If you are deciding between majoring in physics or biology, you might want to know more about what each major has to offer. This post will show you the key facts about each major and help you to decide which would be a better degree for you.
At a glance:
|Types of jobs
you can qualify for
High school teacher
|Difficulty of the
|Key things to note
It can be difficult to find
a job with just a bachelor’s
degree in biology. A
master’s degree or
PhD is often required.
Other easier majors
can be better for
The major can become
more employable if
combined with a more
It is a major that can
give good job satisfaction
once you can find a job.
|Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Can be difficult to get
a job with just a
Source for biology pay and jobs
There are a number of things to consider when choosing between the two degrees. Below, are details about each major, their differences, and reasons to choose one or the other.
Details about a biology degree
Below are some of the key details about a degree in biology.
According to Payscale, the average pay for a person with a degree in biology is $71,112. This is better than the average across all majors. However, something to consider, is that the average will be being increased considerably by people with master’s degrees and PhDs in biology.
Biology can be a somewhat general degree that is not specialized towards specific job roles. As a result, it is often necessary to combine biology with a more applied minor or to get an advanced degree after graduating, in order to make the major more employable.
In a ZipRecruiter survey, it was found that 35% of biology graduates regret choosing the major due to difficulty finding a job without an advanced degree.
With that being said, the major can be a gateway towards jobs in a number of different fields, but it will often require some extra studying to become employable in those fields.
According to Payscale, people with a degree in biology often get jobs as:
- Lab assistant
- Physician assistant
- Biomedical engineer
- Physical therapist
- High school teacher
Note that many of these jobs will require at least a master’s degree.
Something to be aware of is that many of the jobs that require advanced degrees do have strong predicted job growth (source). This is encouraging if you are set on getting an advanced degree in biology. However, something to be aware of is that if you change your mind halfway through, it could be difficult to find a job with just a bachelor’s degree in biology.
Biology is a difficult major. The biology classes themselves can be difficult and the major will usually require math, statistics, physics, and chemistry classes. Overall, you should expect to have to put a lot of time into the major. When compared with a physics major, you can expect biology to be equivalently difficult or slightly easier.
Classes you can expect to take in a biology major can include:
- Introduction to physics
- Introduction to biology
- Molecular biology
You can look here to see an example degree sequence.
Things to consider
Alternative majors can allow you to enter medical school but also have good job opportunities. In fact, because it can be difficult to get a high GPA in biology, alternative majors can actually be better for medical school because having a high GPA can help a lot.
To get the more desirable jobs, in biology, it is often necessary to get a PhD. If you do choose the major, it would help a lot to consider combining it with a more employable minor in order to improve your job prospects after graduation.
When deciding on whether or not you should major in biology, it would help to consider whether or not you are set on going to graduate school as well and the types of jobs you want. If you are set on going to graduate school and you want a job that will require a master’s or PhD then a biology major would become more worthwhile.
Details about a physics degree
Below are some details about a degree in physics.
According to Payscale, the average pay of someone with a bachelor’s degree in physics is $86,600. This makes physics one of the best paying degrees available and only certain engineering degrees, such as electrical engineering and computer science are able to match it.
However, something to be aware of is that the average pay of someone fresh out of college, with no work experience, will likely be a lot lower than that.
A physics degree can give access to a wide range of job opportunities. However, a physics degree can be quite general in nature and it can be difficult to find a job with just a bachelor’s degree in physics. However, this will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. You can also greatly improve your job prospects by minoring in something more applied such as computer science, completing programming projects and getting summer internships.
Jobs that you could get with a degree in physics could include:
- Software engineer
- Data scientist
- Data analyst
- Mechanical engineer
Physics can give good job opportunities if you combine it with more practical skills. Currently, data science is a popular career path for physics majors. If you are interested in data science, it would help to learn programming, data analysis, machine learning to complete data science projects and to take a number of computer science classes including data structures and algorithms.
A physics major combined with computer science, data science and machine learning classes as well as projects in data science, software engineering, and machine learning would be a lot more employable.
If you find that your university does not offer classes in data science or machine learning, it will be necessary for you to self study. You can use books or websites such as Edx, Coursera, Udemy, Kaggle, or DataCamp.
A physics degree can also be a very difficult degree and you will have to put a lot of time into the degree. Physics involves a lot of mathematics and the physics classes themselves can be difficult.
You can expect to take math classes such as:
- Differential calculus
- Integral calculus
- Multivariate calculus
- Differential equations
- Linear algebra
- Partial differential equations
In addition you can expect to have the option to take more math classes if you would like. You might also have the option to take some classes from related disciplines such as statistics, engineering and computer science.
You can also expect to take multiple physics classes including:
- Introduction to physics
- Mechanics and waves
- Electricity and magnetism
- Quantum physics
- Statistical mechanics
You can look here to see an example of required classes in a physics degree.
Reasons to choose a physics degree
As the numbers show, a physics degree can qualify you for a lot of jobs with high pay. Also, the demand for people with physics degrees is climbing due to companies getting more and more data that they need people with mathematical skills to make use of. A physics degree combined with statistics, data analytics, data science and machine learning skills will likely put you in a very good position in the job market in the coming years. Getting a minor in computer science would also put you in a good position to obtain software engineering type roles.
Additionally, physics can also qualify you for many jobs in other disciplines including software engineering, finance, and engineering, provided that you take relevant classes.
However, it is very important to be aware that a physics degree by itself can be difficult to qualify for jobs with. The degree will only have good employment prospects if you combine it with applied knowledge as mentioned above.
Reasons to choose biology
While it can be difficult to find jobs with just a bachelor’s degree in biology, there are still some reasons why you might want to get a biology degree.
The first reason is if you want to get a job that requires a master’s or doctoral degree in biology. If you do, then a bachelor’s degree in biology would be more worthwhile.
Also, if you have a very strong interest in the subject, it would also make it more worthwhile for you to major in biology. However, it would also help to minor in something that is employable at the bachelor’s degree level.