Is physics a good major?
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Things you can consider for this specific question...
What is physics?
What can you do with a degree in physics?
Is there a lot of opportunity for employment in physics?
If you majored in physics, what did you do with your degree?
Physics is an awesome major! There are a few caveats, of course, but I think it's close to the top of all the STEM fields.
Pros, at a very high level:
- It covers the entire universe, and there's just an astoundingly large number of cool things being discovered every week. I'm personally partial to astrophysics and cosmology, but low-temperature physics, solid-state physics, material science, biophysics, nuclear physics, particle physics, etc., are all full of fascinating stuff. In fact, I chose a non-astrophysics topic (acoustic microscopes) for my PhD qualifiers presentation; it was just a beautiful little nugget of niftiness. I sometimes wonder if I'd still be doing physics every day if I'd gone down that path instead...
- It's a great foundation for other things, including electronics (EE), data science/analytics, statistics, software engineering, and other types of engineering. I followed the software development path myself (and within that I've done a lot of different things), but I also did "electronics for physicists" as an undergrad (and TA'd it as a grad student), and I worked in a physics professor's rocket lab; with those I might conceivably have gone into instrument engineering or one of the commercial space programs. (In fact, a recruiter from one of the latter contacted me some years back; if it hadn't involved relocating, I might have gone for it.)
- Physics is very math-heavy, and not everyone has a talent for it. Don't be scared off just because of that, but if you've struggled with single-variable calculus (for example), it might not be the best choice for you. (If you've struggled but succeeded, then it might very well be for you: hard work counts for a lot. I watched a "normal-smart" but hard-working student surpass a "genius-smart" but less-hard-working student when I was a TA.)
- The most common dream for doing physics as a career is academia (i.e., aiming to become a professor, and most commonly a professor who does a fair amount of research). But professorships are relatively scarce relative to the number of physics PhDs who'd like one, and the path is pretty long and rather poor-paying until you get to the end: four years of undergrad, 5-7 years for a PhD program, 2-6 years for postdocs (not sure of the current average), some number of years as an assistant (non-tenured) professor--or even as a mere lecturer or "adjunct professor"--and only then, if all goes well (which means if you've published a lot of peer-reviewed papers and ideally have brought in a lot of cash via successful grant proposals and aren't stuck at a university that's using you solely for freshman-level teaching), might you get tenure (associate professorship). But there are also government labs and companies that employ physicists, so if you're not hung up on the academic route, things are quite a bit rosier.
The answer to this question is an individual one, especially since the application of a physics major is very broad. It takes getting to know yourself better to see how your personality traits relate to others in the various areas and getting to meet and to know people in those areas to get to know what they do and how and where they do it and how you feel about it.
Getting to know yourself and how your personality traits relate to people involved in various career opportunities is very important in your decision making process. During my many years in Human Resources and College Recruiting, I ran across too many students who had skipped this very important step and ended up in a job situation which for which they were not well suited. Selecting a career area is like buying a pair of shoes. First you have to be properly fitted for the correct size, and then you need to try on and walk in the various shoe options to determine which is fits the best and is most comfortable for you to wear. Following are some important steps which I developed during my career which have been helpful to many .
Ken recommends the following next steps: