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Applied Science vs Engineering

  1. Jan 13, 2014 #1
    I recently graduated with a bachelor's degree in physics and, like many other people, am finding that without going to gradschool I'm not going to find a good job. I'm not really interested in the long academic path of a PhD, I would much rather get a master's and go into industry. At first I was thinking that I would go into a mechanical or aerospace engineering program but then I came upon this applied science program (http://internship.uoregon.edu/). In the short term the applied science would be easier for me because I wouldn't need to switch tracks to engineering. What I'm really wondering is what the differences are in the long term career path between these two tracks. Obviously someone who specialized in semiconductors or optics would be dealing with entirely different subject matter than a mechanical engineer. What want to know is what the differences are in terms of job availability, work environment, etc.

    Thanks for your help.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 13, 2014 #2

    Simon Bridge

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    It will depend heavily on the program and how it is run.
    Unlike engineering there is no "regular career path" for an "applied scientist".
    OTOH: that means you could end up doing just about anything.

    Looks like an internship program - so you'd probably end up in something like what you interned as, provided you shone enough that (a) they keep you on or (b) they give you a good reference.
  4. Jan 14, 2014 #3
    Save yourself some headache and money and just get a masters in engineering. Go look up jobs and see how many are looking for applied science majors, I guarantee you will found thousands of jobs looking for mechanical engineers. Not only that mechanical engineering is pretty flexible, meaning you can go into different fields like nuclear engineering, aerospace engineering, plant manager, or just about any other stem field. Seriously it makes no sense to get a degree in something you don't know the career prospects of it, because you don't want to try to change tracks. Your current track isn't making you any money and a masters in physics or applied science will not help you at all.
  5. Jan 14, 2014 #4
    If you go the engineering route, make sure you understand whether you'll need a PE designation and see if you'll actually be able to get one.
  6. Jan 14, 2014 #5


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    In the long term, maybe it doesn't matter. On a 10 or 20 year timescale, it's likely your career history will contain as much "random noise" as "strategic planning".

    But it does matter in the short term. If you want to buy a can of beans, you go to a store that sells canned food, and look for cans of beans. Sure, you could buy the same ingredients other ways, and end up with the same food on your plate (and it might even taste better than the canned version), but that's not what most people do. The same applies to companies hiring people - if you want to hire somebody to do engineering type work, the easy option is to look for people labeled "engineer".

    If the internships on that program lead directly to your first job, then it doesn't matter what label the college gave you - but you might want to think about "plan B" if that doesn't work out.
  7. Jan 18, 2014 #6
    From what I've heard this program is very good about getting its students jobs with companies like intel, ibm, nlight, etc. So am i right in thinking that assuming I get a job from the program then I will end up having just as many option as I probably would if I went with engineering?
  8. Jan 18, 2014 #7

    Simon Bridge

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    The advantage of such programs is the industry contact and networking available.
    The flip side is: if you do not get a job through the program, your options are more restricted than if you went via engineering.

    If you are employed - your options will depend on the position. I don't know about this specific program and they tend to vary quite a lot. In general, you tend to be trading more immediate uptake for early pigeonholing.

    All other things remaining equal I would bet on the engineering grad having better career prospects in the long term - but that's just so personal it's a fools gamble to start with.
  9. Jan 19, 2014 #8
    Great summary
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