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Engineering Engineering Physics?

  1. Aug 25, 2009 #1
    Well I'm off to my first year of engineering this coming September and even though the first year is standard, I'm still torn between what to choose for my second year (assuming I pass...ha...ha...) Regardless, the two which I feel may be the best options are either Chemical Engineering or Engineering Physics. I have more of an interest in Engineering Physics which deals primarily with nuclear and theoretical physics however I’m not convinced that I can get a job out of school as there are far fewer positions as a nuclear engineer then there are as a chemical engineer. The program describes the degree much better then I can so give it a read if you have time. Any thoughts on the program or from similar studies are welcome. Primarily relating to jobs after graduating as well as course load in relation to say chemical or electrical. Thanks.

  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 26, 2009 #2
    I am at the same crossroad. I am still in my freshman year, but I am preparing for my sophomore year transfer to the University of Illinois in Urbana, and I have been having difficulty deciding between engineering physics and (chem/elec) engineering. One option you can do is to double major in electrical or chemical engineering and physics so you can have more options after graduating. I am pretty sure I will do something like that for a future in nanotech.
  4. Aug 26, 2009 #3
    Engineering Physics will not be an ABET accredited engineering program. Many schools offer Engineering Physics as sort of a back up for people who couldn't handle the full accredited Engineering B.S. degree, and recruiters will probably see it this way. Please keep this in mind when making your decision. It may be a better fit, but it's not an engineering degree and won't come with the benefits of one.

    Edit: I see on the OPs link that it is a B.Eng. degree. Things may be different in Canada. I'm giving a US perspective.
  5. Aug 26, 2009 #4
    I think this generalization is too broad. While Engineering Physics may not be an ABET accredited program [in the States], it is still going to be accredited by the home program. At my institution, this was the physics department, but this may vary. I have in fact never met a recruiter who felt that Engineering Physics was somehow second best to a "proper" engineering program. I certainly have met recruiters who prefer only specialized graduates, but this is not a reflection of the quality of the programs they ignore. This is simply a practical matter of how quickly a new hire can be put to the tasks at hand.

    Engineering physics is a more abstract and general education than the typical engineering program, but more applied than the typical physics program. If you are interested in areas that bridge traditional disciplines or are too new for there to be specialized programs, this may be good preparation. If the field is well-defined [automotive engineering, civil engineering] then it is easiest to gain entry with a specialized engineering degree.

    Graduating with an ABET accredited engineering degree [or equivalent in other countries] is vitally important if you want to work in an area that requires licensing, but many, many engineering jobs require no such thing. If you want one of those positions you must play by the rules established, but otherwise technical competence and subject matter knowledge are more important.
  6. Aug 26, 2009 #5


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    Engineer Physics are everywhere. I've met a couple doing Transportation related work. For most cases, engineer physics will be doing research.
  7. Aug 26, 2009 #6
    Edit: Let me put the highlight up here since I think it's important:

    ChemE: $60k
    Physics: $45k
    I didn't mean to imply that the quality of the program itself would be any worse than that of a standard engineering program. In the job market, however, there is a definite advantage to having a standard engineering degree. It's not about specialization, it's about a standardized and recognized level of analytical rigor. Many jobs explicitly require an engineering degree despite not caring in the slightest what flavor it is. See for example the EEDP and OMLP leadership programs at GE, which require any sort of engineering degree. Other programs use similar criteria either as explicit cutoffs or to award extra brownie points to an applicant.

    No one in corporate HR will ever question the rigor of a chemical engineering degree, but you'll probably have to answer some questions about what engineering physics is and how it is similar / equivalent. I would honestly be worried about engineering physics being confused with "engineering technology." If you are interested in staying in school or going on to a very particular job after graduation, then you don't have to worry about what some nontechnical HR guy thinks of your resume. If you think you might be working for a larger company or you aren't sure exactly what you want to do, do yourself a favor and go ChemE.

    According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average starting salary for a chemical engineer with a bachelor's degree is $59,361. Compare that to an average, starting, private sector salary in the mid 40s for a physics undergrad according to AIP (http://www.aip.org/statistics/trends/highlite/emp2/figure7.htm"). Also from the BLS, "According to a 2007 National Association of Colleges and Employers survey, the average annual starting salary offer to physics doctoral degree candidates was $52,469." I'm not sure what types of jobs that last number includes, but it's worth thinking about compared to 60k average for undergrad ChemEs.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Aug 26, 2009 #7
    I wanted to put it out there that whoever said do what interests you is 100 percent correct. I went the engineering route and made a ton of money in the first few months on the job.... but i was bored to the point that as soon as i was really financially independent i quit moved away and am now going to try to go for a physics phd...

    as far as nuce positions, if you;re good then it really doesn't matter that much... it's actually a position that is getting more popular... but there are def better career opportunities for a cheme...
  9. Aug 26, 2009 #8
    Actually there are universities where Engineering Physics is ABET credited which offers a Bachelor of Science in Engineering (B.S.E.).

    Also I'd like to dispel the myth that engineering physics is a watered-down version of engineering. To the contrary a lot of engineering physics programs actually require more in terms of mathematics, and application and research. It's simply a synthesis of physics and engineering.

