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Is it possible to get an engineering job with a physics degree?

  1. Jul 14, 2010 #1
    So I only have one year of undergrad left to finish my Physics degree. For the last few years I had been completely focused on getting into a Physics PhD program for grad school but I'm not so sure that's what I want to do anymore. Recently the idea of being able to get a real job in a year sounds much more appealing to me than going to school for 6 or 7 more years to get a PhD. I've been thinking that maybe I'd like to get an engineering job but I don't know if that's possible with a Physics degree. Has anyone here done that? Is it difficult to get an engineering job with a Physics degree? I've been thinking that I might be interested in electrical engineering but I just don't know how to go about getting into the field. Should I try to get a masters in EE or should I try to get a job and work a few years and then go back to school to get a masters? Is this even possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 14, 2010 #2
    my friend just got a masters in physics and got a job doing ee. not sure about a bs though
  4. Jul 16, 2010 #3
    You sounded just like me a few months ago. After getting my BS in physics and being unemployed for a few months, I finally got 2 job offers from aerospace/defense companies, one of which is EE/ME-related. However, it took me about 5 months to get these offers. BUT, I did get plenty of interviews for software engineering positions, because I had listed I used C++ on my undergrad physics research projects. I could've gotten those jobs if I had a stronger C++ background.

    Yes, its much harder for physics majors to get jobs in say EE or ME than engineering majors, but its not impossible. It's all about how much programming, experimental/lab skills, powerpoint presentation skills, and other skills you have that matters. I've written an article about this

    Finding a job in this economy is tough. But if you do, most companies will pay for you to get your MS. Normally, this is a great option. But in this economy, its also not a bad choice to just go straight into the MS program, especially if you know what area you want to study
  5. Jul 17, 2010 #4
    Yes, you can get an engineering job as a physics graduate. Once you do this, unless you're looking for some sort of professional accreditation, I see no reason to go back to university for a masters degree. Whatever you need to know, your employer will teach you.
  6. Sep 9, 2010 #5
    It is possible to get -some- engineering jobs with a physics degree, but quite difficult. The area of engineering you're trying to access with the physics degree makes a huge difference. It would be less difficult to break into some areas of EE (electrical power and signals, for example) because physics provides a decent background in E&M and waves. However, I know for a fact that physics curricula only rarely and cursorily cover topics such as heat transfer, mechanics of materials, thermodynamics, and fluid mechanics. Thus you would be excluded from most mechanical, aerospace, or chemical engineering positions.

    Undergraduate physics education, sadly, skews heavily toward particle and modern physics; which will not benefit you in an engineering job.
  7. Sep 9, 2010 #6
    Why do you use the word sadly in the context of how you see Physics education? If you want to learn more engineering-based concepts then the reasonable decision would be to get an Engineering degree.
  8. Sep 10, 2010 #7
    Sadly in response to the OP, Kevin. He expressed a desire to obtain an engineering job with a physics education; it is a sad situation that his current skills do not match the desired position.
  9. Sep 11, 2010 #8


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    This is the link to the latest statistics by the AIP on the initial employment of B.Sc. in physics degree holder:


    Note that in Fig. 3, of those who went into the Private Sector, the largest percentage is working in engineering.

    So the NAIVE answer to the question in the topic of thread is, yes, it is possible.

    Having said that, how you tailor your undergraduate curriculum matters. If you only stick with minimal lab experience, stuck to mainly esoteric areas of physics when you get to choose your classes, etc., then your employability as an engineer is low. This should make perfect sense. In many schools, as a senior, you get to choose what advanced classes you can take. If you took extra lab courses, or computational physics courses, or enroll in the accelerator physics school that I've mentioned elsewhere, then your chance of getting into engineering is more favorable.

    Keep in mind that you're competing with other engineers who have better engineering skills than you. Your employer might be looking for someone with engineering skills, but maybe a physics background that somehow suits his/her company. Based on the statistics, there's obviously a reasonable number of such situation.

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