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Physics Becoming an engineer with a Physics degree

  1. Aug 30, 2008 #1
    I want to become an engineer but I am also interested in playing football at a small NAIA school that does not offer a degree in any kind of engineering but they do offer a degree in Physics. I was wondering how difficult is it to become an engineer with a degree in physics or if it is even difficult at all. Also if I could get a degree in physics can I then go on to get a masters in engineering?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2008 #2
    Going to be tough, especially coming from a small school. How good is their physics program? Do you have a course catalog online or something that lists the available classes?

    You might have to go to graduate school to get a Master's in whatever engineering field you want before you can become an engineer.

    The reason I say this is because employers won't really want to hire you if all you know is physics from a small school. But a graduate school won't be as reluctant to take you on. You will however have to make up for it a bit with undergrad classes at the new school.
  4. Aug 30, 2008 #3
    I do not know how good their program is here is the degree requirements
    http://www.snu.edu/physics-major [Broken]
    and here is the catalog
    http://my.snu.edu/catalog/catalog.asp [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  5. Aug 30, 2008 #4
    Are you on the semester system or quarter system?
  6. Aug 31, 2008 #5
    Similar situation here.
    I've nearly finished the science part of engineering/science. After this year I have 2 years to go. I am sick to death of uni and would rather leave after this year and apply for a job as a mechanical engineer. Do you reckon this'll work? My science majors are maths and physics (I like them but don't like uni).
  7. Aug 31, 2008 #6
    It wouldn't hurt to apply, and then if you get accepted you just drop out? Would that work?
  8. Aug 31, 2008 #7
    How hard do you think it would be to be a doctor with a degree in music?

    OK, physics and engineering are more related than that, and I'm sure that *somewhere* there is an M.D. with a music degree... but if you want to be a physicist study physics, and if you want to be an engineer, study engineering. You'll be doing yourself a favor in the long run.
  9. Aug 31, 2008 #8
    A same thought here as well, but I went in different path.
    I have taken engineering degree, however my dream is to become a physicist. And, I was planning to do master of physics in the future. Because I want to work in engineering field as a physicist status.
  10. Aug 31, 2008 #9
    A medical doctor with a degree in music? I don't see why that should be hard. The only science you need to know before med school are the standard pre-med requirements.
  11. Aug 31, 2008 #10
    Feel free to choose a better analogy. :smile:

    It's one thing to get a degree in one field and then realize you wish you were in another field. But it flat-out makes no sense to *plan* on doing this.

    Although on second thought, I should go back to the original post. If you're getting a football scholarship so you are getting a free degree... OK, I can see trying to make that work.
  12. Aug 31, 2008 #11
    Actually, I myself would be interested in knowing if one with a physics bachelors can be declared an "engineer" after completing an advanced degree, ie. masters, in said engineer field.
  13. Aug 31, 2008 #12
    I have a question.
    Is physics a no-no if you are not so good at explaining things ?

    Or can/must you learn it while at university?

    I am insecure.
  14. Aug 31, 2008 #13


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    No, physics is very easy and anyone can learn it (at least at the undergraduate level; it will often take you a week to solve a homework problem, but that's the same for 99.9% of physics majors) - as long as you are interested in it and curious about the questions it asks, and you have teachers who love the subject and care about their students (the teachers are not so important, but it helps). Anyway, most football players solve in practice problems that would be much too hard to put on exams. So this should not be an obstacle.

    As for going from physics to engineering, I have no idea. One possibly useful resource is "Landing Your First Job: A Guide for Physics Students" by John Rigden. It's published by the American Institute of Physics, and the physics department or career office at your school might have a copy.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2008
  15. Aug 31, 2008 #14


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    Hmm, seems you can take engineering classes at Oklahoma Christian University nearby:
    https://my.snu.edu/catalog/catalogext.asp?PageID=509&CatalogYear=2008 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  16. Aug 31, 2008 #15
    I never noticed that before. Thank you for that. That makes this decision a lot easier.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  17. Sep 1, 2008 #16
    In my state, you CAN NOT take the FE/EIT exam unless you have a BACHELOR'S in engineering. If you have a bachelor's in physics, a master's and a Ph.D. in Engineering, and teach engineering coursework at a university--you STILL can not take the FE, and therefore can NEVER become a licensed engineer. You (with your Ph.D. in engineering) would HAVE to complete an undergraduate degree in engineering first.

