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Thread: Switching Majors

  1. #1
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    Switching Majors

    Well, after two years of barking up the wrong tree, I decided to change out of Physics, and go into something I'm good at...which happens to be Political Science. I was really dreading Calculus III, and really not looking forward to the rest of the higher-level math that was involved. I've taken more polisci classes as of now than physics, and I have most of my electives out of the way. It's a personal dissapointment, but there's no use in trying to kill myself in an attempt to get better at math.

  2. #2
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    What do you do when you meet a PoliSci major?





    Pay him for the pizza!

    Seriously, the fact that you have any kind of degree is important, but a BA in PoliSci will not get you a job. GB, Jr. has that degree, but he then spent 10 years in the back seat of a Tomcat (an airplane isn't interested in your major!) He'll gt his MA in International Relations next spring and hopes to join the Foreign Service (he's passed the exam, now it gets harder).
    Go on, get your degree, then figure out what you want to do the rest of your life. You'll probably change three or four times, if tou're like the rest of us OF's.

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by Graybeard6 View Post
    ...GB, Jr. has that degree...
    Thought he was the 1st US prez with an MBA...no?

  4. #4
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    Greybeard6 Junior, not El Prezidente.
    "Words that make questions may not be questions at all."
    - Neil deGrasse Tyson, answering loaded question in ten words or less
    at a 2010 talk MCed by Stephen Colbert.

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    Vermonter, what are your skills? While college is more than just job training, ultimately you have to develop marketable skills that people are willing to pay you to perform. Political science might be useful if you're planning on going to law school but other than that, it qualifies you to ask, "Would you like a muffin with your latte?"

    To me, marketable skills are much more important than a degree. One of my brothers was a high school drop out with a GED. He became a master machinist and welder. One company was looking for someone with a master's degree in engineering and 6 years of experience to head their CAD/CAM prototyping shop. They hired my brother because he had the skills they really needed.

  6. #6
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    Re: Switching Majors

    Per one of my Physics professors at Columbia, "There's a lot more money to be made in the private sector by Mechanical Engineers." Since I was a Physics major at that point, but wanted to escape academia and have some sort of decent income, his advice made a lot of sense.

    Although these days it might be the IT engineers that rake in the cash.

  7. #7
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    Have you thought about programming? Talking to machines is a skill that I doubt will go out of fashion. It's actually even sort of fun (if you're a nerd like me). I learned C my freshman year, and have since programmed a tetris-like game, encryption software, and many numerical simulations to deal with situations arising in my classes, as well as dabbling in the related language of C++.

    Engineering, of any sort, is very hard but also great from an employability perspective. Also, you get to work on projects dealing with some incredible machines. Though if it's the math that's turning you off, you may not want to pursue that route.

  8. #8
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    What kind of job were you looking to get? I've been working in law firms a long time and a poli sci degree is good if you want to become a paralegal, or if you are looking to go to law school. Aside from that I'm not sure what else you can do with it.

  9. #9
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    I agree with ost of these folks... knowledge and skill isore important than a degree - in terms of getting a realstic job. Cruel as it is there's a lot of truth to the pizza joke.

    Myself, I got kicked out of college three times (different schools). Eventually joined the military. Now I am partner in a small telephone company. A *successful* telephone company, I might add. Our debt load doesn't even resemble a danger to us.

    Note: only three college degrees among the entire company (12 employees - not counting contrators) - and only one of them is relevant to the degree-holder's position.

    Oh - an no PS degree holders at all. Closest we had was a psychology Masters.. but that inividual had some serious emotional issues... I think he's driving a cab, now.

  10. #10
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    I am very competent with computers. I'm employed by the university at the IT helpline, and also at the depot where we sell and service them. I've thought about programming, but the thought of taking Linear Algebra scares me. My parents and friends wonder why I don't go into IT, I have the skills for it, but for some reason I don't consider myself that much of a programmer. I'm more of a hands-on person, and I like hardware more than software. I'm going to get my Apple and Dell certs this year so I can start working with hardware support more often than just troubleshooting. I know I am not a math person, I struggled through calc I and calc II. I can remember some of it, but with the sheer amount they expect you to memorize and use successfully is beyond me. If I could go into coding, it may be a possibility. I just know I'm good with computers.

  11. #11
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    Vermonter -- Follow heart, I wonder if mathematics proper choice for me. Is not in my heart.

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    I graduated with a math degree many years ago. Personally, I found Linear Algebra much easier and more interesting than many of they other courses I took. Don't let it scare you away from physics if that's what you want to pursue.

    Knowledge and experience is seldom wasted. Even if you don't finish your physics degree, you'll find that the things you learned there can come in useful for whatever you choose to pursue.

    Prior to going for my math degree, I was a soldier in the Army, an electronics technician, and worked communications. After graduating college, I taught school for a year then returned to the military as an officer (Air Force flying satellites). When the "peace dividend" hit in 1992, I returned to the private sector. I went back to school and got a second master's (software engineering) to go with one in space systems management and currently make a good living working for a defense contractor. All of those experiences prove useful in my daily work. Your education to this point won't be wasted unless you choose to waste it.

