Explaining my Degree

  • #1
Summary:: I don't know I can say I have an "Applied Physics" degree, hoping for an engineering job.

I am majoring in Computer Science & Physics with an Applied Concentration at my school. This essentially the Applied Concentration is dependent on the electives that I take in my Physics major. I am hoping the Applied concentration will help me get engineering jobs in the future. “Physics with an Applied Concentration” is kind of a mouth-full, it may require an explanation, and takes up a lot of space on job applications. I am wondering if strictly speaking one can say

0: “I have a degree in/studied Applied Physics”
1: “I am majoring in Applied Physics”

A: Is this misleading, dishonest, or “unofficial” in any way?
B: Would an employer ever feel mislead?

I am not sure if this is the right thread, but its an engineering thread, and I am looking for an astronautical/aerospace job so I thought I would post here.

[Moderator's note: moved from engineering to career guidance.]
 
Last edited by a moderator:

Answers and Replies

  • #2
FactChecker
Science Advisor
Gold Member
6,643
2,691
EDIT: On second thought, I take this back. See the next post.
IMO it is not being deceptive. If they have questions, they can ask you about specifics. It is rare for there to be a perfect match between your studies and their interests. They should expect you to be able to learn what is needed for the job and your interest in applications is a good indication of your willingness to learn.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Likes cgreeleybsu
  • #3
353
254
I do not think you should tell a prospective employer you have a degree in applied physics if you have a degree in computer science and physics. To play it safe, tell the employer exactly the degree as is written on your diploma. If it is a double degree, I suppose you mention both. If one is a minor and one is a major, I suppose you state that.
You can draw attention and state your degree has an applied concentration especially if "applied concentration" shows up on your diploma. It is OK that it is a mouthful
In short, I disagree with the above post. If I were and employer, I would think it deceptive. I think the rationalizations; they should expect; it is rare...; they can ask;,,, etc are just that: Rationalizations, that would be used by a misleader. Your degree program physics and computer science is strong enough. You do not need to enhance it,
You are going to have to present the transcript or diplomas (in my case both) to your employer anyway. You do not need your employer to want to hire you, but human resources giving him or her a call concerning a problem with your transcript not agreeing with their hiring criteria (and that has happened).
You do not want to be in a position of "explaining" why applied physics or engineering does not show up on your diploma. Nothing will kill a interview like appearing to mislead or trickery. Instead, concentrate on drawing the employer to courses you have taken that have astronautic/aerospace application. As one who works with Aeros, and have looked at some resumes, I like courses in control theory as well as physics.
If I were an employer with direct hire authority, I would be less concerned with whether "applied" modified the physics and more concerned with coursework. This is especially true, as I have had experience with programs at two different universities.
In university 1. "applied physics" was a degree for students who did not do well enough or unsure of their abilities in either physics, or engineering alone.
In university 2, "applied physics" was a degree for students who were exceptionally well qualified in both physics and engineering areas.
Unfortunately, employers carry along their own prejudice, as to just what applied physics means.
As I stated before, your degree program physics and computer science is impressive enough. You do not need to enhance it,
 
  • Like
Likes FactChecker, hutchphd and Vanadium 50
  • #4
Vanadium 50
Staff Emeritus
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
27,661
11,883
tell the employer exactly the degree as is written on your diploma
This.
 
  • #5
353
254
OK, I grant you you may not know what is on your diploma until you receive it. My only point is I think saying you have an applied physics degree rather than a physics / computer science degree with an applied concentration has the potential for raising more questions than it answers.
Actually, I last applied for a job in 2014, and before that, in 1984. The applicant may get a better answer from the career services placement or area of the university/college that they attend. Because they know the actual programs and concentration, shouldn't they be able to give you the best answer whether this substitution is valid. They may also know some warnings/encouragement as to whether this substitution didn't or did work out.
 
  • #6
Choppy
Science Advisor
Education Advisor
Insights Author
4,720
1,930
This sounds to me like you're trying to solve a problem before you've actually encountered it.

Is the title of your degree, actually a problem on job application forms? Does it really take up too much space on your CV? As it stands "Computer Science and Physics with an Applied Concentration" doesn't seem that long to me.

If the real problem is that you want to land an engineering job and your current program will not qualify you for it, perhaps consider changing into a program that will.
 
  • #7
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
OP: I agree that the degree you put down on your job application and resume should match the one on your transcript and diploma; otherwise, a red flag could go up. "Computer Science & Physics with an Applied Concentration" in most instances will not lead to any disadvantage over "Computer Science & Applied Physics". The only instance in which a problem would arise would be if HR screening software is narrowly tuned to allow only degrees in "Applied Physics" per se; in which case, you probably wouldn't want to work for such a company, anyway. Since course content of "physics", "applied physics", and "engineering physics" are not standardized, more reasonable job posts will specify degree requirements along the lines of "XX engineering, physics, or related fields." In which case, "Computer Science & Physics with an Applied Concentration" should pass initial screening.

