Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Do you think this is true for Engineers vs Phyiscists?

  1. Feb 13, 2010 #1
    People study Physics and go into Engineering are only for the money; Physicists on the other hand, studies to improve themselves, they could careless about money.

    This is a quote from my teacher

    But here is a thought from my own,

    If suddenly the wages between an Engineer and a Physicist change, would you still change?
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 13, 2010 #2
    I went into engineering pretty much knowing I never wanted to do it professionally (still don't). I just wanted a major I couldn't sleep through, and computer engineering seemed the most interesting at the time.
    Almost every major has that person just in it for the money, but most people do end up in fields they care about just 'cause the sheer amount of coursework is almost impossible to get through if you're not really interested in it.
  4. Feb 13, 2010 #3
    Physicists who end up in Engineering are more interested in applied dynamics rather than money. As a side note, I believe physics professors are paid slightly more than engineering professors, so what does that tell you about the importance of engineering?:rolleyes:
  5. Feb 13, 2010 #4
    Yeah maybe like 1% of the population? I am just quoting my Physics teacher lol
  6. Feb 13, 2010 #5
    Well then he has his own agenda - do not go to the dark side (engineering):smile:.
  7. Feb 13, 2010 #6
    Yeah... that was me when I first started out in university.
    Now, I want money.
  8. Feb 14, 2010 #7
    Generalization are always difficult to prove. Personally, I was always torn between mathematics, physics and electrical engineering. I loved the theoretical side of physics, but also loved the design work involved in engineering. Both require training and creativity, but there are some differences between the crafts. Ultimately, I chose engineering because I came to the conclusion that math was a tool of physics and physics was a tool of engineering. Hence, I could do all in engineering. This reasoning was not perfectly sound because physics can use engineering as a tool also, but my logic seemed valid to me at the time, and to this day I don't regret my decision. I've always had interesting research to do, and use physics continuously in my job. I also study more obscure areas of physics (for example GR right now) all the time as a hobby, so this helps ease my mind on those days when I wonder what my life would be like had I chosen the other path.

    When I was college age, I was very idealistic and money was never a consideration for any decision I made back then. At the risk of making an unprovable generalization, I have to say that my experience is that anybody who goes into engineering for the money ends up being a mediocre engineer at best. I'd also guess that they are ultimately disappointed because, while the engineer's salary is good, it's not great; and, there are more effective ways to make money, if that is the only goal.

    I don't think money is really the issue with most people (or at least the best of them) studying either discipline. I think what is more relevant is the perceived prospects of jobs and real-world problems to solve after graduation. It's very easy to lump this concern into the issue of "money", but it is not really the same thing. Most people want to feel that they can be productive and successful in society, and some may choose engineering because they perceive it (perhaps erroneously) as a better path to do that.
    Last edited: Feb 14, 2010
  9. Feb 14, 2010 #8
    i would say people that choose engineering over an 8 year track do have different priorities, but i wouldn't paint them with dollar signs in their eyes. the people seeing green from day one are the ones going into business and finance. engineers just mostly want to get to work sooner and have a solid career lined up right out of college. you're only 24-30 once, after all, and some people want more financial freedom during these years

    i think the engineering departments at the 2 schools i attended accounted for 80% of the school's motorcycle traffic, if that counts for anything.
  10. Feb 17, 2010 #9
    I am close to graduating with a degree in physics. I am going to either get a job in engineering or try to get a masters degree in engineering. I have two main reasons for this. First, I have found that I am really interested in the application of physics, building things, improving things, making things. The pursuit of pure knowledge does not interest me. Of course there are many arguments that can be made about that and whether there is any knowledge so theoretical that it is not useful, but that is not my point. I do not want to gain knowledge just for the sake of learning. Second, yes at this point in my life I find the idea of a decent and predictable income to be very very attractive.
  11. Feb 18, 2010 #10
    I think this is the most important thing said in this thread. I'm always disappointed in the people who seem to think that you major in a subject to get a job in that field, or think that you can't 'study' anything else once you have a degree. In my view, the most important thing you can learn in school is, 'how to think.' Once you show yourself that you can master a subject (any subject), then you can do the same again and again, with any subject that interests you.

    Oh, on the quote from the prof in the OP - if he was even half-serious, my advice is to stay away from his classes if possible. Ideas like this are poison.
  12. Feb 18, 2010 #11


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I am sorry you had this teacher. Money aside, engineers generally want to build better tools for humankind; scientists want to discover more about Nature. Who's to say which is the better profession?
  13. Feb 18, 2010 #12
    I really don't think this is true. People that are "in it for the money" don't bother with physics or engineering at all at go straight into management or business.
  14. Feb 18, 2010 #13
    My switch from physics to engineering had nothing to do with money. I wanted to apply my knowledge to something useful, and a Ph.D program in physics didn't really give me that opportunity. Since I have always been interested in aerodynamics and fluid dynamics, I chose aerospace engineering. I couldn't be happier with that choice.
  15. Feb 19, 2010 #14


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    It is always fun to have a teacher with an agenda (or perhaps a giant chip on their shoulder!).

    Whoever said that knows nothing about engineering.

    I was in electrical engineering both for undergrad and grad, and found that the few people that were "in it for the money" usually did not do so well. The vast majority of students were doing engineering out of interest. Many of the students I knew had no interest at all in doing science.
  16. Feb 19, 2010 #15
  17. Feb 19, 2010 #16
    WIN.. for hellbike
  18. Feb 22, 2010 #17
    Professor salaries at my school are about 50% higher for engineering prof's than physics. However, the engineering program is in the top 10 while the physics program probably doesn't crack the top 25
  19. Feb 22, 2010 #18
    Anyone who says they are not concerned about money in engineering or physics are liars. Let's face it, aside from having a really rich family or something, we all need money. That doesn't mean that most people choose a certain profession just because of the money. Rather, it's a combination of lots of different factors (I believe) that lead a person into a particular profession.

    There are still people that do something solely for the money but it's not anywhere near the majority. To have the mind set that money is not important is a very irresponsible way to think. Everybody worries about financial security when deciding on a career.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook