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Cautiously Considering Doing Engineering Instead of Physics Help!

  1. Oct 3, 2013 #1
    Hello, PFers! I have 35.5 credits remaining to complete my physics BS. Of those, only 14.5 actually need be physics courses. However, I know that the BS doesn't do much right now and have been planning to go to grad school following completion of my undergrad work. I was looking to remain at my current institution to complete the PhD program in Nanoscience/Nanotech (they don't have a Physics PhD), and perhaps attain the MS in Physics on the way. My goal has been to work in the private sector/industry, maybe at a company doing R&D or something along those lines. I'm having some second thoughts, though.

    Recently I started to consider other options for several reasons.
    1) The economy and the resulting job-market (as discussed in posts like https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=712078 and https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=711733)
    2) The time it will take to get to my goal (the necessity of post-doc work, grad research, etc.)
    3) As much as some hate to hear it (including me), the pay and work-hours (I am married and we have 2 young boys)

    This might make me seem undeserving of the exulted PhD in Physics, alone, but at least I am being honest with myself and realized it fairly early. It's just that I grew up with not a lot, and I would like to be able to provide more for my family. Not just material items, of course. Trips and experiences, and not to mention the time that I could spend with them. It's just that we only have one life and it seems so important to me now to work hard to provide memories and experiences for my kids, my wife, and myself. We're probably going to homeschool our kids and I don't want to be this mostly missing figure in the house. I want to be involved and enjoy my family.

    All that being said, we come to my question. Should I switch to engineering? I know the studying and schooling can be time consuming, but is it really more than what can be expected for physics? I recently considered getting an MBA after my BS in physics because I'm somewhat extroverted and enjoy finance and business in general. I'm currently in a financial management class and am not taking any physics courses; it's terrible. I'm fairly talented (I guess) at and thoroughly enjoy maths and physics, so it seems an engineering MS might be a great idea. Less time than PhD, better job prospects, more fitting hours/work environment, and I still feel like I would satisfy my strong desire to do something math/physics related as a job.

    What do you guys think? Thanks for any comments/advice!
  2. jcsd
  3. Oct 3, 2013 #2
    I think you've already made up your mind, and I'm assuming all the replies you'll get will be exactly what you want to hear.

    There are very little/no justifications on financial, stability, or work hour grounds that could sway you away from physics/science to something more marketable like what you're already considering.
  4. Oct 3, 2013 #3
    I guess I've made up my mind, but I guess I wanted reassurance that I am doing the right thing. I listen to experience because with it comes wisdom. There's a lot more experience in these forums than I have personally.

    If I am going to do the Engineering MS should I finish my BS in physics first? Will I still be as attractive as someone that has an Engineering BS?
  5. Oct 3, 2013 #4
    Probably not.

    But work experience is also a factor. Are you going to be getting some form of engineering experience during your physics degree?
  6. Oct 3, 2013 #5
    I hope/wish! I currently have two jobs, one as a property manager that I do on Saturdays and the other as operations manager for a company M-F. I'm married and my wife stays at home with the kids, so income is pretty important. Are there jobs that I could reasonably have a chance at that would give me engineering experience, even with my limited experience right now? I have 21 credits of "electives" left to get my Physics BS, do you think it would be enough to just fill those in with some engineering courses in order to play "catch up"?
  7. Oct 3, 2013 #6


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    I would say that finishing your physics BS is likely a good idea; it sounds like you may have time to take a few engineering electives along the way if you really want to go the MS engineering route. I guess the exception is if doing an engineering BS won't take any longer.

    I vote for speaking with your advisor, and also with the engineering and nano-science/nano-tech departments/programs. Your advisor knows your situation to some level of detail, and the other departments can let you know what they would like to see if you to apply for graduate studies.

  8. Oct 3, 2013 #7


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    I agree, I think this gives you the optimal solution: you get a BS, you finish relatively soon, and you get prepared for engineering grad school.

    I'd advise you to check with advisors or professors at the graduate programs you're interested in to see what electives would be best.
  9. Oct 4, 2013 #8
    Whilst that is not specifically engineering relevant, your work and life experience may be enough to easily compensate in many cases. I was assuming you were someone much younger without much life experience.
  10. Oct 4, 2013 #9


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    A physics track and an engineering track have significant differences.

    If you had a BS degree in engineering, you'd want to get a job first, some work experience, and then get your masters later, at least if your engineering degree is in a field that changes rapidly due to new technology.

    Reason being that with no experience, and no job, it's always possible to wind up in a dead end job. Not that the job is bad or that you don't gain good experience, but that you wind up gaining experience in something that will soon be obsolete due to newer technology on the market. You can wind up with an old degree and no practical experience in areas employers actually want. You can at least use your masters to upgrade your education.

    I'm not sure how good the job opportunities are for a BS in Physics. I'm thinking it's a little more important to get the higher level degree sooner.

    But getting a bachelors in physics and a masters degree in engineering will just compensate for the fact that you don't have a BS in engineering. With no practical experience, it's not going to get you much of an advantage, if any, over an inexperienced person with a BS in engineering. And by time you reach the point where the MS would help you, it will be an old degree.
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