If you're really hyper about screening filters, you could follow up on this previous suggestion:

The applicant may get a better answer from the career services placement or area of the university/college that they attend. Because they know the actual programs and concentration, shouldn't they be able to give you the best answer whether this substitution is valid. They may also know some warnings/encouragement as to whether this substitution didn't or did work out.

If your university blesses it, you could go with something along the lines of:

"Computer Science & Physics with an Applied Concentration (Applied Physics)" .
 
  • #8
353
254
A co-worker of mine tells me this story. I have a hard time believing it, but it may be true. He called to apply for a job and human resources answered. He stated he had a Doctorate in Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering. HR told them they were not hiring applicants with Philosophy degrees. He persisted and HR eventually let him talk to the head of the deparment, although HR argued they never did this. He convinced the department head to interview him. He got a call from HR back, and they said, "I guess they are making an exception in your case, but we never do this."

I heard a resume for a physicist, made it into the physical plant part of a university. I suppose he probably got a call back as to whether he could fix an air conditioner
 
  • Like
Likes symbolipoint
  • #9
CalcNerd
Education Advisor
Gold Member
414
169
Speaking from a very similar background/experience, you have to state what is on your Diploma. I am practicing professional electrical engineer with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Natural Science. And I struggled with that, especially when I would pursue additional licensure in other states. I can certainly attest to discrimination and I have had a few doors slammed in my face. However, once I got an interview, I would generally get a Job offer (admittedly, this may be due to the fact they were desperate to interview for anyone, but let's not go there....).
However, two years ago, I decided to rectify this problem by returning to one of my former Bricks and Sticks schools (I had attended numerous schools, to obtain my bachelors of mathematics degree), to enroll and graduate with an MSEE degree from an ABET accredited school. I did this as I am a consultant and if asked, I can state that I am a degreed EE which can provide more confidence to my clients.
 
  • #10
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
A co-worker of mine tells me this story. I have a hard time believing it, but it may be true. He called to apply for a job and human resources answered. He stated he had a Doctorate in Philosophy in Aerospace Engineering. HR told them they were not hiring applicants with Philosophy degrees. He persisted and HR eventually let him talk to the head of the deparment, although HR argued they never did this. He convinced the department head to interview him. He got a call from HR back, and they said, "I guess they are making an exception in your case, but we never do this."

I heard a resume for a physicist, made it into the physical plant part of a university. I suppose he probably got a call back as to whether he could fix an air conditioner
I'm inclined to believe these stories. As a patent agent, I often needed to get papers signed by a representative of the client. If the client is a corporation, some papers need to be signed by an officer of the corporation. One client was a Mega Corporation. They designated one officer to be responsible for signing necessary patent-related documents. Her official title under her signature read "Secretary, XYZ Inc." On several occasions, an examiner at the patent office would reject the documents: "The document must be signed by an officer of the corporation, not by a secretary." I'd then have to call them up and explain that she was an officer of the corporation, not an office secretary ... compare "Secretary of State" or "Secretary of Defense" in the federal government. I'd then get a grumbling "Oh!", followed by acceptance of the document.

A number of years ago, APS (the American Physical Society) considered changing its name to the American Physics Society to eliminate ambiguity surrounding the modifier "Physical" (think of Olivia Newton-John, not Isaac Newton :wink:). But that was dropped because of the high legal fees that would be involved for the name change (among other reasons).

Sometimes minor variants can cause grief with resume filters. E.g., MIT confers a S.B. instead of a B.S. [ETA. Correction, for MIT, it's an SB without the periods.]
 
Last edited:
  • Wow
Likes symbolipoint
  • #11
353
254
I think Harvard awards an A.B. degree in physics for their Bachelors. I know some schools award the A.B. for the Bachelors in physics. Most admission directors are aware this is not an Associates or two-year degree.
 
  • #12
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
I think Harvard awards an A.B. degree in physics for their Bachelors. I know some schools award the A.B. for the Bachelors in physics. Most admission directors are aware this is not an Associates or two-year degree.
<<Emphasis added.>>

Yes, many 4-yr liberal arts colleges (such as Wellesley) confer only a Bachelor of Arts, regardless of major (including Physics). On the flip side, on the undergrad level, MIT confers only a Bachelor of Science, regardless of major (including Humanities, History, and Theater Arts). Adding to the confusion, some universities offer both a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in some majors (including Physics), with more rigorous requirements for the Bachelor of Science.

By "admission directors", I assume you mean admissions directors at grad schools. But we're not concerned about them in this thread. As you yourself pointed out in your Post #8, we're concerned about gaffes by HR staff. Especially if their screening software does not take into account all these silly nuances in degree titles.
 
