1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Career Track

  1. Mar 22, 2009 #1
    Background info
    Long version:
    So I was just putzing around here on the web and started looking at this forum for kicks and giggles. The problem is it was making me a tad nervous so I figure I'll ask. I was originally going to go into mechanical engineering, then I thought EE. I applied and was denied by the University of Colorado at Boulder. I really wanted to be a buffalo so I applied for open option, made it in and have since been taking courses that interest me that I can get into. Well my father, who has a MSBS in EE from University of Arkansas, informed me that some of the best EE he's ever worked with are physicists. At the time I was a pure math major, and I decided that I'd like to get a minor in physics at least, but shortly realized the major and minor requirements are only about 4-5 courses off... So I accepted staying for an extra 3 semesters to get a physics degree, pure math degree, applied math minor(obtained this in the course of getting a pure math degree), and an electrical engineering minor(had already started taking EE courses when I became a math major.

    Short Version:
    I'm in the process of getting the following degrees/minors from the University of Colorado at Boulder:
    - Pure Mathematics Major(on the "applied" pure math track)
    - Physics Major("interdisciplinary" track with emphasis on EE)
    - Applied Math minor(through school of engineering)
    - Electrical Engineering minor

    Okay now that the long drawn out part is out of the way...

    So I started reading and was seeing quite a lot of the statement "BS in physics won't get you much of anywhere" or permutations on that same theme. Am I going to be disappointed when I graduate? Or in the opinions of the people on this board, will I have the necessary background to obtain a decently well paying job?

    Sorry this question is so long and vague, but any responses are appreciated,


  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 22, 2009 #2
    I'm interested in what your Dad said about the EE's that were Physicists. Does he still know any of them? If yes, then I would try to contact them and see what worked.
  4. Mar 22, 2009 #3

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My first Physics Professor, way, way back in undergrad school told us one day in class:

    "I worked at Bell Labs before coming here to teach and worked with some of the best engineers in the world. They all had one thing in common, they all knew their physics very well."

    With that aside, I am a physicist and work in an industry where about 50% of the engineers are EE's and they are in agreement that my knowledge in their area of expertise is almost as god as theirs. The one thing I cannot compete with them is in circuit design and it freaks them out that I know more about Electromagnetics and antennas than they do.
  5. Mar 22, 2009 #4
    The one concern here is that by going "physics" as your primary major with "EE" as a minor (with minors in all kinds of other good complementary areas too!) is that you might want to look into the requirements for professional engineering (PE) certification. Usually this certification requires that you have a degree in an accredited ENGINEERING program (although rumor has it that they'll eventually modify this to include a science major with X credits in graduate work in engineering). Because cerification is applied for after you've been working a few years, it shouldn't effect your ability to get entry-level positions (especially with your extra complementary work in EE)... but it might effect you latr down the career path (especially as businesses move towards electronic submission of applications and use computers to screen for certification if desired).

    Just something to think about (I tend to agree that physicist know field theory much better and EE's know circuitry much better, so it depends on your greater interest). I know CU Boulder has an engineering physics degree (or program)... you might want to look into if THAT program meets certification... although I personally tend to like the thought of having a major with a strong minor or two myself. http://www.colorado.edu/physics/Web/education/undergrad/advisors.html" [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  6. Mar 22, 2009 #5
    I keep hearing this, so I finally went and looked up some information (http://www.ncees.org/licensure/licensing_boards/ [Broken]). It's all very confusing. I looked at my state's website (Washington), and it doesn't even list the FE as a required exam, but does require an "Engineer in Training" exam for which you need either four years of work experience or a degree in an "approved" engineering curriculum, whatever that means.

    The strange thing is, I can't find any information on their site about what you need to take the PE exam, but perhaps the EIT is all they require? In any case, I'll be getting a physics BS and then I'm considering going to grad school for engineering, so if I go that route my main concern would be that the graduate degree counts as much as an undergraduate (and based on what I've read that sounds likely). Anyone have a specific experience where that wasn't the case?
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  7. Mar 22, 2009 #6

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    The EIT is necessary to start your training towards the PE exam.

    Now, another thing to consider. Many engineering schools might accept you into the grad program but you'll be unable to start grad courses until you take the undergrad courses that you would have taken had you obtained an engineering degree from the start. Case in point, a friend of mine got an optical science degree, the potical engineering degree had exactly 3 courses different. When he went to grad school in EE, he had to take those three courses before he could take his qualifiers. This is not an isolated incident, I have seen it happen at other schools also.

    My advice is that if you intend on EE in grad school, take it as an undergrad and get a physics minor.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
  8. Mar 22, 2009 #7
    Sounds like good advice, except in my case I haven't settled on studying engineering in grad school, much less a specific field of engineering.

    By the time I do it probably won't make sense to try to switch majors. In fact, the only accredited engineering degree at my school is EE, and I'm not particularly interested in EE.
  9. Mar 23, 2009 #8
    I found http://state.tn.us/commerce/boards/ae/documents/EngineerInternCertification_001.pdf" for my current state of residence (TN):

    The first three paragraphs specifically explain that you need to be in your terminal year in (or have completed) an UNDERGRADUATE degree from an accredited program to take the "Fundamentals of Engineering" exam to qualify to become an "Engineering Intern" and then that you must serve as an engineering intern for four years under a PE engineer in order to be qualified to take the PE exam. I found a bit of stuff about paying extra to meet with someone and have them look at your non-accredited engineering degree to see if you could qualify, but nothing about non-engineering degrees or graduate degrees.

    If you can't find specifics like this about your state you may want to email the agency, call someone, make an appointment, etc.

    Edits: I also did a bit more web-searching and found that in OH (where I received my degrees) you can now have your transcripts reviewed for qualification to take the exam if you have a graduate degree from an accredited institution. It still seems, however, that they expect you to still have an unaccredited undergrad degree in engineering (not a related science).

    Note again, however, all this shouldn't effect your ability to get an entry-level position... but it might affect your ability to get higher-level positions... and while there's been some talk of changing the system (perhaps as early as 2010... sorry, I SHOULD have kept the link to the article I about this but didn't), it's still just talk.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  10. Mar 23, 2009 #9
    Changing the system how? Harder or easier?

    The OP is in a similar position as me, except that I'm considering Engineering Physics which from the curriculum seems to be Physics/EE. The program is Accredited, does that look better to employers? Or just make things easier to become a PE?
  11. Mar 23, 2009 #10
    I've read talk about changing the PE licensure system to eventually allow people with degrees in science and X graduate credits (I think 30; which is usually the number of required credits in an master's degree program) to also be eligible for PE certification examinations (perhaps in 2010). This would make the certification easier to attain for people who take alternate routes to engineering work. Since your program is accredited, you're probably OK even now. you may want to call the licensure board in your state to be sure (or the state you might be planing to live in after graduation).
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook