Major?

Discussion in 'Pilot Training' started by Zarifa, Feb 23, 2020.

  1. Zarifa

    Zarifa Filing Flight Plan

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    Hi, I've recently been accepted to Virginia Tech for majoring in physics. However, I'm not sure if this is a good major? I know physics is a very difficult major and I'm not sure it's the greatest degree to become a commercial pilot. I originally wanted to major in Aviation but it was too costly. Is a physics degree a good idea? Should I switch to another preferred major? Please help.
     
  2. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    What topics are you interested in? Any major is difficult if you're not interested in it. There are times I suggest to my computer science students that perhaps they'd be happier majoring in Art History. Choose a major that interests you, and ignore whether it's suitable for commercial aviation.

    Physics is difficult if you're not comfortable with upper division math, e.g. calculus. Physics is a solid background for learning discipline, focus, and organization. Friend of mine majored in Nuclear Engineering in college, but is now a software engineer for Lockheed Martin.
     
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  3. Pilawt

    Pilawt Final Approach

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    Is that what is referred to as a major overhaul? o_O
     
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  4. kayoh190

    kayoh190 Administrator Management Council Member PoA Supporter

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    One of my degrees is in physics, and I fly for a living. Neither degree does much for me as far as flying airplanes, but I enjoyed physics (and all the math!) quite a bit.
     
  5. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    An engineering degree will be about as challenging, depending upon the particular branch, but will likely be more marketable.

    Either will be just as good for a career as a pilot, but you should have a plan B in case aviation goes south for you.
     
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  6. Aviator305

    Aviator305 Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Study what you are interested in, and be the best that you can possibly be. An undergraduate degree in physics will force you to think for yourself and build concepts from the ground up. Engineering is similar in that regard, but you might give up learning theory in as diverse areas as compared to engineering. So, it depends on what you like. What I’m trying to say is...don’t stop studying something because you think it won’t be marketable. Learn as much as you can, and the lessons and skills learned will translate to whatever you end up doing. Physics and aviation are pretty well related. Do what you love. Everything else will fall into place if you put your heart, mind, and soul into it.
     
  7. Cruzinchris

    Cruzinchris Pre-takeoff checklist

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    I recommend Physics because you get a variety of scientific endeavors and not as much specialization.
     
  8. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 En-Route

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    PM me and I'll give you the TL;DR version of my life as someone who was in your shoes 20 years ago, and the reason for my 3 regrets in life, 2 of which are the reason my moniker here is hindisght.

    Bottom line, don't go to a grade-deflating school like Va Tech, and don't do a technical major if your true interest is becoming a pilot. Do it if you get a stiffy about the topic and being a pilot is tangential to that otherwise independent and legitimate interest in the topic. Otherwise go for a stupid easy major and get your ratings on the side on part 61.
     
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  9. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    Physics is fine....but way too much for a flying job. That sounds like way more stress than is needed.

    Maybe you could start there and change to a Mechanical Engineering or an easier STEM degree....after a semester or two. Your first two years are crap classes anyways....so you have time to sort thru this.
     
  10. Justin M

    Justin M Pre-takeoff checklist PoA Supporter

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    How about a major in Spanish to prepare for some adventures while traveling?
     
  11. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    Stiffy?? Not fitting the avatar
     
  12. hindsight2020

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    wut?
     
  13. luvflyin

    luvflyin Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    It’s a girl
     
  14. skier

    skier Line Up and Wait

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    Do you have any interest in working in physics?
     
  15. Dana

    Dana Pattern Altitude

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    The usual advice is to major in a field you'll enjoy working in for the rest of your life if being a professional pilot doesn't work out for medical or any other reason. "Aviation" degrees are often considered a bad choice because they don't really qualify you do do anything else if the flying thing doesn't work out.
     
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  16. GRG55

    GRG55 Final Approach

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    After living abroad in regions where the education system fails to teach basic science and the associated critical thinking skills, it became clearer why those nations are falling even further behind in this increasingly tech driven, globalizing world.

    Although a degree in physics is perhaps not directly applicable to the day-to-day piloting of a commercial airplane, if something goes haywire I'd rather have someone like you with a science or similar background up front, sorting it out using logic and deductive reasoning, than pilots with rote learning as their foundation method of education their entire lives.
     
    Last edited: Feb 23, 2020
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  17. Cruzinchris

    Cruzinchris Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Nobody "works" in physics without a PhD. A BS in physics demonstrates you understand most scientific principles.
     
  18. asicer

    asicer Final Approach

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    Hopefully @kath , someone who's made a career out of a physics PhD, will weigh in here soon.
     