Last edited:
  • #13
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
Speaking from a very similar background/experience, you have to state what is on your Diploma. I am practicing professional electrical engineer with a Bachelor's degree in Mathematics and Natural Science. And I struggled with that, especially when I would pursue additional licensure in other states. I can certainly attest to discrimination and I have had a few doors slammed in my face. However, once I got an interview, I would generally get a Job offer (admittedly, this may be due to the fact they were desperate to interview for anyone, but let's not go there....).
However, two years ago, I decided to rectify this problem by returning to one of my former Bricks and Sticks schools (I had attended numerous schools, to obtain my bachelors of mathematics degree), to enroll and graduate with an MSEE degree from an ABET accredited school. I did this as I am a consultant and if asked, I can state that I am a degreed EE which can provide more confidence to my clients.
Yes. This is an important post. Often the advice handed out in forums is: "After X years on the job, no one will care about what degree you have. Your record, knowledge, experience, and performance will speak for themselves." But for some positions, having the proper credentials is critical for success. I have a PhD Physics. I also have a lot of experience with design, construction, and operation of complex mechanical apparatus. As a patent agent, if a potential client was involved with a mechanical invention, I typically could make a convincing argument for my qualifications ... if the potential client was willing to speak with me. But some potential clients had a strict requirement for the job: "Must have at least a BS ME"; and they wouldn't even talk to me.
 
Last edited:
  • #14
353
254
I graduated from a well-known engineering university in 1983 and I went to career services to interview. In those days, applicants signed up by appointment with interviewers who represented the various companies. They also had a sign up list for the interviewers for prospective applicants in case of a appointment cancellation, or other reasons. It was late in the year, and many engineer friends of mine already had one or more offers.

One company who sent an interviewer to the university was not well known. I saw that the sign up sheet was entirely empty, that is entirely open. I asked at career placement, Is the appointment schedule all filled up. The career specialist told me, no one was scheduled by appointment. The firm was advertising for engineers. You have a physics Masters, but if you phone the firm and tell them you want to interview, we will place you on the sheet to talk to the interviewer.

I called the firm, and told them I had a Masters in physics, but from the job description, I would be interested in interviewing with them. They told me they couldn't even talk to me for hiring. I then told them that I consulted the career specialist for appointments and the sign up sheet, and the schedule is wide open. I told them if they did not interview me, they might not get another applicant, this late in the year.

They repeated, the wanted an engineer and did not even want to talk to me. I now work with engineers every day and I am sure this small non-descript firm would have been very lucky to have a good Masters degree in physics. It would be interesting to know if the interviewer was able to talk to any applicant, or if he or she just wasted their time all day.

It is not fair. I think it is probably true that: After X years on the job, no one will care about what degree you have, but unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to get your foot in the door to demonstrate that.
 
  • Wow
Likes symbolipoint
  • #15
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
It is not fair. I think it is probably true that: After X years on the job, no one will care about what degree you have, but unfortunately, sometimes it is hard to get your foot in the door to demonstrate that.
But to be fair, I do understand the hiring manager's perspective. If he's looking for an electrical engineer, e.g., he likely knows the baseline qualifications of a (BS, MS, PhD) EE from well-established universities. A candidate with some other degree will require more work to determine his qualifications. And then there's the supply-chain manager's credo: "No supply-chain manager ever got fired for hiring (or buying) IBM."
 
  • #16
353
254
But to be fair, I do understand the hiring manager's perspective. If he's looking for an electrical engineer, e.g., he likely knows the baseline qualifications of a (BS, MS, PhD) EE from well-established universities. A candidate with some other degree will require more work to determine his qualifications. And then there's the supply-chain manager's credo: "No supply-chain manager ever got fired for hiring (or buying) IBM."
I understand this. But, I still have to wonder what this interviewer did when he showed up with no appointments and no one signed up on the waiting sheet (list). Most likely the career placement center informed him or her that without applicants, they would reallocate their offices for companies in greater demand.
 
  • #17
CrysPhys
Education Advisor
906
558
I understand this. But, I still have to wonder what this interviewer did when he showed up with no appointments and no one signed up on the waiting sheet (list). Most likely the career placement center informed him or her that without applicants, they would reallocate their offices for companies in greater demand.
Or, given the tunnel vision of that recruiter, he probably never returned to your university again, since he did not find a single qualified (according to his criteria) interested applicant.
 
  • #18
353
254
The career placement center at the university asked the student applicants after each interview to supply feedback on how the interviews went and whether this led to offers. The career placement director told us they did not invite rectruiter's back who were there to waste our ime There were enough strong companies competing for interviews ( e,g, IBM, Bell Labs, AMD, AT&T, DEC, Kodak, Xerox, ( in those days) etc) with us, and we did not entertain fishing expeditions from non-serious employers.
The CPC was successful in placing their applicants. No one I know personally, engineers, physicists, or architects did not get at least one offer. Maybe events have changed since the 1980's though. Today, there are no sign-up lists in offices, etc. I cannot say if the changes are for the better.
 
  • Like
Likes symbolipoint

Related Threads on Explaining my Degree

  • Last Post
Replies
2
Views
2K
Replies
1
Views
4K
Replies
5
Views
3K
Replies
2
Views
4K
Replies
8
Views
5K
  • Last Post
Replies
5
Views
4K
Replies
2
Views
3K
Replies
13
Views
4K
Replies
1
Views
2K
Top