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Engineering I'm just not sure Is Engineering Physics Worth it?

  1. Nov 14, 2011 #1
    Alright, here's the thing, and I'm going to try and make it as short as I can. I've always been interested in physics, and I'm thinking about choosing it as my career. I'm thinking about going into grad school for it. However, I want to also be able to have a good job after I graduate.

    Is engineering physics a good major to take? I don't know how much better it would be than just getting a physics degree.. Plus, if I change my mind about taking physics in grad school, and instead I want to go into, say, aerospace engineering, I figure that engineering physics will be a good decision.

    One major problem I have with the program, though, is that a lot of EP programs aren't ABET certified (which I just found out the other day).. Apparently, that's not a good thing. One such school is the Ohio State University, the one I will most likely be going into, unless these other schools I'm applying to (in particular, CWRU,) offer me a desirable amount of financial aid, which, as much as I hate to admit, is unlikely..

    Soo.. Basically, what is the best step for me to take?
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 15, 2011 #2


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    Why would it be ABET certified? It's not an engineering program. If you want to be an engineer, enter an engineering program.
  4. Nov 15, 2011 #3
    Ouch. Looks like ABET says differently...


    To OrbInfinite,

    If you are torn between engineering and physics it will most likely be easy to decide after you take some classes from each area. When I took my first physics class I knew I would rather study physics in school and then apply my skills to other disciplines, such as software. Grad school is a long way off and I really wouldn't stress yourself out about it this early. I will say this though, the people in my department that came from engineering backgrounds seem to struggle more with physics grad school than us from physics backgrounds. This really shouldn't be a surprise because most engineering kids never really take past a basic modern physics class.
  5. Nov 18, 2011 #4
    Thanks for your input!

    I still am torn between which major to choose, however.. I was thinking of minoring in computer science, but I might have to change that too. (I don't want to be in three majors/minors! That sounds a little painful..)
  6. Nov 20, 2011 #5
    Alright, how about this question: How much will I gain or lose if, instead of majoring in physics alone, I major in engineering physics?
  7. Nov 20, 2011 #6
    I think it really depends on the courses you take. Engineering Physics is a pretty broad term. It could be an equal amount of both engineering and physics or it could be more heavily weighted towards either of the two.

    It also really depends on what you want to do later on. Physics is more grad school oriented, while engineering is more industry oriented. However, engineering physics I would say is still more grad school oriented as you are learning a lot but not much which could easily get you a job right out of a bachelors.

    I'm in an engineering physics program in Canada and I really like it. Having an engineering mindset I think is very useful. Gives you a bit of grounding in reality. Physics on the other hand you could do an entire degree in and never have learned anything which is directly applicable to real life (and by real life I mean skills/knowledge you could use right away in a job).

    The best thing I would say is to find an engineering physics program which is highly flexible. If you find that you want to focus a bit more on the theoretical/physicsy side of things then you can take more of those courses. If you decide you would rather do engineering then you can take more eng courses etc.

    If in doubt you could always just do an Electrical Engineering bachelors and take lots of electives if possible in modern physics.
  8. Nov 23, 2011 #7
    Say some of the schools I'm applying to don't offer engineering physics, but they do offer physics. Would it be wise then to perhaps double major in physics and computer science to help open up job opportunities? (I figure it would be too much to DM in engineering physics and computer science. In this case I would minor in the latter.)

    Oh, and thanks for the feedback!
  9. Nov 25, 2011 #8
    ..Okay, how about this question: Would it hurt me to go to a college where engineering physics isn't ABET credited? If so, how much?
  10. Nov 25, 2011 #9


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    If you want to be an engineer, yes- it most certainly will hurt you.
  11. Nov 26, 2011 #10
    I started off as a physics major becuase thats what I wanted to do. I read an article one day about a famous guitarist that held a degree in physics. It stated that 90% of physics majors don't end up working in that field. So I switched to double majoring in mechanical engineering and physics. My electrical engineering friends said I should have just double majored as an electrical engineer becuase it was practicaly the same thing as physics. Now that I've been working as an intern in mechanical engineering for the past 7 months, I think I might drop physics. I work in R&D, so my job gives me plenty of time to study whatever I want. A few management trainies rotate through our company with random engineering degrees that aren't ABET certified. You have to really consider where your going to work when you graduate, and how many opportunities there are in that field.
  12. Nov 26, 2011 #11
    Sorry for the rather blunt question, but what kinds of job opportunities do Engineering Physicists have? Yes, I have tried looking this up- several times, in fact. I have found some information but nothing really all that helpful..
  13. Nov 27, 2011 #12


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    The same opportunities as everyone else. However, you may be more or less qualified for a particular position. There's really no way to answer this question any better than that, but as I've mentioned... if you are interested in engineering positions, you should go into a dedicated engineering position. E.P. offers zero professional advantage if you want to be a professional engineer.
  14. Nov 27, 2011 #13
    Can I have some examples? I mean, when I go to look for a job, where should I be looking? I doubt employers say, "Engineering physicists wanted."

