If you are deciding between majoring in physics or applied math, 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.
|Ease of finding a job||Moderate||Moderate|
|Types of jobs|
you can qualify for
|Difficulty of the|
|Key things to note||Not very employable|
with just physics degree
by itself unless you take
Many of the more
physics orientated jobs
will require at least
a master’s degree.
Combining the degree
with an applied minor
such as computer science
will improve your job
|can be more employable|
than a physics
degree by itself.
But, still not as
employable, by itself,
such as a CS degree.
Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Also employable if
you combine it with
data analysis skills.
Source for applied math salary and jobs
As you can see from the table, there are many similarities between the two degrees. However, there are many things to consider when choosing between them.
Details about an applied math degree
Below are details about the applied math major.
According to Payscale, the average salary for someone that has an applied math degree is $76,007. However, this amount will be lower for people fresh out of college.
Jobs you can get with an applied math degree
Since applied math is used in many different fields an applied math degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.
With that being said, something to consider is that many of the more lucrative jobs will require a master’s degree.
Jobs that you could get with a master’s degree in applied math could include:
- Data scientist
- Quantitative researcher
- Math teacher
- Machine learning engineer
However, there are many jobs that an applied math bachelor’s degree will qualify you for.
Jobs that you could get with a bachelor’s degree in applied math could include:
- Business analyst
- Financial analyst
- Insurance underwriter
- Data analyst
- Software engineer
- Market researcher
The jobs you will qualify for will depend a lot on the classes that you choose to take. The reason for this is that, while an applied math degree will qualify you for many jobs, having knowledge for that specific domain will be very useful.
For example, if you want to get into data science then taking lots of statistics, computer science and data analytics classes will help you a lot. It would also help to complete data science projects so that you can showcase your skills.
Also, while it is true that many data science and machine learning jobs often require a master’s degree, it is also the case that many people have gotten those jobs with a bachelor’s degree. If you can showcase your ability in data science or machine learning with projects, you should be able to make yourself competitive for these roles with just a bachelor’s degree.
In addition to taking classes relevant to the field that you want to enter it would be very helpful to try and get some internships in that field while you are an undergrad.
You’ll likely be taking a number of computer science classes as part of an applied math degree. Many applied math majors go on to become software engineers since it is a highly rated job for people with a bachelor’s degree. Getting a computer science minor would likely improve your job prospects significantly.
Classes you will be taking in applied math
An applied math degree will allow you to take a number of classes from a number of different fields.
There will be a number of math classes that you will likely be required to take which could include:
- Linear algebra
- Discrete math
- Differential equations
- Partial differential equations
- Graph theory
- Number theory
- Abstract algebra
- Real analysis
However, the specific math classes you will have to take will depend on your specific program.
For most applied math degrees, you will be able to take classes from other related fields and count them towards your major.
Classes from other fields that you might take could include:
- Computer science
- Big data
- Machine learning and data science
Difficulty of the major
An applied math degree can have some very difficult classes but this will depend on what classes are required in your specific program. In some programs, there are a lot of proof-based math classes that are required including real analysis and abstract algebra. These classes can be a lot more difficult than computational classes such as calculus or linear algebra.
Overall, you can expect an applied math degree to be equivalently difficult to a physics degree. However, if there are a lot of required proof-heavy classes, the applied math degree would likely be slightly harder.
Alternatives to an applied math degree
If you are thinking of getting an applied math degree then there are a number of other degrees that you might want to consider which can include:
You can click on their links to see what I have written about them as majors themselves.
Is an applied math degree marketable?
How marketable an applied math degree will be will depend a lot on what you do in your time in the major and the classes you take.
If you take classes relevant to the types of jobs that you want to get upon graduating then it will be a very marketable degree. It will be especially marketable if you also can get some summer internships and do some projects in the field that you want to enter.
If you just take the traditional courses, while in the major, it will still be marketable for many different jobs such as data analytics. But you will have to do some extra work to increase your skills in that particular area. It will also be important to learn things such as programming in your own time.
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 is a lot higher than the reported average pay of someone with an applied math bachelor’s degree.
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. In reality, you will likely find that the two degrees will give you similar job prospects and will largely depend on things such as the classes you take, internships and projects that you complete.
A physics degree can give access to a wide range of job opportunities. However, like an applied math bachelor’s degree, 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 bachelor’s 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 degree can also be a very difficult degree and you will have to put a lot of time into the degree. It is likely that you will not have many proof-based math classes.
You can expect to take math classes such as:
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 physics classes including:
Introduction to physics
Mechanics and waves
Electricity and magnetism
You can look here to see an example of required classes in a physics degree.
Reasons to choose an applied math degree
While a math degree is not as applied to a specific type of job like computer science or the different engineering degrees are, it can still be very employable if you combine it with a minor in something such as computer science and statistics.
Also, math can be very useful when applying to graduate school as it is a lack of math classes that often makes students less competitive. Although, again, it will still be important to take classes related to the discipline that you are interested in.
If you do choose to get an applied math degree, it would help a lot to consider what you would like to do after graduating and to make sure to take classes related to that. It would also help to try to complete projects and to do summer internships related to a job you are interested in to make your job search much easier after graduation.
If you are also interested in pure math, I would normally recommend an applied math degree instead since it is generally the more employable degree and most students prefer the math in an applied math degree. I have written about a pure math degree vs applied math here.
Reasons to choose a physics degree
Overall, a physics degree will usually qualify you for just as many jobs as an applied math degree and many of the jobs will be the same or very similar. If you also combine it with an applied minor such as computer science, do programming projects and get summer internships, it will also put you in a very good position upon graduation.
If you are planning on going to graduate school, in physics, a physics degree would also be the better option. However, in this case, it would help to take some more advanced math classes as they are often required when applying to graduate school for physics.
I found the video below to summarize pure math vs physics pretty well. I would recommend taking a look at it if you have not already. However, be aware that an applied math degree will not have as many proof-based math classes and will have more applied math classes such as differential equations or even related fields such as statistics.