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I am an Indian undergraduate student completing my BTech in Industrial Engineering in one of top three universities in India. I am planning to move on to physics for graduate school and I have a proper profile for it with research projects and internships in physics. I am confident I would get accepted to a good graduate program for physics, probably in the United States.

After browsing through the forums I found, it appears that a masters or PhD in physics is not a very lucrative option in terms of career. I in fact read that people are still in search of jobs after their PhD for three or four years. I also heard engineers have significantly greater career security after their graduation. So I am considering a double major in Physics as well as in Engineering to increase my future job prospects. I am determined focus on Physics in my masters program so it seems I should either to major in Physics and minor in Engineering or major in both. My primary job preference would be in the field of Physics academia, but wouldn't mind shifting to other areas.

What is the best choice of undergraduate major/minors to provide me the best career prospects?

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    It sounds like you've already thought this through on your own. What are you hoping we will tell you that you don't already know? – ff524 May 27 '14 at 7:11
  • my question - would double majoring in physics and engineering make me secure in terms of career ? – user15173 May 27 '14 at 7:42
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    There is no degree, whether single or double major, that can guarantee a career. So nobody on this site (or any other) can assure you of career security, and if someone does, don't believe them. – ff524 May 27 '14 at 7:47
  • You might consider an engineering specialization which leverages your physics background. This may be more practical with respect to prerequisites and learning curves. – Mad Jack May 27 '14 at 17:49
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At least in Europe, and probably in the US too, physicists are highly considered in industry, the unemployment rate is almost a technical zero. Doing research is another different beast: there are not so many positions, and you have to fight for them. Also, Academia not a very lucrative career path: a first job for a physicist or an engineer in industry may grant them 3-4 times more than in grad school (depending on the conditions), and it continues onwards.

I see you are eager to study both degrees, which is commendable, knowledge never hurts. What you need to consider is the costs, both economical (can you afford the university?) and in effort (can you really do both degrees at the same time?). Both degrees are difficult, and will take a great emotional toll.

Some universities offer double degrees, where you end having both titles, and the subjects are (hopefully) sorted and arranged in the most convenient way for the student. For example, in Physics and Maths you need linear algebra; in a double degree you would only take the courses from Maths, as the ones in Physics are a subset. If the university does not have this arrangement, you may find yourself doing the same subjects twice, that may lead to added frustration.

Another cost are the grades: doing two things means you cannot do them both so well. Some admission put hard thresholds on the grades, and they may or may not consider your second degree as a sufficient merit to lower it. On the other hand, and provided the grades are not very damaged, almost any employer will see it as a great CV boost and will make it easier to get an industrial job.

As a last advice: if you go for it, be aware of your limits and ready to drop one of them if things get difficult before it brings you down. A degree and a half is a merit, two three-quarter degrees are two failures.

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I have heard that it is challenging to find academia jobs in physics in the US. However, industry may be very different. Financial firms, scientific modeling, consulting, and tech companies are very open to hiring physics grads. Having the degree shows that you're intelligent and can think critically, though you wouldn't necessarily be working on physics projects. Having another degree in engineering or cs would only help.

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