Engineering jobs with a Physics degree

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  • #26
Integral
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I had thought Engineering was one of the main areas Physics grads went into, along with Finance, Computing and Medical Research.

Possibly I'm wrong...?
You are not, I personally know of several Physics Bs degrees working as engineers. In the industry I have been around, engineer is more of a pay class then a job description. There are a lot of different types of engineers Production and Process engineers do a wide range of activities which someone with a BS in Physics can handle nicely. You do need knowledge of the processes or equipment being used. If you have other skills they can make the difference.
 
  • #27
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In all honesty, perhaps the reason your friend/acquaintance doesn't want to switch undergraduate majors is because of the bureaucratic hassle involved in switching between faculties/schools.

As far as I know, in practically all colleges/universities in Canada and the US I'm familiar with, engineering and physics are taught in different faculties/schools, each with its own admission standards and registrars (that is how it is in my alma mater). And often in many schools, engineering degree programs are offered on a "restricted enrollment" basis, where only a limited number of slots are open for undergraduates to be accepted, making it tougher to switch into engineering from another faculty, even if he/she has the grades and course background.

Given all of that, if I were him I would have done the same as he is doing now.
It's actually quite easy at my institution, he just wants a physics bs for some reason. Odd guy but I guess there's some physics topics that really interest him. I do know he is planning to get a masters and phd in mechanical engineering and he wants to get in the energy sector
 
  • #28
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What do you imagine a physicist does? What are you considering to be "the work of a physicist?" In the work I did many years ago, I built various equipment. Among many other things, I bought various electronic sensors, built circuits to control and use them, and wrote the software to display all the results. It seems very likely an electrical engineering degree would prepare you for this.

I know several electrical engineers (phds) who do work on quantum cascade lasers, and one more who does work in quantum computing.

A physics degree is a lot like a generalist engineering degree. It gives you much of the basics of many different types of engineering. It shouldn't be too much of a stretch to think that you can hire a generalist to do specific work if you are willing to provide some training. In a world where engineers are in short supply, physicists would make great utility players.

We don't live in that world, however, and if you can find someone already trained to do the job, you aren't going to grab a physicist instead.
To be honest, building electronic sensors is not what I imagined a physicist doing, but then again it shows my ignorance when it comes to what physicists actually do.
 
  • #29
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To be honest, building electronic sensors is not what I imagined a physicist doing, but then again it shows my ignorance when it comes to what physicists actually do.
Welcome to my life. Most people in industry thinks a physicist sits around with a pencil and a pad of paper and works at a desk all day. They don't think of them as working on power supplies, designing and maintaining vacuum systems, fixing broken pumps, designing and building electronics, giving presentations, onboarding new employees, analyzing data, writing code, debugging code, IT, working with machinists, making drawings in CAD programs, etc.

It's difficult to convince said people that you possess those skills when they automatically discount everything you've ever done since it wasn't done in the 'real world'.
 
  • #30
ZapperZ
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To be honest, building electronic sensors is not what I imagined a physicist doing, but then again it shows my ignorance when it comes to what physicists actually do.
Note that device physics is a field of study in physics.

Let me even go one step further. In many areas of science, what you can do and measure are highly dictated by the quality of instrument and measuring devices that are available. Often, this means what is available commercially. This is often not the case in high energy physics and in some areas of astrophysics. In these fields, especially for major, large scale projects such as a large particle collides, the experiments include the research, design, and the building/construction of new, one-of-a-kind detector and instrumentation. They literally have to invent and build their own instrument! Often these are done by physicists, chemists, material scientists, and engineers. In these fields, detectors and the physics of the detectors, are very much an intrinsic part of the field.

This is no different than what I've described for the accelerator physics field, where physicists in that field have almost the same technical knowledge as engineers.

Physics is such a wide field of study that encompasses so many different areas and expertise. This forum is a good place to debunk a lot of inaccurate ideas about working in this field.

Zz.
 
  • #31
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Note that device physics is a field of study in physics.

Let me even go one step further. In many areas of science, what you can do and measure are highly dictated by the quality of instrument and measuring devices that are available. Often, this means what is available commercially. This is often not the case in high energy physics and in some areas of astrophysics. In these fields, especially for major, large scale projects such as a large particle collides, the experiments include the research, design, and the building/construction of new, one-of-a-kind detector and instrumentation. They literally have to invent and build their own instrument! Often these are done by physicists, chemists, material scientists, and engineers. In these fields, detectors and the physics of the detectors, are very much an intrinsic part of the field.

This is no different than what I've described for the accelerator physics field, where physicists in that field have almost the same technical knowledge as engineers.

Physics is such a wide field of study that encompasses so many different areas and expertise. This forum is a good place to debunk a lot of inaccurate ideas about working in this field.

Zz.
Yea, I am very happy I made an account on this website. It has been extremely informative and I love it here.
 
  • #32
ZapperZ
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Seizing on this opportunity to expand this further, I'd like to point out the conference proceedings from the last TIPP 2011 that I attended.

http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/journal/18753892/37

You can get access to the proceedings papers for free. Now look at the topics being covered, AND, the people involved. You'll see a mixture of physicists, engineers, chemists, material scientists, etc.. etc. I can show you many papers here where you will be hard-pressed to tell me that this does not look like "engineering" at all. Yet, many of these are done by physicists.

And please also note that many of these new technologies that are being invented, developed, and built with the initial purpose of particle detection, high energy physics, astrophysics, etc. WILL have practical, commercial applications later on that will become common use by the public. We have seen this happening over and over again. The medical diagnostic field, for example, owes greatly to advances in detectors pioneered for high energy physics experiments.

Zz.
 
  • #34
Has anyone gotten an engineering internship with a physics degree? I'm currently in my last year of undergraduate physics and unsure if I want to do a Phd in physics, or a masters or Phd in engineering. I've tried a materials science internship and have taken some circuits courses (taught by physicists) and was pretty bored in both cases. I'm not crazy about programming either so software engineering is note for me I might like civil or mechanical engineering though but I don't want to go to grad school and then be trapped later. What do people suggest? I go to a small liberal arts college and we don't have an engineering department. Should I read an engineering book? Should I try job shadowing an engineer?

I like physics for the sake of physics but have only done research in materials science and astronomy, neither of which I'm crazy about. I like being in the lab doing experiments but am just not crazy about those subjects. I would like to branch out but am not sure how to do it.
 

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