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Engineering Engineering Physics vs. Mechanical Engineering

  1. Feb 18, 2012 #1
    Hey forum

    Which one can be considered "better" and why?

    I'm inclining towards Engineering Physics for my master of science in engineering, but I haven't really looked into mechanical engineering and was wondering what the forum has to say about it.
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 19, 2012 #2
    For any person to be of any help, you should consider providing information on your current background (bachelor's degree in what field, for example) and what you intend to do with the MS degree. No one will be able to tell you what is "better" but one may be able to suggest what may be more appropriate for your needs/wants.
  4. Feb 19, 2012 #3
    Almost done with high school or whatever it corresponds to in english terms (I am from Sweden). Applying for university after that and that's where I have, among others, these options.
  5. Feb 19, 2012 #4
    I'm afraid I can't be of much use here.

    Choosing a degree subject at university is a very personal thing, in my opinion. I don't have too much parental pressure, in the sense that I can study whatever I want, as long as it's in a place where my parents can afford it. I chose to do Physics.

    I also don't think it's a very good idea to plan *too* much in advance. I don't know how the world will be like when I graduate in 2015. Maybe the economy will be in better shape, maybe the world will end, maybe I'll die before I graduate, etc...So, I'm just going for a relatively safe option, in that I am at least studying for a degree (something more risky would be blowing up all my money on travelling the world - sure, I could learn many things but I think most would agree that it's quite risky), while simultaneously doing something I enjoy.

    Useful questions to ask yourself is:
    1) What kind of things would you like to work on? Both subjects have their theoretical and practical components, both degrees do have some overlapping areas. However, they are distinct disciplines and to get an idea of what they involve, you could try talking to current university students, recent graduates and people who have been working for a few years.
    2) Ask them what their studies are/were like and what kind of jobs they've had and how these jobs are like. Would you like to be in that kind of situation? The odds you will end up like them. That is not to say that you will. For instance, I know someone with an English degree, everyone he knew with one was a teacher, but he decided to start a computer business (a shop) and this is what he does. You can always do something else...
    3) Most importantly, you should try use some of the textbooks that the students at uni use. Don't read them all but read a little bit off of them. That would give you an indication of whether you will like the material. This is what I did and my observations were that while I enjoy most kinds of science - in fact, I like a few different intellectually stimulating subjects - to a certain extent, I happen to liked physics and mathematics more. So, I chose those.

    Anyway, I cannot get too specific because all that matters is what you want. I hope my own experience is of some help to you.

    Note that I am not in a very dissimilar situation to you. I've only recently finished high school and I am hoping to start university in the coming months. If you don't mind me asking, at what age do students typically start university in Sweden?
  6. Feb 20, 2012 #5
    I am not the best person to ask because I am in a different country than you and things are likely different here. For example, I hear of this "Engineering Physics" mentioned a lot on these boards but I have never seen that degree offered in the U.S. Here, a University will generally offer a degree in Physics through their Science College and offer various Engineering and Engineering Technology Degrees through their Engineering College.

    The lesson learned from my own career that I like to share with people like yourself is what I didn't realize when I was in college, that your degree must be from an accredited ENGINEERING college to get a license to actually practice engineering. Therefore, if you were in the U.S., I would tell you definitely to go with Engineering over Physics.

    So, my advice to you is to do some research on the accreditation process in your country and find out whether the two degrees are considered equivalent or not when it comes time to get your engineering license.

    It may be analogous to Engineering vs Engineering Technology in the U.S. You can get your license with either degree, but if your degree is Engineering Technology you need more work experience. That is a pretty strong indication that an Engineering degree is considered more valuable to the industry than an Engineering Technology degree.

    Again, I don't know if that's relevant to your situation or not, but it is an important thing to look into before making your decision.

    Best of luck to you whichever direction you go!
  7. Feb 20, 2012 #6


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    There are many universities that offer Engineering Physics as well as Engineering programs in various disciplines.

    In the US -

    Program in Engineering Physics - Princeton University

    Department of Engineering Physics - College of Engineering ...

    AEP Home - School of Applied & Engineering Physics - Cornell ...

    Engineering Physics Major

    Engineering Physics — UC Berkeley College of Engineering

    University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Engineering Physics Elective Options

    Closer to home -

    KTH Royal Institute of Technology - Engineering Physics
    http://www.kth.se/en/studies/programmes/swedish-programmes/msc/engineering-physics-300-credits-1.62997 [Broken]

    Uppsala Universitet has an Engineering Physics program at the Master's level
    http://www.uu.se/en/education/courses_and_programmes/selma/program/?pKod=TTF2Y&lasar=10/11 [Broken]

    Chalmers Universitet (Chalmers och Göteborgs Universitet) has a Physics/Engineering Physics program

    I would recommend reviewing the academic programs of interest and compare to Mechanical Engineering programs - and perhaps programs in Materials Science and Engineering.

