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I am planning to double major in Computer Science and Physics for my undergraduate degree. Then get my MBA. I want to incorporate physical things with computer science: what gets me excited is the advancements in cars and sustainable energy like Tesla and SolarCity.

Would the Physics degree add any value to my Computer Science degree? What does a successful transition path to a career in a sustainable industry look like: what are the essential elements?

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Routes into sustainable industries

Analytic skills are very valuable in many sustainability industries, as are knowledge of engineering and physics principles.

There have traditionally been two routes into what we now call the low-carbon industries: one route has been via NGOs and lots of volunteering. The other has been engineers and scientists who care about the impact of their work.

People who come through the former route have been very good at the lobbying, building social networks and grass-roots movements.

People who come through the latter route have been very good at the innovation and implementation side of things.


University research projects as a route to industry

When looking at the migration from academic study to sustainable industries, I strongly advise looking to your research projects: many undergraduate courses, and all the Masters courses I'm aware of, involve some research project. Many industry bodies are interested in co-operating with universities on these research projects.

For the companies, they sometimes get useful work out of it, they build useful links with academic research departments, and the research project itself can form an extended internship / dress-rehearsal for a job.

For the student, they get chance to see whether the company would be a good fit for them, as well as doing real-world research.


Skills above knowledge

It's far more important that you develop the right skills, than look to particular areas of knowledge. A bright student with the right skills will quickly pick up the appropriate knowledge when they start in an industry. Whereas someone who ends their formal studies with knowledge but no significant skills in research, self-motivation or independent thought, isn't much use to any employer, beyond doing repetitive grunt work. That's valuable work, and someone's got to do it, but I don't think that's what you're looking for.


Choice of subject

So, as to Physics vs Computer Science, focus on wherever your skills are best placed: pick the one you'll excel at. And take into account any links that each department has with particular companies - ask around in the department, to find out where people get employed after leaving, and which companies people have done research with in the past.


Choice of Masters

You can also apply those criteria if you choose to do a Masters. A Masters degree can be a great way to build links with a particular company or industry, and to specialise in your skills and knowledge. Choose a university course that already has links to your target company: so, for example, if you want to work with Tesla, find out which universities they co-operate with currently, and which universities their staff went to.

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If you are already looking for an MBA, then consider getting an MBA in sustainable business. That should help you incorporate the skills you have acquired with the path you wish to take.

As an example, the MBA in Sustainable Business at Pinchot University: http://pinchot.edu/schools/mba-in-sustainable-business-2

You can find other providers of similar programs by searching the web.

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what exactly do you wish to contribute to ? do you want to improve existing technology used in electric cars or solar panels? then an mba would serve no purpose, imho. or do you want to help increase the production, marketing and sales of electric cars or solar panels and maybe manage and help grow the business of a company dedicated to sustainability like Tesla Motors or Solar City? then an mba would fit in.

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