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Engineering Physics vs. Physics

  1. Sep 21, 2010 #1
    What is the difference between majoring in Engineering Physics or just Physics? Other than the obvious engineering courses you would have to take... I want to do research in physics, maybe even modern physics like string theory and quantum mechanics. Is one major preferable over the other for undergrad?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 21, 2010 #2
    If your main goal is to get a PhD in physics possibly doing research in modern physics, I would go with the Physics degree. My school doesn't have an Engineering Physics program, so I can't comment much on the differences. Depending on your school's curriculums, it probably won't matter too much which you choose. I would advise however, that if you do Engineering Physics, you should take as many upper level physics classes as you can (most importantly Quantum Mechanics) if you want to do pure physics research. I was considering the Physics and Applied Physics programs at my school, and the faculty advisor suggested that in Applied Physics I should take QM even though it isn't part of the major requirements.
  4. Sep 22, 2010 #3
    What about job availability/salary?
  5. Sep 23, 2010 #4
    To boil it down, yes E. Phys looks better to employers but at the expense (slightly) of your physics education. Look at the required course list, I think it is the best indicator. If you want to get a PhD in physics, I would say go with physics.

    At my ugrad, which had both Physics and Engineering Physics, they were pretty much the same degree. E. Phys took some courses like intro to economics, some intro business course, and an engineering course in statics. The cost is loss of physics electives, where a physics major would normally take some courses to go more in depth in one subject - optics, astronomy, or semiconductor devices or some such. As far as jobs, I am pretty sure the word engineering looks better to employers, even if you have mostly the same classes. I saw this at career fairs in my u. grad.
  6. Sep 24, 2010 #5
    I'm a 3rd year Engineering Physics student at UBC (Vancouver). I too spent quite a while debating between Physics and Engineering Physics before entering university. You end up taking almost all of the same core math and physics courses regardless of which program you are in. If you do a pure Physics major, you will get more physics-related electives and you will be able to learn a bit more physics in your undergrad degree. However, most engineering physics programs that I looked at give you a good number of technical electives in later years which they let you use on math and physics courses. You can probably take all of the interesting courses in a topic or two this way, but you won't get you spread them out as much as a physics degree.

    The main difference between the two is that you will end up taking all of the econ and other engineering courses if you go into eng phys where as you will probably end up taking some bio and chem courses for your requirements if you are in science. Both degrees will get you into physics grad school if you do well although it is probably slightly easier with a pure physics degree.

    If you aren't planning on going into grad school, the engineering degree is probably better. The nice thing about the engineering physics degree is that it is a professional degree which looks better on the resume and gets you a P. Eng. An engineering physics grad has quite a wide variety of options for jobs. I know grads who have been hired for physics, electrical engineering, mechanical engineering and computer engineering positions so there is a lot of availability for jobs. Most physics students end up in some kind of research which typically pays a lot less than the industry jobs that engineering physics students get more often.

    At my school, engineering physics students typically take 7-8 courses per term since you do have to do a bunch of electrical/mechanical engineering on top of the physics/math which can be hard for some and you end up with a lot of irrelevant/useless courses. A science student will typically take 5-6 which are more focused in their field. We also take one more term to finish our degree because of the extra requirements.

    I hope that this helps! If you have any more questions feel free to ask.
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