Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Physics Can a Physics major get a job as an engineer?

  1. Sep 26, 2012 #1
    I'm a freshman in a University and right now my major is mechanical engineering. I've been told by some people that a physics major can get me a job as an engineer with some on the job training. Is this true?

    Will duel majoring in physics and mechanical engineering help get me a well paid engineering job as apposed to just mechanical engineering?

    Will a degree in biomedical physics help me get a biomedical engineer job?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 26, 2012 #2
    It won't hurt, but if you want to be an engineer, then major in engineering. If you want to be a biomedical engineer, you should major in biomedical engineering.
  4. Sep 26, 2012 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    Yes. I got a job as an engineer with a physics BA. At least 3 co-workers in my group were physics PhDs.
  5. Sep 27, 2012 #4
    what type of engineering do you do? What's your job like? I'm really curious. Would you say it was difficult to find an engineer job with a BA in physics? Was it an disadvantage or advantage over those with a BA in engineering.
  6. Sep 27, 2012 #5


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Engineering is a BS.

    It will be more difficult to find an engineering job if you have a physics degree. Engineering managers are looking to hire engineers.
  7. Oct 4, 2012 #6
    I'm pretty sure you can get a job as an engineer with a Physics degree ,but you'll probably have to get at least a Masters or PhD.
  8. Oct 4, 2012 #7


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    I was a test engineer, though I did some system analysis and coded firmware, but I left the job to go back to school, where I'm paid much less and work much harder. That involved designing test stations, doing statistical analysis on the data, working to enhance the performance of the device by completely understanding the system, running simulations, holding meetings.... I can't say if it was a disadvantage in finding a job relative to engineering. I suppose it wasn't as hard to find a job back then.
  9. Oct 4, 2012 #8
    You can definitely get a job as an engineer with a Bachelor's in Physics. I have a BS in Physics, and I work as an R&D engineer in the medical device field. While it can be done, you should expect resistance from hiring managers. Not all new grads with a BS in Physics are suited for engineering work, so this imposes a sorting cost on the hiring company that they would rather avoid. You can compensate for this by effective advertising or interviewing, or carefully managing your courses in school. Graduate education in physics does not alter this situation.

    All else being equal, it would be easier to land an engineering job with a degree in engineering. A dual major probably won't get you much. Given a typical curriculum for the two programs, the extra time would be better spent on a Masters degree. Many schools offer 1-2 year Masters programs that are well received in industry.

    As for Biomedical Engineering, there are actually several kinds of programs using the same term. Some BioE programs mostly do cellular work. Not really useful in industry. Some BioE programs do mechanics of biological materials and implant biology in addition to mechanical engineering. This is very valuable. Biophysics is another beast entirely, and I cannot recommend this course if you want a job with a Bachelors. If you want to move into a specific field of research and intend to pursue graduate education, biophysics *might* be a good stepping stone.
  10. Oct 4, 2012 #9
    Can you go into more detail about how you did this? Also, when did you get this job?
  11. Oct 4, 2012 #10
    I have been working at the same company for eight years. I had to be persistent, and keep applying for jobs at my company of interest until I got an interview, and then once I could talk to the engineers, they saw my interests and abilities matched their needs. It is good if you know someone on the inside to help you navigate the process of actually getting an interview.
  12. Oct 4, 2012 #11
    It will be much tougher to get a job in engineering with a physics degree than it will be with an engineering degree. Yes it is possible, but why considerably hurt your chances for no reason, if your end goal is to be an engineer. Secondly, many universities do not allow engineering students to double major in anything, including physics (so check on your school). Lastly, if you live in Canada it will be MUCH tougher to become an engineer with a physics degree, by 'engineer' I mean professional engineer (P.E.). In other countries it might be similar but in Canada you are fighting a major uphill battle trying to become an engineer with a B.S. in physics (because of the legal requirements).
  13. Oct 4, 2012 #12
    The requirements for being a PE in the US are similar. If your intended career requires a PE, start as an engineer. My field does not require a PE, so that makes it easier for me.
  14. Oct 4, 2012 #13
    Interesting. So you just kept applying to the same place over and over again until they finally gave you an interview? I'm kind of surprised that worked.
  15. Oct 4, 2012 #14
    For this place in particular, it is a pretty common occurrence.
  16. Oct 5, 2012 #15
    I've heard a milion different opinions with regards to this.

    The chairman of my physics department said that their PhD program in physics is heavily geared towards industry, and produces a lot of industry jobs.

    Other people have stated that in a rough economy, getting a job with a phyics degree is much harder.

    However, the low unemployment and high median mid-career salary of physics bachelors coupled with AIP statistics indicating that a physics bachelors can get you into the tech sector (including non-engineering jobs like software design) imply to me that it's really a fine degree, if less suited to engineering than engineering.
  17. Oct 5, 2012 #16
    Finance and insurance are part of "industry jobs." My program made the exact same claim- and its true, most of their graduates go into finance, insurance and IT. Which is fantastic if you want ANY high paying,potentially interesting job, but less great if you specifically want an engineering research type job. If your dream is a somewhat technical job, probably business related thats paid well, physics is a great choice.

    Its about YOUR priorities- if your utility is something like job in science > job in engineering > job in finance/insurance/IT, you should strongly consider that maybe physics isn't your best degree choice as your most likely to end up in the third category, whereas an engineering degree makes your second choice job very likely.
  18. Oct 5, 2012 #17
    Is this just academic slang? It seems really deceptive to label finance, insurance, and IT as "industry" jobs. When I think of industry jobs, I think of industrial jobs. It seems like people academia just use it to mean, any kind of private-sector job, which isn't very helpful career advice ("hey kids, have you considered working somewhere that's not government or academia?").
  19. Oct 5, 2012 #18
    Yes, this is just the way people speak. Everything that isn't academic is "industry".
  20. Oct 5, 2012 #19
    My experience was that the word “industry” had two meanings. To the HEP/Astro types and the physics administration it meant about what ParticleGrl and BenEpsen have suggested – anything but academia or a national lab.

    But I spent most of my research time in a center that was partially funded by a number of very large corporations. Lots of students who worked in that center went on to work at those corporations. When people in that center said “industry”, they really meant work at a private company, and the work was assumed to be related to the topics we studied. Insurance and other financial jobs did not count as “industry” to them.

    Actually, this was basically true at both the university I did grad work and the one I did undergrad work, now that I think about it. Professors who studied topics that had real industry application used the word "industry" differently than those who had (almost) no industry application. It was a stark cultural difference.
  21. Oct 6, 2012 #20
    I agree - I was used to the same terminology 20 years ago and it seems that was not changed.

    The funny thing that this has been transferred to the non-English speaking world 1 on 1.

    The result was, that at the time of my graduation I was basically ignorant of job opportunities in consulting business, finance etc., because I considered "industry" = manufacturing industry.

    I agree, too - but this is exactly what I had experienced to contribute to the distorted image of the world outside academia: I remember a professor with real industry experience (in terms of production) and I am sure that he was really not aware of any job opportunities outside traditional industry. I think he was not aware of the growing businesses working with non-tangible stuff at all, such as IT and consulting.
    Last edited: Oct 6, 2012
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook