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Is a Degree in Engineering Physics Viable for Graduate School?

  1. May 30, 2014 #1
    I am a rising Senior in high school, and planning to major in Physics, with the intent of pursuing a Doctorate in Physics. Recently I received a "golden application" to the Colorado School of Mines (http://www.mines.edu/)... a school that I was not previously familiar with. Apparently this institution is heavily focused on engineering; I noticed that they offer a B.S. in ENGINEERING PHYSICS, but no degree in "physics." They claim that recipients of this degree do successfully go on to graduate school: "The Engineering Physics degree combines the deep understanding of science fundamentals with the practical knowledge and skills of engineering practice and design.." and "Those CSM physics graduates who have chosen to continue to study physics in graduate school have successfully competed with the best students from around the country for admission to the most competitive graduate schools, such as Cal Tech, Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Illinois, and many others." Despite these assurances, I am remain skeptical, and am worried that a degree in Engineering Physics may not prepare me as well for grad school as a degree in Physics. I have tried researching the topic, but my findings are inconclusive. As a final note, this is a link to the CSM website... scroll down the page and you will find a sample Physics engineering schedule : http://physics.mines.edu/undergraduate/brochure.php [Broken] Personally , I thought that this sample schedule looked comparable to a normal physics degree, with the added benefit of the " practical knowledge and skills of engineering practice and design"
    TL DR: Will this schedule prepare me for graduate school and thus a career that might be more focused on research? Or should I go to a traditional non technical school and obtain a regular Physics degree? Will grad schools "look down" on Engineering Physics when they review applications?
    Thank you for reading my long-winded query.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
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  3. May 30, 2014 #2

    donpacino

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    By receiving a "golden application" do you mean you got an email or a phone call from the school informing you that you qualify for the "golden application," or is this something you applied for?

    I would like to point out that when I was applying to undergrad school 6 years ago I got a lot of those "golden application" emails. The reason I'm telling you this is schools have ways of obtaining information about rising seniors and will try to get all of them to go to their school. Between now and December you should anticipate getting a few more of those golden applications.

    I am not by any means trying to convince you to not go. I am simply pointing out that receiving those emails are a common thing that will most likely happen to you again. Choosing a undergraduate university is an important decision, one that goes further than simply 'which school is the best in academics'.
     
  4. May 30, 2014 #3

    donpacino

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    In addition I would look into what electives they have offered at the school. Due to the university in question being a more technically oriented school, they may have more practical electives, and less theoretical electives.

    I would look at other undergraduate physics and engineering physics programs and compare what is offered. In other words, why do you want to be a physicist?

    Unfortunately I cannot answer your actual question, as I am an engineer and do not have experience comparing engineering physics and traditional physics.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  5. May 30, 2014 #4
    donpacino, the "golden application" , as it was referred to in the email, simply stated that they would be sending me an express application this September, and that my application fee and entry essay would be waived should I choose to apply. I was not even aware of the school before hand, and thus I did not apply for anything. I'm not sure why I received this golden application, but I assume that they are interested in me, or perhaps they randomly issue these golden applications to a select number of students that meet certain requirements (i.e. ACT GPA etc.)
     
  6. May 30, 2014 #5

    donpacino

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    It could be either of those two options.
     
  7. May 30, 2014 #6

    donpacino

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    Note: chances are you question has already been asked on these forums. If you do enough digging im sure you can find a post on the differences between engineering physics and regular physics as it relates to grad school.
     
  8. May 30, 2014 #7

    Vanadium 50

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    If you think they're a bunch of liars, why do you want to go there at all?
     
  9. May 30, 2014 #8
    There is big difference between being a liar and drinking your own koolaid or focusing on the good data points while ignoring the bad. I believe this is done in all schools. They have to sell their degree programs to get the dollars. Its good to be skeptical of a sales pitch. Its not necessarily a "lie", but neither is it the whole truth.
     
  10. May 30, 2014 #9

    Vanadium 50

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    Nonsense. They posted a statement of fact. It's either true or false, and if it's false, its a lie.
     
  11. May 30, 2014 #10
    Its a sales pitch and its good to be skeptical of a pitch. Being skeptical does not amount to calling them liars.
     
