Career Guidance: Mechanical Engineer BS to Theoretical Physics

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Howdy everyone, I'm at the point were I have to make the decision on my career well actually I'm a semester late but I need help with this. First, my main goal, is to be a theoretical physicist or something along those lines because thats where my interest is but I need a Ph.d for that and also I'm constantly being advised (parents) to look at the pay of the job and whenever I declare it I'm told it is too low.
Now to my question would it be wise to go for a BS in mechanical engineering and then switch for the Ph.d in physics? I say this because from the research I've done engineering jobs are available and they seem to make good enough money. Also i choose engineering because of its relation to physics and my college has a good program for it.
So what I'm asking is
1. Is this strategy any good?
2. Is my research way off?
3. Any other suggestion would be nice.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
fss
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A MechE undergraduate curriculum is typically not a good platform for theoretical physics. You will probably have a lot of coursework to do to bring yourself to the level you need to be in both physics and mathematics.
 
  • #3
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This strategy is terrible. Truly gob-smackingly awful.

If you get a BSME in order to get a PhD in physics, you miss the additional earning potential of the BSME because you are not in the workforce - you're in grad school. On the other hand, because you didn't major in physics, you are less prepared for grad school. This strategy gives you the worst of both worlds.
 
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  • #4
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First, my main goal, is to be a theoretical physicist or something along those lines because thats where my interest is but I need a Ph.d for that and also I'm constantly being advised (parents) to look at the pay of the job and whenever I declare it I'm told it is too low.
Who tells you this?

It does take some planning, but someone with a physics Ph.D. can expect to make upper middle class salaries.

Grad students make low salaries, but you end up with zero debt. Jobs in academia are hard to get, but there are a lot of decent paying jobs elsewhere.

Now to my question would it be wise to go for a BS in mechanical engineering and then switch for the Ph.d in physics?
Bad idea. If you want to do a Ph.D. in physics, you won't have the preparation from the ME course, and if you want to do an Masters in Mechanical engineering, the Ph.D. is going to be a distraction.
 
  • #5
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Just piling on.

On the other hand, because you didn't major in physics, you are less prepared for grad school.
"Less prepared" is an understatement. The physics in mechanical engineering is Newtonian mechanics and thermo. No electrodynamics, no quantum physics, no relativity. Topics such as control theory, stability, structural analysis, computer-aided manufacturing are great for the job market but will not prepare you for an advanced degree in physics by one iota.
 
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I thought gob-smackingly awful covered it. :biggrin:
 
  • #7
Thanks for the replies everyone. I had a feeling it was a no go, it was the first thing that came to my mind. So now the question is what do I do? Do I go for engineering for the money and comfort or do I go into physics for the interest? Any sugestions from any of you who have been in this situation or are?
 
  • #8
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What is it about being a "theoretical physicist" you think is so neat? If your goal is to stand around rubbing your chin while writing big formulas on a blackboard then you need to snap out of it as soon as possible.

IMHO there are lots of areas of interesting overlap between physics, materials science and EE. Why not go EE and look for a PhD program you would enjoy? Might be the best of both worlds.

Unless you want to discover the Secret of the Universe. There is no best world for that.
 
  • #9
The theoretical physics thing was just a thought; I should have not even mentioned it. Anyways I thought it through and im going to get a BS in physics and afterwards try land one of those assistantships in a grad school to fund my ph.d and after ph.d I'm not to sure. i will probably just go with whatever job is available and I find interesting. I've read that there alot of opportunities with ph.d in physics. So what do you guys think of that not so gob-smackingly awful now is it? if you can even call it a strategy. So how easy is it to get an assistantship or any other advice?
 
  • #10
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Take it one step at a time. When you go into a physics program, you might realize you will hate it. I have plans for a bachelors in math but i'm still not sure if i'm able to do it. So that's why i'm only looking at the first year. It's good to plan but you're planning way too ahead in my opinion. If you really want to be a theoretical physicist, then just go get a physics degree and go from there. If i were you though, i'd probably do engineering instead. The pay is way better and you're still innovating and moving the field of science. It's just in a different setting and goals.
 
  • #11
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First things first... Who cares about pay... Don't make the mistake I did... I get paid well and hate my job... Do what you love.
 

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