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!

Choosing between physics and EE

  1. Jun 30, 2015 #1
    Hi guys,

    I am going to university in september and currently have an offer to do BSc physics (I am in the UK btw), however from reading on here the job sector for physics is limited and it seems that a lot of people who post here would choose engineering if they could start again.

    I would like to go into physics research but the likely hood of that happening is very unlikely and then if I couldn't get into that I would want to work in the energy/renewable energy sector or something to do with software development or aerospace engineering

    My question is, is it worth doing a physics degree or should I just go do electric and electronic engineering? (I know there isn't a definite right answer, just looking for your opinions, especially if you have done a physics degree)

    Note: I love physics and would enjoy the degree more but I want to get a job in a sector I would enjoy working in and here in the uk there isn't really any funding to do a second degree/Msc degree in a different discipline

    Thanks for any input you give
  2. jcsd
  3. Jun 30, 2015 #2
    It's to sum up but in my opinion, it will be better study engineering. Here is some xeample enginnering departman includes physics:

  4. Jun 30, 2015 #3
    I'm still a student so take this with a grain of salt but in my university the EE students take 2-3 "specialization" tracks towards the end of their studies and some of those tracks like micro&nanotechnology or electro-optics require them to take quite a bit of physics beyond the regular engineering curriculum (stuff like actual QM not the watered down version most engineers take, solid state, optics, thermodynamics and more...), most of the students won't take all these courses but they would take some according to what they need.
    So my point is that you could look at something like that, study engineering but tailor your degree to the more physical aspect and basically cover 70% of the physics degree as part of the engineering degree (you"ll be missing the labs and extra physics "specialization" courses).
    Another option is to take a combined degree, personally I'm doing EE&Physics, though most well tell you to stay away from those as they don't offer much payback beyond satisfying your academic interests and might actually hurt you due to the extra work load.
  5. Jun 30, 2015 #4
    A lot of people get wound up over the technical aspects of what they'll do when they graduate.

    The reality is that you work every day with people. Nobody likes to go to work with rude, ignorant, or arrogant people, no matter what you're doing.

    So when looking for a career, yes, it is important what you study, but even more important is with whom.

    I have stayed where I have for decades because the people I work with are great. Yes, I get angry, frustrated, and annoyed with them from time to time. But on the whole, I really like being with them. Think about places where you might like to work. Think about the people you'd like to be around. Remember, you'll spend a significant portion of your life with these people. Don't pick a bunch of jackasses and then wonder where everything went wrong...
  6. Jun 30, 2015 #5


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor

    On the other hand, perhaps jackasses are crucial for great advances. If Shockley hadn't been a jackass, Bardeen wouldn't have left Bell labs, and we might not have the BCS theory. Also if Shockley wasn't a jackass, people wouldn't have left his company to form Fairchild, and we wouldn't have Silicon Valley.
  7. Jul 3, 2015 #6
    Too many people blame their choice of major for their lack of employability, when they should put more blame on their mediocre efforts leading to poor GPAs and lack of internships and research experiences.

    A track record of excellence demonstrated by good grades, research opportunities, and strong letters of recommendation is employable in any and every STEM major. Mediocrity will always be a problem.
  8. Jul 3, 2015 #7
    That was not my experience. I graduated with honors, research experience and had strong letters of recommendation. I couldn't even get an interview. The problem was I had physics degrees with no PhD or real marketable skills.
  9. Jul 3, 2015 #8
    I had a couple offers based on my programming skills alone with just one programming course and the rest picked up along the way working in labs and in various research teams. One job gave me a programming test and made me an offer on the spot.

    I suppose there may be times and locations when jobs are harder to come by. I've also found that BAs in Physics and degrees from schools ranked outside of the top hundred have less respect. Some of the lower tier schools aren't fooling employers with their grade inflation and poor excuse for academic rigor. I once resigned from a faculty job at a lower tier school that was giving away degrees in Physics and Chemistry. Regardless of GPA, their degrees were not worth the paper they were written on and everyone in the state knew it.
  10. Jul 3, 2015 #9
    You know its funny because usually I dislike Modus's tough style of speaking facts, but this time even I have to agree. I dont have an awesome BS Physics track record, but I understood that by the time I finished the degree, i wished I would have taken a slightly easier yet practical route (Industrial Engineer, Technology, Civil Engineer, etc) . It is really difficult to get a good job without the "preferred" degree.

    That being said, Courtney is correct in that there are technical type positions that Physics BS people can and have successfully gotten. But again, the market has a what I call "Engineer Favoritism " even if the engineering in question may not be specifically tailored to the job ( i have seen multiple jokes at the expense of Industrial, not that I dont respect it).

    For the best job options go for Engineering and if you can squeeze it in take Physics classes to double major. I have been through so much in my life over making a bad major choice after Engineering did not work out. Thankfully, I got into a MS EE program. But I dont want anybody to live with the regrets that I have had.

    OP, I wish you the best in whatever you decided.
  11. Jul 4, 2015 #10
    From what I can tell, the "Engineer Favoristism" comes mostly from the human resource offices and personell who are thinking that someone needs an engineering degree to fill an engineering job. Those with physics degrees will have a much higher success rate getting interviews and job offers if they can get their resumes into the hands of the hiring manager (engineers) rather than having it stopped by the human resources office. There are a variety of techniques for making sure one's resume gets past the human resources office.
  12. Jul 8, 2015 #11
    I would highly recommend going the EE route if you want to go into research or into industry, only because being an engineer equates to generally good job prospects, obviously, engineering is in essence, applied physics. And many electrical engineering courses can be cross-listed (at varying institutions) with Physics courses (Electricity & Magnetism, Electromagnetic's, etc.,). On the other hand, if you really enjoy physics though, and really want to major in it, I would recommend majoring in applied physics. If you do this, graduate school options will be open in engineering (especially EE), and if you do end up going for the PhD, it is relatively easy to get a faculty position in comparison to regular Physicists. Of course, this faculty position will likely be in an engineering department, but it is heavy Physics research nevertheless. Some example fields are electricity/magnetism of course, radar signal processing, optics and photonics, and nano optics. Not only research industries, but universities seem to heavily recruit both Physicists and Engineers for positions related to this. I know that in the U.S.A, if you finish a PhD in Physics with a specialization in one of the above fields, it is super easy to get a research position in a national laboratory doing research for the government/defense industry. I have very little familiarity regarding how this is in the U.K., and if the government is big into defense research, but it's definitely an option nonetheless.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook