If you are deciding between majoring in physics or statistics, 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.

Payscale reported
Average pay
Ease of finding a jobModerateModerate
Types of jobs
you can qualify for
Software engineer
Data scientist
Data analyst
Mechanical engineer

Data analyst
Data scientist
Software engineer
Financial analyst
Actuarial analyst
Difficulty of the
Key things to noteNot very employable
with just physics degree
by itself unless you take
applied electives.

Many of the more
physics oriented jobs
will require at least
a master’s degree.

Combining the degree
with an applied minor
such as computer science
will improve your job
A moderately employable
degree on its own.

Very employable if
you combine it with
a more applied minor
such as computer
Source for statistics salary and jobs
Source for physics pay 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 a statistics degree

Below are some key details about the statistics major.

Current pay

The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the demand for mathematicians and statisticians will rise by 33% by 2026. This is mainly due to the surge in data that companies have been receiving in recent years that they need people with mathematical and statistical skills to make sense of.

According to Payscale, the average pay for someone with a bachelor’s in statistics is $69,767.

Something to consider is that many of the more statistical and well-paid jobs, such as a data scientist or machine learning engineer, will often require a master’s degree.

Types of jobs a statistics degree will qualify you for

Since statistics is used in many different fields, a stats degree will open you up to many different job opportunities.

However, many of the jobs that stats majors tend to seek such as a quantitative researcher or machine learning engineer often require a master’s degree (but not always). They can also require more specialized knowledge that you might not get in a statistics degree. This is why it would help to make sure to choose your classes according to the job you are most interested in.

Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a master’s in stats could include:

  • Machine learning engineer
  • Data scientist
  • Quantitative researcher

With that being said, even with just a bachelor’s degree there will be many different jobs that you will qualify for.

Examples of jobs that you could qualify for with a bachelor’s in stats could include:

  • Financial analyst
  • Insurance underwriter
  • Data analyst
  • Software engineer
  • Market researcher
  • Actuary (requires lots of stats classes)

However, statistics is a somewhat general degree that is not specific to a certain type of job in the way something such as computer science is to software engineering. This means that you should take courses from the field that you want to enter and do internships and projects in that field as well in order to be competitive when seeking a job.

For example, many stats majors go into software engineering after graduation. If you want to qualify for software engineering jobs then make sure to take a data structures class and an algorithms class and try to get some internships as a software engineer while in college. Getting a minor in computer science would also be a good option.

Another popular path for statistics majors to take is of data science. In that case, it would help to take classes related to machine learning, data analysis and programming.

Before choosing your electives I would strongly recommend that you consider what you want to do after college and make sure to take classes related to that.

With that being said, there are some people that have gotten data science and machine learning jobs with just a bachelor’s. It would greatly improve your chances if you were to make sure to complete machine learning and data science projects and to do internships in those fields as an undergrad. It would also help to take computer science classes in your electives, especially data structures and algorithms.

Types of classes you will study

As a statistics major you can expect to take the following classes:

Differential calculus
Integral calculus
Multivariate calculus
Linear algebra
Discrete math
Mathematical statistics

In addition, you will be able to choose more specialized statistics classes as well as classes from related disciplines such as mathematics and computer science. You will also have electives that you can choose from that will let you take classes from any discipline.

You can look here to see the degree requirements Berkeley has for their statistics degree.

How difficult it is as a major

The statistics major is generally considered as being a difficult major. Some of the more advanced classes can be proof-based which are usually much harder than the more computational classes but you might not have to take those classes depending on your specific program. Overall, you should expect both statistics and physics to be of a similar difficulty.

Some things to consider about the major

A Statistics degree can open up many different possible avenues for yourself and can be a very good degree when combined with a more applied minor. This is because the statistics taught in a stats major is useful in a wide variety of fields but you will need to supplement it with some field-specific coursework so that you are able to show that you can apply the statistics to those fields.

A very good combination would be to major in statistics and to minor in computer science. Doing this would open you up to job roles such as data science, machine learning engineer, data analysis and software engineering.

More details about the statistics major

I have written more about how to do well in a stats major here and I have written more about whether or not a stats degree is worth it here.

Details about a physics degree

Below are some details about a degree in physics.

Current pay

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 a statistics 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.

Also, there are a number of factors that might be causing the physics pay to seem higher than the statistics pay such as the location of the jobs and the experience level of people reporting their pay.

For a fresh graduate, it is likely that the pay of a physics major will be similar to that of a statistics major.

Job opportunities

A physics degree can give access to a wide range of job opportunities. However, like a statistics 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.

Another popular career path is a software engineer. To get these jobs, it would help to take a number of computer science classes, to learn programming in languages such as javascript and Python and to complete software engineering projects such as to create a web app.


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 unlikely that there will be many proof-based math classes which are normally very hard. But, some of the physics classes can still be very difficult in their own right.


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 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 statistics degree

Knowledge of statistics, data analysis and data science is becoming more and more in demand because companies are acquiring more and more data. This means that the demand for statistics majors should improve in future years. When compared with a physics degree by itself, a statistics degree should be slightly more employable since it is more focused on dealing with data.

Also, a statistics degree can be a good pathway towards interesting graduate programs such as in machine learning, if you also make sure to take some computer science classes.

If you do choose to get a statistics 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.

Reasons to choose a physics degree

Physics can also be a very interesting subject and many students really enjoy their time in the major. Also, the mathematics used in undergraduate physics tends to be more applied and not proof-heavy which most students prefer.

If you are planning on going to graduate school, in physics, then physics would also be a good option for undergrad. However, in this case, it would likely help to take more math classes since graduate level physics will make use of more advanced math.

Again, if you choose to major in physics, it would help to consider what you would like to do after graduating and to make sure to take classes related to that. Combining physics with a computer science minor could be a good option since many physics students get programming roles after graduating.


I created and currently manage College Corner. I received a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics from the University of Nevada Las Vegas. My goal is to help current students do better in college and to help future students plan for college. You can read more about me and my website here.