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EE Program vs Physics (Masters degree)

  1. Sep 23, 2012 #1
    Hi everyone.

    Recently, I started a MS program (terminal) in applied physics. I'm noticing my desire for physics really isn't there. The core coursework (classical mechanics, math physics) thus far isn't too interesting, thus I'm not doing that well.

    The honest reason for going is that it seemed like a logical next step and I was excited. My undergraduate GPA wasn't stellar (around 3.0) mostly because I goofed around. Toward the end of my degree I started doing better when I got my priorities straight.

    I did consider engineering programs for grad school and applied to two of them but the department at my current program was so welcoming that it was a big draw for me. I don't think my desire for physics though, is there.

    I was figuring I could finish a masters degree in applied physics or engineering then work in industry, but it seems like my options with engineering are much more diverse and application based classes always interested me.

    I could more than likely get into a terminal MS program for engineering.

    Has anyone been down this path? Any advice is appreciated.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2012 #2

    I have not done so myself but I have worked with a couple of folks who have. One was an okay physics student and the other was a brilliant student who should have gone directly to grad school for a PhD. Both of them have finished a master's degree in EE at a local grad school. Unfortunately, the ten courses or so will not make anybody a design engineer. Yes, of course, the math and physics is there but the solid engineering core is missing.

    Compare 10 grad level courses that tend to enhance math skills or build upon already existing knowledge to 30+ courses in electronics, systems and signals, computer science, etc.

    One of the guys is now an EE engineer, just doing okay. Not really capable of doing real design work. The other guy has become a guru on magnetics and electric machines, which is HOWEVER much closer to physics than the pure EE. He has found the proper balance.

    Therefore, I would advise you to pursue the path you wish but bear in mind that you most likely will not be able to compete with people who came with a solid EE UG background. You can find your niche, however, and be very good at it, provided your previous focus on physics and mathematics.
  4. Sep 24, 2012 #3
    One more thing-- my brother in law has finished BS and MS in physics at SUNY. He did work in a lab for a few years but unfortunately, he did not have much vertical mobility without a phd. Hence, unless you are a stellar student (it's up to you to decide), I would urge you to ponder your job prospects for a moment.

    Btw. he did a second master's degree in management and is now a manager at a company where there is not much use of his physics background. While sad as it sounds, it actually makes him happy. And that's what counts.
  5. Sep 27, 2012 #4
    Thank you for the response.

    What is your friend doing at the company? Is he doing well financially?

    I'm just feeling disenchanted with physics lately and have an urge to more applicable stuff. I also have a general feeling that it's easier to get a good job as an engineer.
  6. Sep 27, 2012 #5
    Which person are you talking about? All of those people make $60k+ per year. Some might be closer to $70k but all have just a few years of experience. I believe that most of them will be making between $80k at $90k in a decade.

    It all depends what you mean by doing "ok". Some people are fine with having $30k and job they love. Not sure how well and how soon UG physics degree pays off.

    Ultimately it is all about you-- do you want to make the big (ehh) buck? Engineering might a good profession for you. I believe that life is too long to do a profession that pays off but does not satisfy you. Money should not be the only differentiator (might not be for you but could be for your future/current spouse :)).
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