Should I go for a career in physics or electronics?

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Comrade Pingu

Joined Aug 30, 2018
13
I'm at a bit of a crossroads in my life right now. I'm a high school senior this year, and I love doing both physics and electronics—with more formal training from the electronics class at my school than in physics (where I have zero formal training in it). Currently, both of the job markets aren't looking too amazing for them both.

If I get my PhD in physics, then I'll probably have to go with either a research lab or try to get myself into the already crammed and ultra-competitive professor position, making meager wages for an absolute crap ton of work. And, if I go into a research lab, if it's a private facility, I'd have to deal with a good portion of my work being made proprietary, but with a better pay. If I go with a public lab, my work would (generally) be available to the public, but the pay wouldn't be as good.

Or, I could go into electronics, get a BSc or MSc, and work for a company like Moog or Korg. The work would likely be proprietary, and the pay might not be as steady, but I love working on synthesizers, especially on voltage-controlled filters.

I do see that a lot of people in physics work on electronics. The authors of The Art of Electronics and the author of Practical Electronics for Inventors are mostly physicists—or at least have a qualification in physics.

So, that leaves me at a bit of a major question: Do I just go and have a career in physics and do electronics on the side, or do I go for a career in electronics and potentially leave a lot of physics qualifications behind? I know the question sounds like a bunch of wank to bloat my ego, but it's been keeping me up at night.
 

Yaakov

Joined Jan 27, 2019
1,612
Te first question you need to answer is what do you want out of a "career"?

From your narrative, it seems you have a balanced concern for money and fulfillment. This is generally good, but my experience is that money is far less important—but not unimportant.

As a young person, you have a chance to start right. Given that work, for you, is also something you enjoy (synths, etc.), my feeling is you should set a goal to work towards financial independence as early as possible, then pursue your own fate without being tied to people who will make your work proprietary if you want it to benefit others more freely.

To that end, I would say a degree in electronics, with a minor (or even dual degree) in physics would serve you well. Then, jobs that give you enough fulfillment to enjoy going to work, and enough money to execute a plan for financial independence should follow.

I don't think you are the sort of person who should depend on others for your "career". I think you should make your own, and help others to do the same once you can give them a hand up to where you are.

Good luck.
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,912
Since you are still in high school you have a number of years ahead of you before choosing a career path.
Physics is the basis of electronics. And mathematics is the language of physics and all things engineering. Hence, depending on your passion, your knowledge foundations ought to be mathematics -> physics -> electronics.

At this point you need to choose whether you want to pursue a higher education in a technical college or a university. Most educational institutions will allow you to select courses that will cover what you need to learn in both physics and electronics as well as other fields.

Rather than choosing your career path now, think of what you would most enjoy doing over the next four years.
 

BobTPH

Joined Jun 5, 2013
2,198
I was in your position about 50 years ago. I started studying Physics with the idea of getting a PhD. I discovered I really had a knack for programming (I took my first course as freshman and finished the textbook in the first week of the semester). I ended up finishing my bachelor's in Physics, but was faced with a choice of working another 8-12 years to get a PhD in Physics, or switching to computer science. I took the comp sci route and got a masters in 2 years. Have never regretted it. Oh, and electronics became a hobby which I am more active in than ever since retiring.

Bob
 

MrChips

Joined Oct 2, 2009
19,912
Most universities offer degrees in Engineering Physics or Applied Science or Applied Math which will give you courses in both physics and electronics.
 

SamR

Joined Mar 19, 2019
1,620
Your first 2 years of college are mostly going to be the basic science route you are looking for. Math Pre-Calculus and Calculus, Chem year 1, Physics year 2, English Composition and Literature, History, Social Science, probably some Phs Ed in the mix and maybe some introductory courses, Introduction to Engineering, maybe an introductory computing language, not many electives. It all depends on your school. But the first couple of years are pretty much the same for physics/engineering and give you time to feel things out and determine which path you are going to take.
 
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