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Major in Physics or Engineering?

  1. Jul 13, 2012 #1
    This is the boat I'm in: I'm a really good student in physics and math; I've had a 4.0 through uni so far, but I don't know if I should major in engineering or physics. I want to invent stuff and solve difficult problems or make it somewhere high up on the totem pole. Honestly, I don't know that engineering is just that. It seems like engineers get decent but stale and boring jobs that just pay -okay-. However, it seems like a physics degree doesn't get you jack in comparison. What should I do?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jul 13, 2012 #2


    Staff: Mentor

    So it seems you want to do exciting stuff and get paid well too. The problem is that there are arguably more jobs needing engineers than needing physicists. Engineers working on advanced govt projects often get paid well and do interesting stuff. From what you wrote it seems you like more concrete applications of math and physics so it seems you've already answered your question. Now you need to do some homework on the web looking at job postings for engineers to see what they are hiring for. I have two nieces that have degrees in engineering one in petroleum and another in civil working in petroleum. Check some major universities to see about all the types of engineering disciplines and talk with the profs about coming trends such as robotics, and nanotechnology.
  4. Jul 13, 2012 #3
  5. Jul 14, 2012 #4
    Engineering Physics (if it's possible)

    That's what I did and I really enjoyed it. Spent the first two years of my degree learning the basics of all sorts of different fields of engineering, specialized into physics in my last two years. Will be pursuing grad school for experimental physics. Only thing I missed out on was a lot of heavy math, so if you want to be a theoretician, probably not the best thing. A lot of the basic courses you take in engineering are actually extremely useful for experimental physicists, considering you will most likely be designing/buiding experiments.

    If you can't go engphys, then it becomes a hard decision. I would say go physics if you really love physics and math. Engineering can often be quite simple (I hate to put it that way, don't know how else to describe it). Last thing you want is to be bored, even if you are making decent money.
  6. Jul 14, 2012 #5
    If I recall correctly, you were a student at U of T (or still are)? I got into their mechanical engineering program but I opted to go to Waterloo because of their co-op instead. I've been told that engineering physics is sometimes risky based on the program because some programs are designed such that you don't have the full capacity to become a physics Ph.D. or a good engineer but I can't comment any further.
  7. Jul 14, 2012 #6
    Yes, I am in engineering science at UofT, going into 4th year.

    Engineering physics differs a lot between schools I think. Like I said, if you want to be a theoretician, you would best stay away from engphys as it is more of a merging between engineering and physics, which really is experimental physics.

    The interesting thing about my program, engineering science, is that there is a lot of flexibility what you can do after the first two general years. If you want to become a pure engineer, and go to industry right after your bachelors, you could easily go into the electrical or computer options, or energy option and become an awesome engineer. If you want to be a physicist, you can do what I did and go into the physics option. I am taking the same courses as any other physicist would be, plus I have a mandatory 4th year thesis project and a 4th year design project.

    But I don't want to hijack this thread. The point is, if you're undecided about physics or engineering, why not do both?
  8. Jul 17, 2012 #7
    Well guys, how credible are the applied math / eng degrees in the real world? They seem to mostly get a bad rap as being taken second to more specific technical degrees. Despite this, do they still serve a fighting chance? I understand half of the battle is selling yourself, but I don't want to be making a mistake in choosing a major by choosing a major that is unemployable or hardly employable.
  9. Jul 17, 2012 #8
    Engineering = Tons of Jobs and good ROI
    Physics = Do you want fries with that?

    Cheap shot on all the physics majors here! hehe
  10. Jul 18, 2012 #9
    Just a tad bit of a hyperbole there lol but perhaps a bit true as well.
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