    Also, I would recommend contacting several programs to learn more about the research.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  8. Feb 23, 2012 #7

    Thank you for your reply, very informative indeed!

    The reason why I am inclined to apply for Engineering Physics is principally because mathematics and physics is something I find incredibly fascinating and interesting. I also happen to be quite proficient in these subjects and I would most definitely love to thrive on this interest and skill of mine.

    But that's not the only reason. First of all, I've thoroughly investigated the curriculum and found that all the courses appeal to me and are, in fact, courses that suit me very well (obviously, there's a lot of science mainly encompassing physics and mathematics).

    I've spoken to a professor who in fact studied Engineering Physics himself. He has sorely advised me to study Engineering Physics mainly because of the positive prospect of getting a job but also because of the very advanced, deep and broad knowledge one receives in that program.

    Amidst all the other programmes (such as mechanical engineering, computer engineering etc.), Engineering Physics is the programme which has the highest admission limit (i.e. high grades are a cardinal prerequisite).

    It is also the programme where there deep knowledge and understanding of mathematics is emphasized. Fact of the matter is that none of the other programmes study as much as mathematics as one does in Engineering Physics (e.g. you only take Complex Analysis in Engineering Physics. No other programme offers that course).

    Engineering Physics is, objectively speaking, considered quite "difficult" in that sense that it is seen as a very requiring programme, but at the same time, a honorful programme to enroll for. I'd love to get my PhD after that in perhaps particle physics or something in the "atomworld" (nothing else intrigues and baffles me as much as auspicious fusionpower!).

    I can only deduce from these stated facts that Engineering Physics is almost a perfect choice for me, considering the circumstances and prospects. But I would love to hear otherwise from wise people here on the forum!


    Royal Institute of Technology is coincidentally the university to which I will be applying! :)
    http://www.kth.se/en/studies/programmes/swedish-programmes/msc/engineering-physics-300-credits-1.62997 [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 5, 2017
  9. Feb 25, 2012 #8

    The problem with that is you spoke to *one* person only. Did he/she work in industry or has he/she always been in academia? This becomes more important when you get to the point where you need to figure out if you want to go to grad school or industry, imo. And after that, comes the decision of whether you want to stay in academia or if you want. One thing that another posted here often points out is that most professors in physics don't give advice that's too good with regards to finding work in industry is because they tried academia and that worked out for them! I believe (although I may be wrong) that the readers of this forum, who are still in school, are among the minority who know that professorships in science are scarce.

    Which means that only people with high grades will be in your program. That is not necessarily a good or a bad thing. I happen to like being part of a diverse set of people but that's just me. Even then, you could still get an interesting bunch of people. Not everyone who gets the best grades works like crazy and works alone. One part of university that I'm really looking forward for is meeting lots of different people.

    It's quite likely that math majors can take that as well...

    Anyway, you seem to have already made your mind up. I can't offer any further insight, for I am a prospective undergrad student, just like you but I do hope you figure things out. Also, can you transfer to a related program once you've already started, at that university?
  10. Feb 26, 2012 #9
    I'm sort of in the same situation as you.

    I have spoken to a master in Electro-mechanic engineering and to a doctor in Physics, and they made the same point:

    Engineering Physics is more focused on research/development/improvement of the industry and its technology.

    Mechanical Engineering is focused on the application of these technologies, and how to improve its use.

    Although the mechanical engineer is very capable of researching and improving technology, the Physic Engineer's heavy math/science background is more useful in that matter. On the other hand, the mechanical engineer can find a job more quickly, and since they get more "engineering" subjects, they are more skilled in some areas.

    I think it is up to you: What do you like the best?
  11. Feb 27, 2012 #10

    Well apart from that, I can infer from word of mouth that Engineering Physics epitomizes quality of education and ability to get work, either way.

    However I'm quite new to these terms—what's the difference between academia and industry?
    My intuition says

    Academia = stick around the university, teach courses you've taken and/or research
    Industry = go out and find someplace to do "manual labour" with your acquired skills

    In that case, I wouldn't mind either. Academia seems just as much as fun as industry. I'm particularly interested in researching in fusionpower, and when it comes to industry, I'd love to perhaps work for a tech-company and be part of the technological development wave that has swept us from our feets the last decade.

    To be honest, that's the least of my concerns—I believe it'll be great in anyway it turns out. However grades are not the one and only way to get admitted—you can take a test here in Sweden similar to the SAT and that way be admitted.

    Well, I was only comparing Masters of Science in Engineering programmes, but true, it is probable. Don't know if there any math majors in the Royal Institute of Technology though...

    Well kind of. I still think that perspective is important, no matter what one decides, hence my inquiry. Good question, I am actually not sure about that. Will have to look that up!

    But, considering that Engineering Physics provides a more in-depth knowledge and understanding of (principally) the same subjects and areas, wouldn't it in that case make you more competent as an Engineering Physicist than the Mechanical Engineer (in either areas—academically or industrially)?
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