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Engineering B.S. Physics, Engineering Career

  1. Feb 14, 2007 #1
    Hello friends,

    After graduating with a B.S. in physics from a State University recently, I among others in my class are looking for work. Realizing the line of work I am most interested in resembles research and development, and perhaps electrical engineering, I'd like to go back to school for MSEE to eventually become involved in the tough to break semiconductor industry. Ideally though, I'd like to gain work experience while I do this. My question is, has anyone in here started with a B.S. in Physics from a not so hot school and found a company or career path that would hire them and support them while they earn advanced degrees?

    Coming out of school without an engineering degree or a PhD in Physics makes it a bit more difficult to find work, I'm curious to know how other folks have negotiated this challenge.

    Thank you for your advice.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 14, 2007 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    I switched from majoring in physics at a private university (with a reasonably good reputation) to majoring in nuclear engineering at a state university. For me it was the right move. I still mixed in some physics with the engineering.

    We also had physics undergrads come into the MS program in nuclear engineering. Also, one of the professors was originally in engineering physics and much of his research involved accelerators.

    My company prefers to hire people with at least an MS or someone who is working toward an MS if from the local community.

    So if you want to do EE or semiconductors, do an MS in EE. Or one could do a PhD in physics like ZapperZ.

    Are you interested in solid state physics?
  4. Feb 14, 2007 #3

    It is interesting that you mention this, because one of my friends who is graduating was going through a similar situation. Intially, he was able to talk to IBM (particularly their research end), and was told that if he provided a background of work in semi-conductor and micro-device fabrication while finishing his undergraduate degree (which at my state university is the "hot" research side of our physics department), that they would consister hiring him and sending him to graduate school.

    So there is one company you could ask.

    Then again he might have been an exception rather than the rule.
  5. Feb 14, 2007 #4
    Yes I'm certainly interested in Solid State Physics, that tends to be where the intersection of materials science and engineering intersects with condensed matter physics.

    I'm steering toward engineering since it's more applied and I though I've been very much fascinated with seeking the why?why?why?'s of theory, there's something incredibly luring and fun about developing a marketable product, geared towards industry not simple consumers.
  6. Feb 14, 2007 #5
    B.S. Physics State School = disaster for job market
  7. Feb 15, 2007 #6


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    Education Advisor

    Since I was requested to put in my 2-cent in here, here's my take on this.

    I find that with a B.Sc degree, an enginner tends to have better employment options than a physics degree holder. An engineer tends to have marketable skills that a lot more employers are looking for then a typical physics major. If you look at the statistics of employment of physics degree holder, most do not work in physics upon graduation. In fact, many work in computer-related fields.

    As for the ability to find an employer that might contribute towards getting a higher degree, that depends very much on the employer.

    If you are a physics major and intends to pursue a Ph.D, the area that you want to work in is very wide and open, and it certainly depends on where you choose to go to school. If you want more towards the application of semiconductor, pursuing a Ph.D physics in this area is definitely possible IF you find a school that provides such a line of study. I highly recommend you look in journals such as Journal of Applied Physics, Applied Physics Letters, Journal of Physics and Chemistry of Solids, etc.. etc... where you'll find many physicists that work on the applied side of physics, and where they work. That should tell you which schools have programs in such-and-such field so-much-so that they are productive enough to produce publications.

    Here at Argonne, there is a very large division called the Material Science Division. If you look carefully at the people that make up this division, I'd say at least 3/4 of them are actually physicists, not material scientists/engineers. So one can certainly study not only the physics of materials, but also the applications of it, even as a physics major.

  8. Apr 10, 2010 #7
    I had started in architecture and then switched to physics in my sophomor year because I loved math and knew I had a knack for science (especially) physics. So by the end of my Junior year, I thought who is going to hire me with a general Physic's Degree? Luckly, as I was searching on Monster and Careerbuilder, I found a job that was clearly below my skill level but applied anyways since the company was sceince/ technical. I interviewed once and they offered me a completely different job as an Anaytical Scientist job which I clearly took. This was back in April of 2008 and I still work here.

    I think that if you search hard enough... maybe even talk to the right people. You'll find something. Then once you've got the experience you'll be good!
  9. Apr 11, 2010 #8
    I think disaster may be a bit strong. If you graduated recently, that probably is worse for your prospects than your degree is. I graduated from Northern Arizona University with a B.S. in Physics, and I was able to successfully transition into an R&D engineering role in the medical device industry.

    My department has a pretty good track record at placing graduates into jobs with bachelor's degrees, including places like Raytheon Missle Systems, W. L. Gore & Associates, Micron Technologies, Brookhaven National Laboratory, and the Naval Research Laboratory.

    Raytheon used to have a pretty generous tuition repayment program, but things have changed considerably. Micron would be exactly what you are looking for, but they have laid off a number of engineers recently [some of whom I hired]. If you go to a company's career website, they usually explain their benefits in detail, including continuing education benefits. However, it is even better if you can find someone from your school already working at a company you are interested in, because then you can get the inside scoop. Even if you don't know the person, oftentimes the alumni connection is enough for them to be willing to give you some information.
  10. Apr 11, 2010 #9
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