Physics bachelors

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Joined: Thu May 04, 2006 9:15 am

Physics bachelors

Post by zath » Thu May 04, 2006 9:30 am

I plan to go to grad school. But if I'm stuck with a bachelors then what kind of opportunities do I have with a physics bachelors degree? Do I have an equal or less of an opportunity getting a physics degree than I would with an engineering degree? In other words, do I have a good chance of finding a job anywhere with a physics bachelors?

And also, I heard that people with physics degrees are qualified to do programming. What do they mean? I don't think there are programming classes in my physics program. Did they mean that you would be a consultant to programmers who create programs that requires physics?


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Joined: Fri Apr 07, 2006 9:15 pm

options with a physics degree

Post by paradox » Thu May 04, 2006 2:03 pm

First, a BS in most disciplines doesn't 'guarantee' you a job in anything. Even engineering majors sometimes have problems finding work with no experience. I don't know what country you are in, so I can't tell you what the economical situation is like. Having worked as a programmer in the US, I can tell you what employers look for. Experience (especially a lot of it) trumps degrees. Any degree with experience is better. A degree in an "analytical" field is better than a "liberal arts" degree. However, if you're looking for a job as a programmer a CS/EE/ECE degree (depending on the type of work) with experience is best. This may seem obvious -- but I studied math. :P

With that said, a physics degree does tell people that you have problem solving skills. It usually is a sign of a studious person. In my opinion, physics majors overall tend to be better self-learners than any other field. I say this as a fan of physics, but as a student of mathematics. (However, I will point out that mathematicans who can 'hack' other fields tend to be the best [i.e. Von Nuemann, Kolmogorov, Wiener, Ulam, etc]).

You can certainly teach yourself to program. However a minor in CS would probably benefit you greatly. You're probably not going to be handed a job outside your field unless you're going to a great school. However, I've seen that companies like Sun and Microsoft hire Math graduates straight from college. This wasn't even at a 'top' school!

If you live in the US, you have a couple of options with a physics degree. First, you can always be an actuary. Take a couple statistical theory courses (or minor in it). You can always take the actuary exams. I hear they're pretty easy for the math literate. Second you can minor in CS. This will help employers recognize your 'skills' in this area. However, any experience you can get writing code (even with a physics degree) may be better. Another option is that you double major in physics and engineering. Some departments encourage it. This can be especially lucrative. Plus, a double major in Physics and EE tends to look good to grad schools too. Another option might be mathematical finance. Quants tend to have PhDs. However, I've seen many who get MBAs or MS degrees in mathematical finance instead. Certainly you can teach with a physics degree. In fact, people with Math and Physics degrees are high sought as HS teachers. Incidentally, teaching at a good private school isn't so bad. Yeah, nobody wants to teach public school. Finally, you can always do what other people in other majors do. Work your way up from an entry level job.

On the bright side, I've done work I didn't like and I can't say I was too happy doing it. You have to work hard too succeed. It's certainly harder when you don't really enjoy the work. I would also like to point out that if you have any natural inclination for something and a genuine love for it, it tends to be easy to be successful in it.

**NOTE: I'm may offend some here by saying this. However, I have seen that a Math or Physics degree may actually look better to an employer than an MIS/IT/CIS degree.

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Post by Relativist » Thu May 04, 2006 3:57 pm

The above is good advice. The only thing I would add is that if you think your going to ever do hardcore engineering (that requires a PE specifically), make sure to get a double major in an engineering field that is ABET accredited so that your degree will go towards the experience requirement. Other than that specific case, a physics degree opens many doors. As was stated before a minor in CS will help tremendously if you do any programming.

Another thing you can do is focus on what physics majors do best, physics. For example, lets say you like optics. In this case I would suggest you not only take the physics optics courses but any EE courses available in your school on the same topic, also learning software commonly used (like zemax) would be helpfull. All in all, you can take some extra coursework durring your undergrad to help you become both more employable and more desireable to a graduate program (especially if it's experimental).

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Post by zath » Thu May 04, 2006 10:49 pm

Thanks you two. Yeah, I thought about double majoring. But that minor in CS sounds nice. Thanks alot, I appreciate it.

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