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Seeking advice on switching to engineering from physics

by Bobbo Snap
Tags: advice, engineering, physics, seeking, switching
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Bobbo Snap
Dec24-12, 09:46 PM
P: 29
I'm a physics/math major halfway through my (first) senior year. Until recently, I planned on pursuing a PhD in physics after graduation but I've decided to switch to engineering for grad school. I'd appreciate any advice on going this route (physics/math BS to a masters or PhD in an engineering discipline).

Although it's my senior year, I still have three semesters left because the physics department here is small and only offers certain necessary classes every other year. That being the case, my course load for the last two semesters is quite light. I thought I'd fill this time with some engineering courses so that I have less catching up to do the first couple years of grad school. I think I'd have time for three or four (engineering) classes that last year. Any advice on particularly important courses that I should take would also be appreciated. I haven't yet decided between electrical or mechanical engineering for however that may effect your replies.

I do, of course, plan on speaking with an advisor about this but I thought I'd field some replies here first. Any input helps. Thanks.
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Dec26-12, 11:22 AM
Saladsamurai's Avatar
P: 3,016
Hi Bobbo

I think you are in a pretty good position to try things out since you say your next few semesters will be relatively light. And since you are a physics/math guy, I think you will pick extremely quickly on any engineering courses you take. Since you are still unsure as to what route you would like to take, EE or ME, I would suggest taking at least 1 course in each. Maybe Fluid Mechanics for ME and a Circuits class for EE. Just keep in mind that these courses are just "samples" of what these disciplines do.

Also, since graduate school is a little more "open-ended" then undergrad you can likely get the best of both worlds if you so desire. Just look for advisers who are doing the types of research that will utilize the kinds of skills you are hoping to acquire.
Bobbo Snap
Jan12-13, 09:44 AM
P: 29
An update:
After speaking with an engineering advisor and mulling it over for a bit, I have a couple new questions.

1) I was told that the typical graduate process in an engineering discipline involves first obtaining a master's degree then applying to PhD programs afterwords. This differs from my understanding of the graduate process in physics where you usually apply to PhD programs immediately after obtaining your bachelor's (master's degree's being a sort of conciliatory degree for unsuccessful doctoral work). This advice also contradicts what I've seen on a few university websites which recommend applying directly for the PhD program if that's your goal. Can anyone shed any light on this?

2) I was advised that mechatronics involves a mix of electrical and mechanical and that this might be a good discipline to pursue given my interest in both. My university proclaims a strong mechatronics master's program (one of two in the state) but this is a pretty new discipline and I wonder how employable it is. Comments anyone?

If it is indeed advisable to get a master's before applying to a PhD program, I may stick around here for a couple more years. This also depends on the prospects that a mechatronics major may have. I appreciate any comments. Thanks.

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