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Best Engineering degree for a physicist at heart?

  1. Aug 29, 2013 #1
    Hello PF community,

    I am currently a sophomore in college about to declare a major, and I wanted to know what engineering degree is most closely related to/has the most to do with physics. Physics is my passion, but I don't think I can commit to a physics degree. I am looking at a mountain of debt after the four years and I need a job right out of college, I can't afford the Phd + indeterminate amount of postdoc years to do the high level physics that I used to dream of.

    I hear that electrical uses a lot of physics, as well as certain branches of mechanical. Would these be good choices? Are there any even more related ones that involve more physics? Also, how about engineering physics? I have read that it is basically just a physics degree with an engineering minor, how useful is that when you're looking for a job?

    Thanks everyone for any tips you can give me.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 30, 2013 #2
    Choose Aerospace Engineering(if it offered), it have at level best Physics & calculus. Anyway Engineering Physics is also good one.
  4. Aug 30, 2013 #3
    RF electronic designs based a lot on electromagnetics. It's definitely not for the weak of heart. But like physics, don't expect to use calculus and all in the daly work as we use simulation programs. But you really have to understand EM to work with RF. My passion is RF and antenna, and I have been spending the last few years studying math and electromagnetic for it.
  5. Aug 30, 2013 #4


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    Read this, for example:


  6. Aug 30, 2013 #5


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    What kind of physics are you most interested in? If electrodynamics/optics then EE is a good choice of course. If quantum/solid state then materials science/engineering and EE are both good choices. If classical mechanics of particles, materials (think of bending beams, etc) and fluids, and/or thermodynamics and heat transfer then mechanical can be a good choice.

    I cannot say what the employment outlook for engineering physics majors (or pure physics majors, either) - perhaps there are some statistics somewhere that can help? As an undergrad I fell in love with E&M, so had to choose either EE or engineering physics since I was in the college of engineering at my university. I really didn't prefer one over the other, so I did EE for the simple reason that I felt more secure in the job prospects, although I had NO data to back up my hunch.

    good luck,

  7. Aug 30, 2013 #6
    Electronics is a very big field, even though there are a lot of out sourcing, there's still plenty of jobs. particularly as working frequency going higher and higher, it become very electromagnetics involved. You have to understand EM to do RF design.... You know that by your user name!!! I am a long time retired EE, I am still studying EM and math for the fun of it. The whole field of signal integrity engineer deals mostly with EM effect. That's the reason I am so into EM. Most EE don't like EM, they avoid it at all cost. That will make whoever expert in EM and RF valuable. These are not for the weak of heart.

    All the matching network can be done with transmission line distributed elements that are designed using EM theory ( phasor). The most important tool for RF.....Smith Chart is based on EM wave propagation.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2013
  8. Aug 30, 2013 #7
    You know that you don't pay to get a PhD, right? You get a stipend of ~20k to live on and free tuition.
  9. Aug 30, 2013 #8
    The kind of physics I am most interested in is particle physics, astrophysics and relativity, quantum mechanics. Unfortunately I don't think any engineering job really deals with the first 2, and from jasonRF's answer I guess materials science and EE will work for quantum mechanics. I guess I will probably do EE then.

    I am really interested in that accerator physics thing though, but again I don't know that I could afford to go for the phd and have debt sitting over my head for so many years. I have some soul-searching to do, but thanks everyone for the suggestions!
  10. Aug 31, 2013 #9


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    Please note that most PhD students in physics in the US do not really pay for their education. They tend to get TAship for the first couple of years, and then receive an RAship for the remainder (especially if you are an experimentalist). Each of these award typically will include a tuition and fee waver, plus a small stipend.

  11. Aug 31, 2013 #10
    I don't know enough astrophysics, relativity and QM. But I did worked for Charles Evans/Physical electronics that design and work with various mass spectrometers. The TOF has a lot of similarity of the Stanford Linear Accelerator. We do nothing but ionize particles, accelerate them and hit a substrate and generate particles for detection. All sort of acceleration, bunching, deflection, timing...............But almost all the scientist have PHD, I only seen one with MS. I think they earn very little for the amount of work for their education. I was the manager of EE, I design most of the electronics. I don't have a PHD but I get to do all the fun things in electronic design. I even published two papers in American Institute of Physics in new methods of detection and imaging. So there are jobs for EE in this...fun jobs. I know one of my engineer went to Applied Materials as they do semi conductor capital equipments that are just variations of mass spectrometers.

    But the most important of it all, is to ask whether it's your passion. You have to follow your heart. Last thing you want to do is to go for something just for the money.
    Last edited: Aug 31, 2013
  12. Aug 31, 2013 #11

    I don't know where people get the idea that you pay for a PhD. :confused:

    A PhD is a job
  13. Aug 31, 2013 #12
    by the way if I got a master's or bachelor's in physics and engineering from a top 10 university what kind of job prospects would I have?
  14. Aug 31, 2013 #13
    They probably get the idea from non-STEM PhDs where they don't have as much research grants and more often have to pay their own way.
  15. Sep 1, 2013 #14
    Also, you should major in engineering physics.
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