    Also, I'm not sure yet if I want to go into a dedicated engineering position.. I'm guessing that's not a good thing?
  15. Nov 27, 2011 #14
    What is it about physics that interests you? Is it classical mechanics? Perhaps you would be better off taking mechanical engineering courses, since they take the ideas from mechanics and apply them to more realistic problems (also goes for structural/civil engineering type problems too). Quantum physics? Electrical engineering is pretty broad, but the field of microprocessors and integrated circuits requires some knowledge of quantum mechanics. Or maybe you just like solving problems with hard math? You can learn to program, learn the core CS concepts, and go into scientific computing or numerical analysis/algorithms.

    Anyway, if you want to do physics, but you want to keep your options open (that is, if you're not sure you want to go to graduate school), you might be better served with a major in some type of engineering and minoring in physics (taking the classes that interest you the most). The downside to some of these renegade, interdisciplinary programs (talking in general, dunno about engineering physics specifically) is that they don't make you as good as an engineer or as a physicist (in this example). Of course, this varies a lot too depending on what job you're going to get, but everyone faces these problems so if you want to play it safe...
  16. Nov 27, 2011 #15
    Even though Electrical and Mechanical Engineering sound very specifc, you can apply them in almost any field. If you choose EP, your going to be very limited, and even though it sounds specific, I don't think any employer would choose EP over EE or ME.
  17. Nov 27, 2011 #16
    It's not that I want to play it safe, it's that I'm not sure what I want to go into. If I did do engineering, it would probably be aerospace (I love flying), but even then, I don't know if it's right for me..

    Heh, I just wish I ran into this problem awhile ago so I could have more time to think it over..
  18. Nov 27, 2011 #17
    Aerospace Engineering would be a better specified degree. But Boeing and Lockheed specify they look for ME degrees when they hire from my school.
  19. Nov 27, 2011 #18
    So would be better for me to perhaps major in AE and minor in physics? I kind of wanted to originally minor in computer science, but I would pick physics if I had to choose between the two..
  20. Nov 27, 2011 #19
    Thats a tough one, not so much that your minor will help you get a job, but programming always comes in handy, especially in the design process. Then again, a good understanding of physics will help you design a better system. If you ponder on how the universe works, then definitely physics. If not cs... but then again, I don't think we were allowed to minor in cs at our school.
  21. Nov 29, 2011 #20
    I have an Engineering Physics degree from Ohio State (2002). I chose Computer Science as the engineering option.

    Going to a non ABET accredited program hasn't hurt me one iota, but that is most certainly because I didn't try to get the wheels turning for a PE when graduating. Frankly, that's going to be your only hitch - well that and ignorance. If you want a PE in Ohio, check Ohio's requirements before deciding on a non-ABET program.

    My personal experience is that employers who don't know what an Engy Phys degree is do one of two things 1) Ask what is that? 2) Assume you're not as good as a full blown engineer/physics major. The problem is with the second one, which is an assumption based on ignorance, and is thankfully the minority. Your only hope with them is that they will give you an interview/chance or that you can somehow squash the assumption in your cover letter. After they find out that you can still calculate interest, the power output of a three phase motor, the thrust of a rocket, derive Compton scattering, or whatnot - you're fine, you're considered equal. You generally don't have a leg up on pure engineers unless someone is looking for diversity in their team.

    If you go look at the coursework involved with an Eny Phys degree (at least at Ohio State) you'll see it is a physics degree with an engineering minor; however, you have to take all of those general engineering classes (save a few because it'd be retaking some physics classes). That said, things may have changed in the past 9 years (e.g. OSU went to semesters from quarters). If you can, compare the coursework for Engineering Physics with the Aero Engy option with pure Aero Engy and pure physics. Also, look at what engineering options are available to the degree - if I remember correctly the list of engineering disciplines wasn't comprehensive. If you choose Ohio State and engineering, I recommend trying to direct enroll in the college of engineering. It will save you trouble later.

    One thing to keep in mind - if you do decide on Engy Phys - is that it gives you a unique perspective on the differences between physicists and engineers and how they both approach and solve problems. So, you may want to consider taking some extra courses involved with management if you think you'd like to do that.
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