There is a common misconception that studying physics is inherently difficult. While you may find a physics degree challenging from time-to-time, your experience would likely be the same if you studied a different subject. Just like any other subject, if you spend time studying and seeking support when necessary, a degree in physics will be enjoyable and highly rewarding.
Given the similarities between physics and engineering, many students can be unsure which subject to complete a degree in. The main difference between a physics and an engineering degree is the design of the courses. While the former is more theoretical, the latter is more practical. As an engineering student specialising in a particular area of physics, you study how theories can be applied to a specific problem and thus develop solutions to overcome them.
Physics is a very broad subject, covering a variety of fields including geophysics, biophysics and mechanics. Studying the subject at undergraduate level will allow you to dip your toes into different topics and find out which area of physics interests you the most.
You will be able to specialise in one area of physics through a master’s degree or a PhD. On the other hand, if you choose to do an engineering degree, you are more likely to already be specialised and it is harder to switch tracks to another field.
Taking into account everything discussed here, you need to ask yourself the question: are you passionate about physics? If you are passionate about the subject, it will definitely be worth studying it.
A physics student who is interested in their degree will be more likely to work hard at it and shouldn’t have trouble finding a job linked to the field once they graduate.
But how can your physics degree lead to a job? Let’s elaborate…
Physics and your career
The most obvious career pathway for a physics student is to become a physicist. Whether you are working as an academic at a university or a researcher for a firm, physicists play a vital role in innovation and developing new solutions to problems in the field.
Depending on the modules you pick on your course, you are able to become a specialist on a given topic. For example, if you picked modules linked to biology and chemistry, you can consider applying for biophysicist roles.
As we have hinted at earlier, doing a master’s degree and possibly a subsequent PhD will allow you to specialise in an area of physics to increase the likelihood of getting a position in the field. Postgraduate students are highly sought after by companies and research institutions alike due to the specialist knowledge they have on a particular topic.
What many students don’t consider when weighing up whether a physics degree is worth it or not, is the kind of skills you will gain on your course. Traits such as problem-solving, quantitative and reasoning skills are valued by employers and are transferable to sectors other than physics.
For example, while your ability to solve complex problems using maths will allow you to succeed in a career in finance, your problem-solving skills would make you an ideal candidate for a consulting firm.
There are a variety of career pathways open to physics students and the avenue you will take will really depend on how you sell yourself on your job application.
If you are interested in physics, it is definitely worth studying the subject at university. During your studies you will be able to specialise in the area of physics you want to explore and you can also pursue a career outside the field through the transferable skills you will gain on your degree.