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How do I correctly move into engineering?

So here is the gist of it, right now I am one semester away from graduating from Rutgers University with a Bachelor's of Science for Physics and I have found that I do not want to continue on with Physics and I feel that engineering is more of what I am looking for. I have been involved in research for the past 14 months and I just can find myself focusing enough to enjoy what I am doing or passionate enough to keep it going.
My current plan, as of right now, is to finish my degree and then apply to a masters program for mechanical/aerospace engineering. Academically it is a feasible option as I have talked with both the physics department and engineering department directors thoroughly about it and as long as I take a few extra courses I will be fine.

My end goal is to be a competitive candidate for a company looking for aerospace engineering graduates, but I am worried that I would not have the skills other engineers, who were on their degree path from the beginning. So my questions are: (1) Is going for a masters degree the easiest way to make myself competitive? (2a) Am I missing some core skills that I have passed in my time as an undergraduate? (2b) How would I go about getting any necessary missed experiences? (3) And what Graduate Programs, preferably on the east coast but I am not picky, besides Rutgers would be worth checking out? Or even just a database on available programs, because Google prefers to advertise undergraduate programs more than anything and it has become more and more annoying to search for.


I want to leave this space for additional background: For my final semester at Rutgers, I was given permission to take a couple of high-level engineering courses. Here is my course list; Fluid Mechanics (3-credits), Heat Transfer(3), CAD for mech. engineers (3), Nuclei and Particles (my last senior-level course so I can graduate, 3), and some core course to finish my core requirements(3). I do not plan to add any more courses (I am already at 15 credits and only need 12 to graduate) or changing it in any way. I have considered studying abroad in the spring just for the unique opportunity, I would love some advice on that too regardless of how it applies to the engineering conversation. I also have a 3.54 GPA(4.0 scale) going into this semester.
 
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The only way you will be fully competitive with an ME or AeroE graduate is to take the whole undergraduate curriculum. That said, however, if you can narrow your career objectives a bit, you can take only the undergraduate courses that support that area. As an example from long ago, when I was in graduate school, we had a young woman come into the ME program (a very rare thing in those days!) with a BS in Math. She was interested in graduate work in Acoustics, so she took a few undergraduate courses in addition to the graduate work, and I'm sure she did well. You could do something similar, I would expect.

I'm inclined to think one of the biggest gaps you will have is the undergraduate engineering labs. The one in particular that stands out in my mind is the Mechanics of Materials lab. There is nothing quite like doing a tensile test to failure on a steel specimen, and I don't think physics students get anything quite comparable.
 

russ_watters

Mentor
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The only way you will be fully competitive with an ME or AeroE graduate is to take the whole undergraduate curriculum. That said, however, if you can narrow your career objectives a bit, you can take only the undergraduate courses that support that area.
A caveat would be that it depends on the field/job. An AE doing airfoil CFD is not going to be hindered by not having seen a tensile test, but if you are in a broader field/job or require the FE/PE you might. So depending on the exact job requirements a masters in mechE could be worth less or more than a bachelor's in mechE.
 
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A caveat would be that it depends on the field/job. An AE doing airfoil CFD is not going to be hindered by not having seen a tensile test, but if you are in a broader field/job or require the FE/PE you might. So depending on the exact job requirements a masters in mechE could be worth less or more than a bachelor's in mechE.
Yes, what is needed for a particular job always depends upon the nature of the job. But to carry russ watters' argument a step further, that same person doing CFD on an airfoil will likely need to know something about flutter (fluid-structure interaction), and for that, the mechanics of materials background is a key. There are dozens of other examples, but there is simply no way for a physics degree to be fully equivalent to an ME or AeroE degee, and vice versa.
 

marcusl

Science Advisor
Gold Member
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I wouldn’t be despondent. In my experience, companies look favorably on engineers with a physics background. With a MS in ME or Aero, you will *be* an engineer when it’s time to apply for a job.
 

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