  12. May 30, 2014 #11
    To Vanadium 50:
    My college career may affect how successful I am in my pursuit of a career in physics, and so I think its reasonable to remain skeptical about any and all "facts", especially those provided by the school, as they would obviously benefit from portraying their program as successful. When considering issues like this, I always look to other sources, as decisions made will have a lasting impact. Your answer seems very naïve to me, and very unhelpful at the least. As ModusPwnd noted, any institution would likely try to sell their own program. Vanadium... if you were selling a car would your entire sales pitch be focused on the dents in the paint? Or would you instead choose to focus on the car's redeemable qualities. In this way they may not be lying, but they may be focusing on the positives... as any reasonable person would expect. Indeed, I am interested in acquiring a realistic unbiased perspective so that I may make informed decisions regarding the viability of Engineering physics degree in relation to Physics graduate school admissions. As a Physicist perhaps you could help answer my actual question? Thanks.
     
  13. May 30, 2014 #12
    I dont think grad schools will necessarily "look down" on engineering physics. (We had an engineering physics grad with us in grad school) Its important that the school has undergraduate research opportunities. This opportunity will give you the research experience and letter of recommendation which are so vital to grad admissions. Check out the research groups web pages. See if they are publishing and see if they have undergrads in their group. My other thought is that the course work might not be as geared towards the physics GRE as a "regular" physics degree does. This is just a thought, check out the coursework and see if you will get classical mechanics, electromagnetism, statistical mechanics and quantum mechanics coursework in before you would take your GRE (Fall of your Junior year usually). If not, then you will be on your own to make up that deficiency. What I am getting as is its not the type of degree so much as it is your ability to put together a strong application package.

    We got a pitch by a physicist there to go to apply to grad school there. Though I didn't apply, it seemed fine for grad school to me at the time, years ago.
     
    Last edited: May 30, 2014
  14. May 30, 2014 #13

    Vanadium 50

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    Let's sweep away all the brush. You said you are skeptical of a very specific statement: "Those CSM physics graduates who have chosen to continue to study physics in graduate school have successfully competed with the best students from around the country for admission to the most competitive graduate schools, such as Cal Tech, Berkeley, Cornell, Harvard, MIT, Princeton, Stanford, Illinois, and many others."

    If that statement is false, CSM is lying. Not "salesmanship". Not "putting their best foot forward". Lying, plain and simple. If you suspect them of lying, you shouldn't go there.

    Now, you are right to be careful of the inferences you draw. That statement does not mean that you will be successful in that program. It does not mean that you will be successful in similarly named programs. But this is a purported fact. It's true, or it's not. CSM knows whether it's true or not. If it's not true, it's a lie. And, again, if you suspect them of lying, you shouldn't go there. Note that you didn't ask us about inferences - you asked about their factual statements.
     
  15. May 30, 2014 #14

    Choppy

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    I don't know anything about the Colorado School of Mines, but I can offer some general insight with respect to engineering physics. In my opinion, engineering physics programs tend to be hybrids that balance the professional credentials of an engineering program with the core curriculum of a physics degree. In a general sense, engineering physics meets the qualifications for entry into most physics graduate programs.

    But there are caveats.

    First, engineering physics tends to have a more broadly defined or ambiguous curriculum than other branches of engineering. That means that graduates from different undergraduate programs will have more variation in what they've studied than engineering graduates from other streams. This could translate into a harder time marketing yourself as an engineer than graduates from other streams. But since you're still coming through as an engineer, you'll have an easier go than most physics graduates entering the workforce. The bottom line with this is that you'll have to pay attention to the details. Are graduates from the program moving into positions that are consistent with your goals? Look as much as possible for statistical date rather than anecdotes or examples.

    Second, there's a question of what you give up to incorporate physics into an engineering degree (or the other way around). Physics undergraduates are likely to have more freedom in their upper years to take introductory courses in fields that might interest them. These can be important because they expose you to the non-popular branches of physics that you may actually have an affinity for, and ultimately help you with making a better decision in graduate school. Remember that your goal shouldn't be just to "get in" to graduate school. If it is, assuming you're successful, you're left with the giant question of "now what?"
     
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