    For example take my program:

    Engineering Core and Science Requirements
    Physics I
    Physics II
    Physics III
    Calculus for Science and Engineering I
    Calculus for Science and Engineering II
    Calculus for Science and Engineering III
    Differential Equations
    Principles of Chemistry for Engineers
    Elementary Computer Programming
    Chemistry of Materials
    Statics and Strength of Materials
    Introduction to Circuits and Instrumentation
    Thermodynamics, Fluid Dynamics, Heat and Mass Transfer
    Expository Writing

    Physics Courses
    Instrumentation and Signal Analysis Laboratory
    Mathematics, Physics and Computing
    Advanced Physics Laboratory Seminar
    Classical Mechanics
    Thermodynamics and Statistical Mechanics
    Introduction to Solid State Physics
    Engineering Physics Laboratory I
    Engineering Physics Laboratory II
    Electricity and Magnetism I
    Electricity and Magnetism II
    Quantum Mechanics I
    Senior Physics Project Seminar
    Engineering Physics Senior Project

    Are the core requirements. Which at my school is the engineering core as well as the physics core. On top of that we are required to take additional engineering classes in a particular engineering field approved by your engineering and physics advisers. Also the core curricula are supplemented which additional physics classes as long as they are deemed relevant to your engineering concentration, for example:

    Fluid and Thermal Engineering
    Mechanical Engineering Analysis
    Aero/Gas Dynamics
    Design of Mechanical Elements
    Flight Dynamics I
    Flight Dynamics II
    General Relativity
    Graduate Thermodynamics
    And perhaps some additional mathematics courses depending on free scheduling.

    This for perhaps a track for a potential aerospace engineer. I mean it obviously certainly is more beneficial for, say, an EE concentration but it still has it's benefits.

    Some benefits over a typical engineering physics degree are mainly in the area that it really focuses on research and development which to be honest is a lot more intense than say the typical engineering curriculum would delve. Not to mention it gives a physical background to be (with other outstanding credentials, of course) accepted into physics or engineering graduate programs.
  10. Aug 26, 2009 #9
    Looks like I lied about that then! It is only offered as a B.A. at my school. With the accreditation, it is much easier to explain that it's a full and legitimate engineering degree (although you'll still probably have to explain that).

    Again, I was only talking about how it may be viewed by corporate HR and not about the merits of the program itself. A B.S.E. would be eligible for the programs I discussed above, and grad schools will take a look at the actual courses anyways and should know that engineering physics is not engineering technology etc. An employer will never ask you for your transcript except to verify your GPA.

    When engineering physics is more physics than engineering though, you are talking about a degree worth 25% less than a similar "Engineer" stamped degree in the corporate world.

    See also: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=215668
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2009
  11. Aug 27, 2009 #10
    Ah, I see what you mean kote.

    I have an engineer's disdain for corporate H.R. departments, they are in fact easily confused by anything that does not fit their preconceived notions. It would indeed be a tragedy to confuse engineering tech with engineering physics. The automated filters are a problem in this regard. This is where the university's career development department comes in handy. Any company the school has a preexisting relationship with will be much easier to deal with, and they will not be surprised by a strange sounding degree.

    As to the compensation attached to a physics degree, do not fret. The http://www.aip.org/statistics/". The spread of salaries for ChemE's is quite small, smaller than everything but secondary education in that graph. Physics majors have the largest spread, reflecting the massive variety of things physics folks end up doing. If you break that down, you will find that physics bachelors who end up in STEM jobs, which is what we are talking about here, the distribution is very similar to what you find for all engineering fields altogether, because that is pretty much the range of jobs included there.

    If we restricted our view to technical work of similar difficulty and expertise, I would be surprised if you found as large a difference between ChemEs and physics bachelors. I suppose my real point here is that your compensation with a bachelors in physics is more dependent on your ability and willingness to do the things engineers do than the degree itself. Among those in my program who went into industry, compensation was as higher or higher than engineers hired for the same positions. I myself work with a number of ChemEs, and I share an office with one, because we do the same thing. I liked to tease another one of my colleagues who was very proud of his Masters in ChemE from Cornell that he and I had the same job. The pay depends largely on the job. If one ends up in a field like manufacturing engineering, then the compensation will be less than chemical engineering, for example. If you have the ability to complete a ChemE, you will probably do just as well if you get a physics degree.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  12. Aug 27, 2009 #11
    Mac's engineering physics degree is a perfectly valid engineering degree. And people with them go on to engineering jobs. Personally I know a mac engineering physics grad who went on to work for Ontario Power Generation (the pickering plant I think) within 6 months of graduating
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2009
  13. Aug 27, 2009 #12
    Absolutely agree. It depends in a large part on the school itself, what the school's connections are, and what you're looking for. Also, once you have your first job the degree probably won't matter much at all for subsequent jobs unless you change careers and want to go to consulting or get an MBA or some such.

    Sounds perfectly reasonable, especially for a B.Eng. degree. I know nothing about the particular school the OP asked about. I'm speaking from experience with engineering and "business" divisions in large US corporations that I've had no prior connections with. Businesses love engineers, implicitly or explicitly, and having that ChemE (or B.Eng.) stamp clear on your resume will help you land the interview. Once you're at the interview and able to explain your resume, it's mostly irrelevant anyways and it's up to your presentation.

    My advice is much less relevant if you have other means of getting an interview, and many schools can help with that.
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