise professor once said to me, it's a matter of focus. Plus I might end up liking something in math or software engineer but I do know myself and I would be regretting every second for not trying harder to get a bachelor in physics, masters and a PhD on it.

With this said, should I do the Software Engineering, do the bachelor and start working, having that as a plan B? (Note: The salary difference between having this degree and not having a degree at all, in Portugal, is about 200-300 €, which would be a big difference here where I reside in) Or should I go to a math major, do a masters in there and do a PhD in mathematical physics?
Also what are the differences between mathematical physicist from a math major point of view, to a theoretical physicist point of view?

Note: I'm pretty confident in my capabilities to get a good GPA (side note: In Portugal the score ranges 0-20) in math. So I do think enrolling in grad school of math, shall not be a problem at all.
 
  • #8
QuantumPhyZ said:
even though I might need a Masters and a PhD in math)
Whoa!

Not many places will allow you to get two PhDs. Further, this means you will be around 44 when you finish - twice your age! Graduate admissions does not like perpetual students either. This is not a very realistic plan.
 
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  • #9
Vanadium 50 said:
Whoa!

Not many places will allow you to get two PhDs. Further, this means you will be around 44 when you finish - twice your age! Graduate admissions does not like perpetual students either. This is not a very realistic plan.
Thanks for the info!

What would be a more realistic plan?
 
  • #10
I can't plan your life for you. But something that does not require over two decades of schooling.
 
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  • #11
QuantumPhyZ said:
Wouldn't a math major work as a plan B as well?

Job markets vary substantially with location and time. You are now in Portugal. Do you plan to stay there? The best you can do at this moment is to write down a candidate list of countries in which you would seek employment, if needed, with a bachelor's degree in math or software engineering. Check job posts (current and historical) to see which degree is, and has been, in stronger demand in those specific countries of interest.

QuantumPhyZ said:
My question is focused in what degree should I take before taking a new physics degree (starting from 0), the "further context" I added, seems to not be as relevant as I thought it was going to be.

QuantumPhyZ said:
My objective is to go to grad school and focus in theoretical physics in the least amount of time, that's why I'm not sure which degree should I take, if it is math (Note: It is also important to note, that if I indeed choose math, I will most likely enroll in a master programs in Mathematics Physics and most likely pursue a PhD that encompasses physics), I'm well of to pursue that objective but will lack a good job opportunity, or should I take Software Engineer, have a good plan B as job opportunities stand?

QuantumPhyZ said:
The skill set I want to develop in math are: differential equations, algebraic topology and algebra to supplement my future degree in physics and grad school on it (even though I might need a Masters and a PhD in math). I

QuantumPhyZ said:
Or should I go to a math major, do a masters in there and do a PhD in mathematical physics?

Your future education options have been drifting around.

If, regardless of whether you get a first bachelor's in math or software engineering, you will start over again with a second bachelor's in physics program, then choose the first bachelor's with stronger job opportunities for Plan B, since the first bachelor's will have minor effect on your second bachelor's (some overlap with math requirements for physics).

But if you somehow think that a first bachelor's in math will allow you to bypass the second bachelor's in physics and jump right into a graduate program leading to what you want (whatever that is), then do that. I don't know what "mathematics physics" or "mathematical physics" programs in Portugal are like and what their prerequisites are.

But again, if you want to pursue research in physics, you need a solid foundation in graduate physics courses. And to get a solid foundation in graduate physics courses, you need a solid foundation in undergraduate physics courses.
 
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  • #12
OP would any of the courses you take at the current university transfer to the next one? If so you might want to look at the course sequence for the Physics program at university B and see which of the two majors at university A, math or software engineering, would provide you with the greatest number of transferable credits such that you could complete the Physics degree faster. Also you mentioned already partially completing a bachelor's in Physics, will any of those courses transfer over?

In terms of general employability as a back up, it would probably be easiest to get employed from Software Engineering without having to take additional schooling should the need arise. Being able to code is a very valuable skill to have in any case and can be applied to a number of industries.
 
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  • #13
gwnorth said:
OP would any of the courses you take at the current university transfer to the next one? If so you might want to look at the course sequence for the Physics program at university B and see which of the two majors at university A, math or software engineering, would provide you with the greatest number of transferable credits such that you could complete the Physics degree faster. Also you mentioned already partially completing a bachelor's in Physics, will any of those courses transfer over?

In terms of general employability as a back up, it would probably be easiest to get employed from Software Engineering without having to take additional schooling should the need arise. Being able to code is a very valuable skill to have in any case and can be applied to a number of industries.
Yes it would. In fact, taking a major in math would reduce my physics bachelor to 2 years, instead of the conventional 3. After reflecting about what Vanadium 50 said, taking the math major is surely not the most optimal thing to do. However, I will also have some credits to be transferable from software engineering, not as much as math though.

No, all the credits I made before won't transfer over due to fact they will expire after 3 years if the degree is not finished. That's not a necessarily bad thing. I had a bad GPA due to the lifestyle I had. (Tons of parties, drugs, and rarely studied because I was finding the courses easy and thought passing the courses was enough, I no longer see that way. Regretting the life I had, principally because that brought me mental health problems. Now that I look back, I see wasted potential and being ignorant enough to think that the GPA wasn't important).

Also, I made up my mind, I will do the bachelor in software engineering as that would be the most optimal path to take (thanks to all of your inputs). Being able to code and having a certificate for that seems the right choice now and I will work for ~1 year as a software engineer to fund my bachelor in physics.

Side note 1: I stopped doing drugs (including alcohol) for 1 year and half as for now.

Side note 2: There will be credits transferred from software engineering to the new bachelor in physics, just not as much.

Side note 3: I do not think I will like software engineering more than math, but I will develop more important skills than math for my future, and I might have the opportunity to have a job while schooling.

Side note 4: I will get my scholarship back when I enroll for the first time in a master program. So I'm saving that for my future masters in physics.
 
  • #14
Best of luck in your endeavours OP.
 
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