    This was explained at great length by a high-ranking, long-term member of the state professional engineering board during a visit to my university several years ago.

    Now, if you want to work for a company as an engineer, but they don't require you to be EIT or to pursue a PE license, then you can do that. But those jobs seem to be less common than they supposedly were a decade or two ago.
  18. Sep 1, 2008 #17
    This is bad :(

    I wanted to study bachelors in physics and then go to biomedical engineering (with focus on nano-robotics and molecular engineering)
  19. Sep 1, 2008 #18


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    Industry does not really much care. If you have a degree and are able to sell your skills you can get an engineering job with a Physics degree. Simply not a problem. I work with several "engineers" with physics degrees, it is not uncommon.

    There are a lot of jobs in industry which require a "technical" degree people holding these jobs are called engineers, whether they have a engineering degree or a history degree. To get one all you have to do is convince the hiring manager that you can do the job.
  20. Sep 1, 2008 #19

    Vanadium 50

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    This is not a problem for you, since you will not need a PE. Why not? Because there are no nano-robots. The same argument can be made for antigravity, starships and time machines.
  21. Sep 1, 2008 #20
    There aren't nanobots yet.

    But they are working on it.
  22. Sep 3, 2008 #21
    Recent experience (past 8 years or so) of five graduate students, including myself, is that the physics degree will not get your application past HR in many/most employers (e.g., Boeing).

    If your professors don't have contacts in the company, and you don't have some sort of network connection into a hiring manager, then they will never even see your information. You can't sell your skills to HR (they cull based on qualifications, not abilities), and you won't ever get to talk to someone who would care about your skills.

    As far as we were able to tell, it appears that the days of hiring physicists into engineering positions in industry, at least around here (midwest), largely ended between 1985 and 1995. We based this on the physics degree holders who were working in engineering positions in companies where HR would now not review applications if you did not have an ABET accredited Bachelor's in Engineering. When we found them, they were hired in the 1980s or earlier.

    Contacts might make the difference, but if you're applying through HR you are tilting at windmills. Look for employers and jobs (e.g. Lockheed Martin) where they advertise some engineering positions with physics (and math, and sometimes other) degrees listed along side engineering degrees in the qualifications.
  23. Oct 18, 2008 #22
    You would have to get a Master's degree or PhD in whatever engineering discipline you want to go into. It's been done, I know many people who have done it:

    Professor at my school:
    BS in Physics
    MS Nuclear Engineering
    PhD Nuclear Engineering
    Doctor of Medicine (MD)

    Another professor:
    BA Physics
    SB General Science
    SM Nuclear Engineering
    Sc.D Nuclear Engineering

    Another professor
    BS Physics
    MS Physics
    PhD Materials Science

    A few T.A.'s at my school

    1st one - BS in Physics, working on MS in Electrical Engineering
    2nd one - BS in Physics, MS in Physics, working in PhD in Nuclear Engineering
    3rd one - BS in Physics and Math (double major), MS in Nuclear Engineering, working on PhD

    At the engineering firm I worked at over the past summer, I saw the following:

    BS in Physics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Structural Engineering
    BA in Physics, BS in Civil Engineering, MS in Structural Engineering
    BS in Physics, MS in Electrical Engineering

    So it can be done, as has been by these people.
  24. Oct 18, 2008 #23
    I do no think that is the case in every state, then again interested people should check up on it
  25. Oct 19, 2008 #24
    Well, Nuclear Engineering is an more or less interdisciplinary field.

    And medicine is not engineering , and materiel science! is more science-sided.

    This is something else than let's say mechanical engineering or mechatronics.
  26. Jan 28, 2011 #25
    I am a chemical engineer graduate. It is not likely that a physicist be employed as an engineer. You wil have do pursue the undergraduate degree to attain a professional engineer status. The degree is vital. The postgraduate degrees are less intense. Engineering in 1st year consists of mainly science subjects math, applied math, chem, physics, computers. You should get credits for that. But 2nd,3rd,4th year engineering is completely focused on engineering sciences (for eg. In chem eng) major subjects are thermodynamics, mass and energy balances, heat/mass transfer, reactor tech, controls, plant modelling and design. But i encourage you to go for it. Its pays well and job opportunities are endless.
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