    If you're good with computer hardware and customer service, then you might consider pursue networking, security (pretty big demand for that), database administration, etc. There are many more careers in IT besides programming. After programming for 20 years, I now use UML to create enterprise architectures for Air Force Space Command. It's challenging, needed, and rewarding.

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    I agree with Larry Jacks about not letting the math scare you away, if you really want to study physics.

    During my first two years as an undergraduate student, I had serious trouble with the math. Then at the beginning of the thrid year something in my head clicked and all the math I learned started making sense.

  14. #14
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    PoliSci with a future

    I know guy with a PoliSci major (who is also good with computers)

    He's now an officer with the Secret Service. Whether that's a good thing or a bad thing is a matter of perspective, but it does mean PoliSci majors can make something of themselves with a little creativity.

    If you passion is PoliSci, then follow it!

  15. #15
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    PoliSci minor here. My major was far more useful in luring prospective employers - Geography.

    But seriously, I don't see a degree as job training. If that's all it is for a person, then they should skip the humanities, liberal arts, literature and all that silly broader education nonsense and just get the technical training.

    It must be a real pain for some that most universities require all that fluff to get a degree.

  16. #16
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    I took math for four years while studying engineering, and the higher I got, the poorer the grades. Great at the concrete stuff, but the more abstract - phooey!

    I remember the principles quite well, but almost none of the "how to" stuff beyond algebra. I remember far more statistics than math, and I only tool a year of stats.

    Vermonter, good thing you're realizing this now. Before you go another two years, you may wish to take a skills/personality inventory. They're very good at matching you up with both the things that you're good at, and what you would probably like. The one I took in ninth grade said I'm most closely matched with that of a naval officer, a pilot, a photographer, and a writer.

    Amazingly enough, after a few years of trying to find my niche, I'm a private pilot, an amateur photographer, and a published author.

    Wonders!

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    Just remember, your parents' money is a terrible thing to waste! Ultimately, your goal should be to get the skills necessary to avoid having to move back in with your parents following graduation.

    Speaking as a parent (and grandparent).

  18. #18
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    Actually, I'm responsible for my financial aid. My folks have only taken out one loan in my favor, and I'm paying on it. Thanks for the thoughts, all.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    Just remember, your parents' money is a terrible thing to waste! Ultimately, your goal should be to get the skills necessary to avoid having to move back in with your parents following graduation.

    Speaking as a parent (and grandparent).
    I like that one. I will make sure to use it as a humorous interlude during some awkward moment - like the first time one of the Little Angels calls home for more money.

    You goal when leving the nest will be to not return for anything more than long weekends.

  20. #20
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    Besides, isn't "political science" an oxymoron?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    Besides, isn't "political science" an oxymoron?
    Why, yes, it is. Everyone knows that science never becomes political.


  22. #22
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    Hey Vermonter, how are you actually doing in the physics classes?

    If your school is anything like mine (University of Houston) then the math classes are generally not very useful. I learned most of my math in the physics classes, not in the math classes. It isnt easy, but it can be done. If you have a good physics professor that you like, he could be a good resource on how you actually do the math.

    I'd hate to see you give up physics cause of the math

  23. #23
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    Besides, isn't "political science" an oxymoron?
    The communists have almost gotten enough data points to generate a decent error analysis for the effects of their policies by now. :-P

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    I did very well in the lab, and well on the homeworks and quizzes. The actual exams got me, though. I can do physics, but I have to be able to reference things. It's more difficult when I have to memorize how the forumlae work and when to use each one. For Calc II, I was able to memorize some of the formulae, and actually use them. Calc II had far more things to memorize, and then apply. Unfortunately, the math was so ingrained, that you had to master calculus before entering the calc-based physics classes. The professor, while a nice guy, didn't like to spend time going over the basics. I did learn a great deal about physics, and remember much of the fundamentals. I think for now, I'll shift my attention to the BA program for Computer Science, and work physics in later. I informed my folks about it, and they thought that was a good idea, for now. I truly do enjoy science, but probably not as much as I had thought.

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by Larry Jacks View Post
    Just remember, your parents' money is a terrible thing to waste! Ultimately, your goal should be to get the skills necessary to avoid having to move back in with your parents following graduation.

    Speaking as a parent (and grandparent).
    While I agree with that, I'm glad it doesn't always have to be followed. Sometimes, those long weekends need to be longer than just a weekend.

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    "Why, yes, it is. Everyone knows that science never becomes political."

    Science has became political but only at it's peril.

    Politics will never be scientific. It's based on rhetoric and appeals to emotion. That's why I say that "political science" is an oxymoron and most politicians are just plain morons.

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    My International Relations professor would strongly disagree. To many PoliSci profs, their trade is empirical, and not based on rhetoric or appeals to emotion. It is more difficult to get at the source, since they cannot simply go back and repeat the event again. They look at *why* it happened, not *should* have it happened.

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    Contgrats in making the decision, Vermonter, and acting on it! If you are really dreading those classes so much, there's no sense dedicating any time to it.

    And don't be disappointed in yourself. Math and physics are tough, not everyone can get through them! I got a bachelor's in physics, but when I went on to grad school I struggled severely in the coursework. I decided to leave the program, and I'm so proud that I had the courage to do it! Only *you* know what is truly right for you, don't let others' opinions sway you.

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