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Can't decide between physics or engineering

  1. Nov 16, 2011 #1
    Well it's the time of the year when I need to decide what courses I want to do in college.
    Originally I was hell bent on physics but i'm almost finished my course and I'm unsure.

    There are 7 main sections in my course in highschool.
    1. Optics
    2. Mechanics
    3. Waves/light/sound
    4. Electricity
    5. Magnetism
    6. Radioactivity
    7. Particle physics

    I found optics to be ok. It wasn't the most interesting thing to start with but it kept my interest until mechanics.

    I loved!!! mechanics. It was definitely the best part so far! I thought it was so interesting how projectiles could be calculated etc..

    Waves/light/sound was good too I found it to be cool.

    Electricity, This is what i'm doing right now. I FIND IT INTOLERABLE!!! It so boring. I have no drive to even learn it.

    I have yet to do the others, i'll have a better idea after those, but given that I loved mechanics so much, should I do engineering instead.

    Thanks for reading. Any help would be much appreciated.

    P.S. here's the course I am interested looking at right now.

  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 16, 2011 #2


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    Do both or do engineering physics.

    Engineering is basically applied physics. The more physics one masters, the better engineer one will be.
  4. Nov 16, 2011 #3
    What you have to remember is what you think you enjoy more.

    Engineers are all about practicality.

    As in "gravity works in this way, therefore I can build this"

    Physicists are all about discovery.

    As in "gravity works in this way, therefore I can do an experiment to find out more about this other thing".
  5. Nov 16, 2011 #4
    I agree with Astronuc, go into engineering science for first year. That way you get a solid foundation for both physics and engineering and you can declare your major second year once you've had a feel for both.
  6. Nov 16, 2011 #5


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    Physics and engineering programs often overlap for the first two years (or more). You can make this decision much later. Don't worry about it now!

    If the schools you're applying to force you to declare one or the other on your application, choose whichever one will make it easier for you to gain admission. Seriously! You can always change your major later.

    - Warren
  7. Nov 16, 2011 #6
    Thanks for everyone's input. You americans have a very different system over there. Here, you enter your degree and that's it! You can't change. Not only that, but once you have decided on the area you wish to study in, you fill out the application form and if you are offered you 1st choice, you can't accept the 2nd. It's complex and stressful.

    Why on earth don't physicists do fluid mechanics. That really bugged me! We're supposed to learn how the world works, it's stupid!.
  8. Nov 16, 2011 #7


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    The last statement is rather myopic.

    Learning how the world works is part of figuring out how to make things work better, or more efficiently. There is a spectrum of interests and specialties between physicists and engineers.

    Fluid mechancis, thermal-hydraulics, or computational fluid dynamics (and even plasma physics) are each broad areas. Many power/energy conversion systems and propulsion systems use working fluids. Optimizing the elements that extract the energy/momentum requires intimate knowledge of Navier-Stokes equations in one or two phases. Optimizing the solid mechanical elements requires intimate knowledge of structrual dynamics, materials behavior, corrosion, tribology, . . . .

    I changed my major from physics (with specialities in nuclear and astrophysics) to nuclear engineering. Had I known then what I know now, I would have double majored in physics and nuclear engineering. As a nuclear engineering student, I did certain electives in electrical, mechanical, aerospace engineering and materials science, along with various courses in mathematics.
  9. Nov 16, 2011 #8
    A practical issue to consider is that a BS in mechanical engineering will probably qualify you for a good job. In physics, it's best to get a PhD in order to compete for good jobs.
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