  19. hindsight2020

    hindsight2020 En-Route

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    Unfortunately for you as a paying pax, the world is going the MPL route, which relies on and emphasizes the rote learning and superficial monitoring skillset the latter ensures a plenty supply of. I expect American domestic pilot production to follow suit in less than 20 years, along with further automation of cockpits, and the elimination of manned seats in some. Latter which is the other piece (and imo the more relevant piece) the MPL scheme relies on. You'll be well into SS age by then, perhaps no longer an issue as a non-business traveler.

    Will the 121 pax industry maintain the safety stat that snarky Bertorelli was citing in the latest Kobe Bryant avweb video? Who knows. If they do, then there's no problem here and you have no grievance. If they don't, well, everybody invest in hard hats cuz this genie ain't getting put back in the bottle...
     
  20. kath

    kath Administrator Management Council Member

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    Hi, @Zarifa,
    Professional physicist here.
    People say that physics is a grueling and difficult major, but I'd say that depends entirely on your mathematical aptitude. If you are better at math than at memorizing things, then physics may be for you! This was the case for me; I couldn't memorize all the bones in a fish, but I could understand a few basic principles and derive everything from there.

    I always wanted to be an astronaut, and knew that science was one of the gateways for getting there. But I didn't settle on physics until sometime in my sophomore year of college. People switch majors all the time, so you can give it a try and don't sweat it if you switch later.

    Of the 30-someodd physics majors in my graduating class, about half went to grad school, and the other half took their degree and did something else with it. One went into finance. One went into oceanography. There was a lot of variety. It's an extremely versatile major.

    I got into piloting later... after my PhD. Despite what seems like a natural crossover between physics and aviation, i found that the skills do *not* translate from one to the other. Learning to land a plane was one of the hardest things I've ever done. Harder than doing physics. But that's just me; everyone is different.

    In my experience, having a physics degree causes people to assume that you're smart, regardless of whether this is really true or not. One can use this as an advantage in life. :)

    Go for it if it fascinates you! And if you love math!
    PM me if I can help,

    --Kath
     
  21. Moe AV8R

    Moe AV8R Filing Flight Plan

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    This is for everyone and Zarifa,

    First, anyone can become a commercial pilot with or without a degree. Also, if you’re trying to fly with the regional airlines, they only care about the total flight hours (1,500), actual instrument time, multi-engine time, cross-country time, and PIC. Some regional airlines prefer a four-year degree, but it’s not mandatory. But, if the aviation major includes restricted ATP, then you can join the regional airlines at 1,000 or 1,250 flight hours, which is a great thing to have. The major airlines, however, do have a general requirement of a four-year degree program from a college or university accredited by the U.S. Department of Education regardless what major. So, it’s totally up to you if you want to take advantage of the aviation degree which is costly, but you can fly the airlines earlier because of the restricted ATP OR take a major that interest you.

    A friend of mine made a great point. If the aviation career doesn’t work out because of a discrepancy such as medical or change of ambition, then you will have a fall back with the non-aviation degree.

    If you’re currently a student pilot, a difficult major will only add more stress. Talk to students that are taking physics to see how difficult the classes are. But most importantly, do your homework! Switching degrees will take longer and will be a burden to your wallet. From my experience, I was taking Criminal Justice and I found out later many Law Enforcement departments didn’t care about the degree and/or only pay an extra small margin for having it. So, I switch.

    Make sure you are interested in the major, because it’s difficult if you’re not interested in it. And my other suggestion is to ignore whether the current major is suitable for commercial aviation. Regardless, you will get taught aviation knowledge from your CFI and flight school. If you have any more questions, you can PM me. Best of luck.


    Moe AV8R

    Bachelor of Science in Aviation

    Certified Flight Instructor
     
  22. Pugs

    Pugs Line Up and Wait

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    There are many things that can go wrong on the way to being a professional pilot and having a degree in something that interests you and you can get a job with (to spend all your money on recreational flying :D ) is worthwhile. If you like physics and can do well at it then by all means have a ball. I did dual degrees in Physics and Geology for my undergrad but never worked in the field. It's a masters in EE that pays my flying bills. Not sure I could have done the masters as well as I did without the math/physics background though.

     
  23. chemgeek

    chemgeek Pattern Altitude

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    As a career STEM academic, I would advise you to study what interests you. That may change during your initial college experience as you encounter subject areas you have not seriously delved in before. While a science degree will help you think more analytically--likely a good trait for being a pilot--you should consider that college is for becoming educated, not job training.
     
