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A major with graduate options

  1. Feb 8, 2010 #1
    Hey everyone, apologies if this has been asked before.

    Basically I'm an ex-Computer Science student (I left for two reasons, the first was that I was tired of all the people in the course that just wanted a degree and didn't want to put in extra effort to make the program really top-notch, the second was because I got a job as a programmer, and a real one, I actually work alongside 2 graduates of Computer Science from the school I was going to, so it seemed redundant to get a CS degree).

    And I'm looking for a new major for college. I'm a big math goon (loved Theoretical CS), and I like theoretical physics, so I was inclined towards the physics major but the problem is getting a job after college.

    IT is great and all but I'd prefer not to be a cubicle jockey my whole life if I can avoid it.

    I've been tossing around Physics, Engineering Physics, and Engineering disciplines like Electrical Engineering. A school nearby apparently has a very good electrical engineering program (I know a few guys in the course and they love it).

    So I've been debating, if I go for an engineering degree like EE or EP, can I still do graduate work in physics should I so choose to do so?

    Also, would a better option be like Engineering Physics be better than Electrical Engineering if I don't particularly want to stay in EE my whole life? Or should I focus on getting something like an EE degree then use my graduate work for a career change?

    Thanks for the help guys.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 8, 2010 #2
    To be honest, the questions that you have asked are very difficult to answer. The reason for this is that whether or not an engineering graduate would be able to work in a 'physics' job, or pursue research in physics, depends entirely on the specific field in question.

    Generally, in industry positions, there will be a lot of cross-over between types of engineering and 'physics' jobs. For the purposes of this discussion, physics can be considered a 'general' degree: with engineering being the practical applications of physics in a specific area (e.g. electrical or mechanical).

    This means that in industry positions, employers recruiting for engineering positions will still find definite value in also trying to attract physicists to their positions. Graduate programmes usually require a 'physical sciences or engineering' degree.

    For research, however, the situation is quite a bit more tricky. In my experience, physics PhDs will be restricted to physicists or applied mathematicians. It should be noted that this depends on your area of interest. For example, theoretical particle physics research may require a physics undergraduate, but a design-orientated experimental position would also potentially be suitable for an engineer. Likewise, there will be many engineering research projects that will accept physicists - I would guess that physicists have an easier time finding an area that will better accept the transition - however make no mistake that learning the engineering language, as it were, will be a challenge and you will have to catch up with the rest of the department.

    I'm a physics graduate currently completing my engineering doctorate, despite really having no exposure to engineering at any stage in my undergraduate.

    You'll also want to read these two threads:


  4. Feb 8, 2010 #3
    Keep in mind that EE is extremely broad ranging from E+M to Power Systems to Computers to electronics and much more. You could probably tailor your EE degree towards the theoretical physics aspects
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