If you are interested in majoring in chemistry or physics, 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
Quality control chemist
|Difficulty of the
|Key things to note
It can be difficult to find
a job with just a bachelor’s
degree in chemistry. A
master’s degree or
PhD is often required.
The major can become
more employable if
combined with a more
Also more employable
if you do research work
in a lab and do internships.
It is a major that can
give good job meaning
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 chemistry salary 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 the chemistry major
Below are some details about the chemistry major.
According to Payscale, the average pay of a person, who has a degree in chemistry, is $74,737. This is higher than the average across all majors. However, it is important to note that this average will be being increased by people who also have a PhD in chemistry.
The chemistry major can qualify you for a number of different types of jobs in a number of fields. However, the major can restrict you to certain types of jobs. This is unlike alternative majors, such as computer science where it is feasible to enter related disciplines such as data science.
Also, the jobs that you can qualify for with just a bachelor’s degree in chemistry can have low pay, can be competitive and will only be entry-level roles within chemistry or technician roles in related areas such as in medicine/drugs.
However, chemistry jobs are expected to grow by 5% by 2029 which is more than average. Also, the jobs tend to have high levels of meaning because they are usually beneficial jobs to society.
According to Payscale, jobs people with a chemistry degree get can include:
- Lab assistant
- Entry-level chemist
- Quality control chemist
- Process engineer
It’s important to note that lab assistant roles usually require a year of experience having worked in a lab. This means that it will be important to complete lab work while in the major and to get internships.
Chemistry involves a lot of math and physics. As a chemistry major, you will be taking one year of physics classes and math classes including calculus 1,2, and 3. Also, the chemistry classes themselves can be difficult, especially physical chemistry. As a result, you can expect chemistry to be a difficult major. When compared with a physics major, you can expect chemistry to be slightly less difficult.
Classes that you can expect to take in a chemistry major can include:
- 1 year of physics
- Calculus 1,2, and 3
- General chemistry
- Organic chemistry
- Physical chemistry
- Senior-level lab courses
Things to consider
Organic chemistry is a major that can be difficult to find jobs with by itself unless you are careful about what you do within the major. If your goal is to get lab work, it would help a lot to do research projects as an undergrad and to try to get lab internships so that you can qualify for entry-level lab roles.
Due to the amount of math involved, the major could be a pathway towards data analytics or even software engineering roles, if you learn how to program while in the major. On Payscale, people do report having gotten software engineering, data science and data analytics jobs with a chemistry degree. As a result, it could be worthwhile for you to get a computer science minor as well if you are set on a chemistry major.
If you want to do chemistry research in industry or academia, you should expect to have to get a PhD.
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 chemistry
While it can be difficult to find jobs with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, there are still some reasons why you might want to get a chemistry degree.
The first reason is if you want to get a job that requires a master’s or doctoral degree in chemistry. If you do, then a bachelor’s degree in chemistry 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 chemistry. However, it would also help to minor in something that is employable at the bachelor’s degree level. It would also help a lot to make sure to complete lab projects and to get lab internships to help when seeking lab work after graduating.