  24. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    yes.....it's indoctrination....more so than edumacation. ;)
     
  25. Jim Carpenter

    Jim Carpenter Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Wow, good to see so many physicists om the board.
    Myself, I stopped with BS and MS in physics, obtained several years before I had even thought about any flying lessons. As mentioned, it's more than a person needs for flight training, but it certainly makes aerodynamics and weight and balance trivial problems. As a flight instructor and professional pilot, it's surely shaped the way I approach flying, but that level is not at all required to b a good, or hireable, pilot.
    Yes, pretty much, a PhD is required for most employment in physics, but there are some positions for lesser degrees, but limited.
    As everyone else suggests, if you're interested, go for it, or, pick something else.
     
  26. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Yep! I have a masters and a bachelors in EE, but I also have a BS in Math/CS and I took enough physics courses to have the hours for a physics degree as well. The physics hours were spread across three universities, though, so I couldn't get the actual degree. Nevertheless, physics is an outstanding companion field to most engineering disciplines, as is math.

    Besides, it's always good to have options.
     
  27. Caramon13

    Caramon13 Pattern Altitude

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    Get a business degree. Lots of companies out there looking for business or statistics majors if the airline thing doesn't work out for you. I have my undergrad in business and an MBA. Nothing at all wrong with scientific careers or engineering/physics stuff but the job market is smaller from my experience and you can make the same amount of money as an engineer as you can with an advanced degree in business. For me it was about being a one-trick pony vs being able to do basically anything at all in a company.

    Accountant, yeah can do that.
    IT Director, no problem
    Business Intelligence Director, yep
    CFO/CIO yep.

    All of those work well with an MBA. With a physics degree you can be a ...physicist. Too limiting imo...I wanted variety and flexibility.
     
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  28. kontiki

    kontiki Cleared for Takeoff

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    Money has a lot to do with it. Are you going to be going into debt or are you getting help. School loans are very predatory now a days.

    I think young people ought to study something that gets them financially established ASAP. If you are young, it's very likely you will burn out on any choice you make now. When you do figure out what it is that you really like doing, you will want to have enough money to transition.

    Are there jobs for 4 year physics majors? Most Engineering degrees run about 5 years now, but with good gpa, you might get to work fast.

    I don't know about a flying career. One thing to watch are fitness and medical issues. Some luck goes into that too, but take care of yourself. Good luck though.
     
  29. gdwindowpane

    gdwindowpane Pre-takeoff checklist

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    Well you've certainly picked a fantastic school (Va. Tech Grad '89)!

    I would recommend getting an associates degree from a community college. Preferably in Va as they have a program with guaranteed acceptance into any state school with a 3.0 gpa. This gets your core classes out of the way. It's much, much cheaper and the credits transfer over seamlessly. Ultimately you graduate with a BS from Va. Tech in your preferred major(s).
     
  30. Half Fast

    Half Fast Final Approach

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    Agreed! Va Tech is an excellent engineering school and a great choice for anyone who is unable to get into Georgia Tech.

    :D


    Great point. I'm surprised more people don't exercise this option. At most large universities, many of your freshman and sophomore courses will be taught by teaching assisntants anyway, so it doesn't make a ton of difference where you attend for the first couple of years.
     
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  31. Checkout_my_Six

    Checkout_my_Six Touchdown! Greaser!

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    ya but....they talk funny in Georgia.
     
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  32. alfadog

    alfadog Final Approach

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    Does the degree really matter for a pilot job? IDK.
     
  33. cgrab

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    My aerospace engineering degree didn't help me as a Marine Officer and by the time I went to work at NASA and Missile Defense Agency I was mostly doing physics.
     
  34. IK04

    IK04 Pattern Altitude

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    Pretty much all the engineers I work with have either electrical or aerospace degrees and more specific postgraduate degrees in computer science or structures.

    A physics degree is more generic and more than adequate for just being a stick monkey...
     
  35. Fancy

    Fancy Filing Flight Plan

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    Study something you find interesting and can earn you a buck or two if flying doesn't work out. You have time if you're just entering school to figure it out. Years 1-7 are really just for drinking beer and chasing tail anyways. Relax.

    Light your hair on fire, and live by the wisdom of Dwight Schrute,

    "Before I do anything I ask myself, 'Would an idiot do that?' And if the answer is yes, I do not do that thing."

     
  36. murphey

    murphey Final Approach PoA Supporter

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    MPL??.?
     
  37. alfadog

    alfadog Final Approach

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    Milwaukee Public Library. See, Google is your friend!
     
  38. Arnold

    Arnold Line Up and Wait

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    My dad always said, and you so properly point out: "If you can do the math you can do the physics, if you can do the physics you can do the engineering." He was much smarter than I am. MIT - BS, MS, ScD.

    As to the OP's question. Have you considered a degree in management or business admin. Someday you might decide you would rather be managing pilots rather than flying the line.
     
  39. hindsight2020

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  40. murphey

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