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

Engineering Physics or Space Physics

  1. Feb 26, 2005 #1
    I'm in a situation where I can switch programs without much loss if I want. The program I am in right now is called Engineering Physics...it is a 136 credit program that is comprised of:

    Engineering classes: statics, dynamics, fluid mechanics, solid mechanics, thermodynamics, materials science, micro computers and instrumentation, electrical engineering, electro-optical engineering, spaceflight dynamics, CAD classes, space systems engineering, and space systems design

    Math: Calc 1, 2, 3, Diff eq & matrix methods, vector calc & fourier series, partial differential equations, and complex variables

    Physics: Physics 1, 2, 3, Engineering Chemistry, modern physics, classical mechanics, space physics, quantum physics, and electricity and magnetism

    Or, I can opt to switch to the Space Physics degree which is only 120 credits and is comprised of all the same math courses, none of the engineering courses (although I've already taken statics, fluids, solids, dynamics, and CAD courses), and the following physics courses:

    physics 1, 2, 3, modern, classical mechanics, quantum, astrophysics 1 and 2, thermodynamics/statistical mechanics, planetary science, and atomic/nuclear physics.

    Obviously, the Eng Physics degree requires 6 more courses than the Space PHysics degree right off the bat. On one hand, I'll finish 1 semester sooner with Space Physics. On the other hand, I've already taken some of the engineering classes. I think the Eng Physics degree would give me a broader, more rounded background, but I am at least pretty sure I want to go on to graduate physics work.

    I guess the question is, do you think the Engineering Physics program provides a good enough physics background (based on the courses I listed)?

    Oh, another thing to note is that the Eng Physics degree is ABET accredited, so it IS a full fledged engineering degree, in case I opt to go into engineering rather than physics grad work.

    I know I'm confused....any suggestions or comments?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 27, 2005 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    It would seem the choice depends on where you want to go in terms of graduate school and then professionally.

    If you want to do astrophysics/space physics, then do that major. In the meantime, taking some courses in engineering physics, such as in electrical engineering may prove useful if you want to understand or develop instrumentation for instance.

    If you want to do graduate studies and then work professionally in areas such as electrical, mechanical or aerospace engineering, then go the engineering physics route.
  4. Feb 27, 2005 #3
    Thanks for your reply.

    I guess my question is whether I would be reasonably prepared for a physics graduate program if I stayed in the engineering physics degree or not, based on the coursework I've listed in the first post.
  5. Feb 28, 2005 #4
    Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University?

    Slightly Off Topic, I was researching colleges to look into,the courses and degrees u described sound just like Embry-Riddle, If so do you like the school, whats it like? if not what school are you at, i would be interested to hear
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2005
  6. Mar 1, 2005 #5
    Yeh, I'm at Embry Riddle in Daytona Beach...

    I feel at home at Riddle...I've made great friends of both students and faculty...and I feel like we've got some great professors...we've also got some crappy ones...I'm sure that's typical of most schools.
  7. Mar 1, 2005 #6
    Thanks for the input, I am going to look at Embry-Riddle, plus some other univeristes such as U-MO Rolla and U-Tulsa, Embry riddle seems to have a great program though
  8. Mar 6, 2005 #7

    I wasn't sure if you still needed input on this post but I just came across it. I was in the same situation you are in a few years ago. I came to college and was studying electrical engineering and after I took my first physics class, my professor suggested that I look in to engineering physics. After I saw the curriculum, which is very similar to yours, I decided to go into that field since I really didn't know what I wanted to do after undergrad, I knew it would make me more rounded in physics and the engineering displines. This is my last semester and I am actually gonna go into the computer engineering or information technology field. But you are the first person I think I ever come across who is studying engineering physics, i mostly meet just physics major so it is a pleasure. Looking at the courses you are taking, I would suggest unless you have an interest in space or astro physics, just stick with the engineering. It also looks real good on paper, I love the reaction I get when I tell people my major is engineering physics. lol
  9. Mar 6, 2005 #8
    hey.. how is engineering physics different from an engineering degree like mechanical engineering?
  10. Mar 7, 2005 #9
    Here's how it is at Riddle...

    The 2 science programs they are most proud of here are Engineering Physics, and Aerospace Engineering. Since we are very close to lockheed, nasa, and others, the coursework in both programs is strong in space applications.

    The students that are more of the "overachiever" type, tend to go into Engineering Physics...while the majority of science majors are Aerospace Engineering students. They are both 138 credit programs, so they are really like 5 year ordeals. The first 2-3 years is VERY similar between the two majors, but the EP classes will tend to go a bit farther and a bit faster than the AE classes.

    For instance, EP will take "Physics 1, 2, and 3", while AE will take, "Physics for Engineers 1, 2, and 3"...same material, but the EP classes will get tested harder (the questions will NOT be like the ones done in class...they WILL make you THINK)...

    The lab reports that EP students are required to produce end up being about 10-15 pages per week, including graphs and charts...while the AE lab reports are MUCH simpler and end up being done in 3-4 pages per week.

    The last couple years is where the degrees differ in actual coursework...the EP students will take classes like classical mechanics, modern physics, e&m, quantum, and space physics, while the AE student will be taking classes such as aerodynamics, aircraft structures, stability and control, and rocket propulsion systems...

    The AE senior project is to design an aircraft...the EP senior project is to design a space mission

    EP students sometimes feel that they are idiots for taking the longer, harder, more sleepless route....just to apply for the same jobs that their AE counterparts are applying for. At other times, they feel "special", because they are getting a hybrid education that helps them span between science and application.

    I have friends in each program, and I have friends that have graduated from each...
  11. Mar 7, 2005 #10
    i see.. so 2 years through my AE or ME, it would be relatively easy to transfer to EP?

    so besides having acquiring more detailed knowledge in the field, what do they gain? are they paid more and/or eligible for higher job positions?

    thanks much.
  12. Mar 7, 2005 #11

    Tom Mattson

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I got a BS in Engineering Physics, and I went to grad school for physics. It was not an easy switch. The reason is that I was an engineering major, and I used all my electives on physics courses. Meanwhile, the physics majors were using their electives on extra math courses. That's where I came up short. Of course, it didn't help matters any that I went for theory in grad school. I probably would not have struggled so much in experimental physics, because of my engineering background.

    But for the theoretical work I signed on for, it really would have helped matters if I had taken analysis, topology, differential geometry, and the like. Instead, I had to learn all the extra math on my own, while doing research.
  13. Mar 7, 2005 #12
    What would you reccomend for hisghschool students

    What would any of u guys reccomend for highschool studenst looking to major in Physics. Will Engeneering Physics yield more jobs after school, what universitiesand colleges should I look for taking into consideration moeny is a huge factor. WOuld it maybe be easier to save money and major in physics from a smaller school or state school like U-Mo Rolla, and then look for a better graduate school? I am just looking for input from anyone at this point, if it helps, my interests are mainly particle physics and quantum physics
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook