Making the Jump from Physics to Engineering: Advice & Concerns

In summary, the individual is a junior pursuing a BS in physics and is considering an MS in mechanical engineering. They are wondering how difficult it would be to make this transition, how many post bacc courses they would need to take, and if there is any way to minimize the number of courses required. They have received conflicting advice from their department, with some saying they can jump right into engineering and others recommending 2-4 semesters of post bacc work to mimic a BS in engineering. They are also unsure if they need to fully mimic a BS in ME to get an MS in it, and are wondering if it would be better to just get a BS in ME. They are also seeking advice on how to get accepted into a
  • #1
slam7211
36
0
I am a junior getting a BS in physics, and am considering an MS in mechanical engineering. the physics degree is a straight physics degree, not engineering physics. I know other have done this, how hard is it, and how many post bacc courses will I have to take. and is there anything I could do to mitigate the number I need to take. I've been getting mixed messages from my department on this. on one extreme I have someone saying I can jump right from physics to engineering, and on the other hand I have someone telling me I need to take 2-4 semesters of post bacc work in an attempt to fully mimic a BS in engineering, (down to the basic chem courses needed),I understand the need for the engineering design courses and what not but do I really need to mimic a BS in ME course for course (as one adviser is telling me) to get an MS in it? also 2 semesters isn't terrible. but at this rate if I have to take 4 (full) semesters worth of work should I just get a BS in ME? Also since I am going to be applying as a non standard student for an MS degree, any advice for getting accepted into a program?
any advice for paying for post bacc?
and finally if I want to pursue a career in engineering, what kind of career experience could I get over the next couple of years both during my current undergrad (research maybe) post bacc period (by then I would be thinking internship or job) that might help me get a job after my masters?

EDIT: I was lookming at government fellowships which requiere a 1 to 1 service for tuition benefit system (1yr of civilian service/year of tuition paid) would they pay for post bacc?
 
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  • #2
If you were able to get credits to transfer, then thank the lord. When I transferred from physics to Engineering only 4 of my classes were transferrable, from two years of work...
 
  • #3
sandy.bridge said:
If you were able to get credits to transfer, then thank the lord. When I transferred from physics to Engineering only 4 of my classes were transferrable, from two years of work...

Including all the math and basic physics? (calc diff equations gen phys 1/2)
edit and you are talking about transferring credits as an undergrad, or applying them for qualifications for starting a masters program?
 
  • #4
Best thing to do is talk to the graduate advisors / admissions people at the school you want to apply to for your MS in MechE. They will know what you need to take better than anyone. . . I'd try to talk to a few of these departments at different schools to see what is similar and what is different between them.

Some schools like diverse applicants, some don't seem to care. I think a lot of it depends on what school you go to. . .

Is there a chance you can get a minor in MechE instead of the whole degree? A lot of the themro / heat transfer / fluids courses / (core engineering) you will have with your physics degree, but maybe not some of the design classes. . . my school has a minor program in mechanical design that is 3 classes and some other stuff that you have to take anyway. . .

As far as post-bacc goes, I think the best thing is getting the highest grades possible, in order to get into a good masters program, rather than taking overloaded semesters in undergrad and doing not as well. . .

For ECs and experience, do your regular physics undergrad stuff, maybe with things more geared towards MechE if you can help it, but otherwise, schools only want to see that you have good grades and are involved. . . so it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're doing something.

But, the best thing imo is getting very high grades as an undergrad / post-bacc. . .
 
  • #5
Highway said:
Best thing to do is talk to the graduate advisors / admissions people at the school you want to apply to for your MS in MechE. They will know what you need to take better than anyone. . . I'd try to talk to a few of these departments at different schools to see what is similar and what is different between them.

Some schools like diverse applicants, some don't seem to care. I think a lot of it depends on what school you go to. . .

Is there a chance you can get a minor in MechE instead of the whole degree? A lot of the themro / heat transfer / fluids courses / (core engineering) you will have with your physics degree, but maybe not some of the design classes. . . my school has a minor program in mechanical design that is 3 classes and some other stuff that you have to take anyway. . .

As far as post-bacc goes, I think the best thing is getting the highest grades possible, in order to get into a good masters program, rather than taking overloaded semesters in undergrad and doing not as well. . .

For ECs and experience, do your regular physics undergrad stuff, maybe with things more geared towards MechE if you can help it, but otherwise, schools only want to see that you have good grades and are involved. . . so it doesn't matter what you do, as long as you're doing something.

But, the best thing imo is getting very high grades as an undergrad / post-bacc. . .

anyone know of schools, or signs that schools like academically diverse applicants/ would make this easier, also anyone been through this and came out the other side care to share their experiences?... I don't like going down a rabbit hole blind

also would it be possib le for me to convince an institution to roll my post bacc into my masters program (aka add my years of post bacc to my masters, but enroll me as a masters student) so I can start immediately as a "degree seeking student" so a fellowship would pay me (all I know requiere you to be a degree seeking student" to get money
 
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  • #6
slam7211 said:
anyone know of schools, or signs that schools like academically diverse applicants/ would make this easier, also anyone been through this and came out the other side care to share their experiences?... I don't like going down a rabbit hole blind

also would it be possib le for me to convince an institution to roll my post bacc into my masters program (aka add my years of post bacc to my masters, but enroll me as a masters student) so I can start immediately as a "degree seeking student" so a fellowship would pay me (all I know requiere you to be a degree seeking student" to get money

What schools do you want to go to? What is your idea of a safety school? Have you done any research, what do those professors have to say?

I'd kinda pick some schools you think you might want to go to and poke around at their program, department, and research they offer. . .

You might like one aspect of research / MechE / physics a lot and want to do work in that -- so look at schools to see who does research in that area and email those professors as a prospective graduate student. . .

Look at your local State U, and maybe some tech schools. . . VTech, etc. It really depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. . .
 
  • #7
One thing to be careful of is thermo. The physics way of learning stat mech and the engineering way of learning thermo are quite different (at least they were for me).
 
  • #8
slam7211 said:
Including all the math and basic physics? (calc diff equations gen phys 1/2)
edit and you are talking about transferring credits as an undergrad, or applying them for qualifications for starting a masters program?

Sorry, I should have specified. I was speaking in terms of undergraduate. My math courses transferred, and a couple social science and chemistry courses transferred. Not a single Physics credit was transferred. The Engineering Department at my school has their own physics courses designed to accommodate their program. I ended up repeating numerous concepts in mechanics and electromagnetism due to the apparent glitch in the system.

Furthermore, just today I was granted the ability to execute a dual degree in physics and electrical engineering, so I will be able to put those initial credits to use finally.
 
  • #9
Highway said:
What schools do you want to go to? What is your idea of a safety school? Have you done any research, what do those professors have to say?

I'd kinda pick some schools you think you might want to go to and poke around at their program, department, and research they offer. . .

You might like one aspect of research / MechE / physics a lot and want to do work in that -- so look at schools to see who does research in that area and email those professors as a prospective graduate student. . .

Look at your local State U, and maybe some tech schools. . . VTech, etc. It really depends on where you want to go and what you want to do. . .

Thank you for the advice, if you cannot tell, this has been a new(ish) decision I made about my future, so I'm sort of scrambling as I see the brick wall" of graduation speeding towards me, which is why my research into specifics is limited. so far where I want to go depends on a few things

1) money, the almighty dollar (may it burn right now):
I am already 25k in debt (which I know is good compared to some of my peers at my university, but I am worried about paying for post bacc, my adviser pointed me towards the SMART grant (DoD grant that offers full tuition remission for a 1:1 service agreement) The problem is that I need to be a "degree seeking student" aka enrolled in a masters or bachelors program progressing towards a degree post bacc doesn't count because its not technically considered degree seeking so I would need to pay for that. if that were the case State U here I come which isn't too bad but I would rather not have to go to debt.

The only way around this I can see is if I can convince a department to enroll me as a "degree seeking student" basically rolling whatever post bacc I need into my masters, in which case grants like the one above could be used to get money, is this possible? I know I would need to talk to individual depts but does it even sound feasible (idk why a university wouldn't help me out here considering all I am asking them to do is add a few requirements to my masters in exchange for my money)

otherwise Penn State here I come

as for what I want to do with my life I can see going into gov (defense) for a while then transferring to the private sector when the economy stops sucking, this seems sound (especially since I plan on selling my soul to them for a while anyway) does this seem sound. Also thank you all for helping me through a minor freakout here.
 

1. How different is the work environment for physicists compared to engineers?

The work environment for physicists and engineers can vary greatly depending on the specific field and industry. Overall, physicists tend to work in research labs or academic settings, while engineers often work in industries such as aerospace, construction, or technology. Engineers typically work in teams and have more hands-on projects, while physicists may work independently and focus more on theoretical concepts.

2. Are there skills or knowledge gaps that may need to be addressed when transitioning from physics to engineering?

While physics and engineering have some overlap in terms of mathematical and problem-solving skills, there may be certain technical knowledge gaps that need to be addressed when making the transition. For example, engineers may need to learn specific software programs or design techniques that are not typically taught in physics courses. However, the analytical and critical thinking skills gained from studying physics can be highly beneficial in the field of engineering.

3. Is it possible to pursue a career in both physics and engineering simultaneously?

Yes, it is possible to have a career that combines both physics and engineering. Some fields, such as materials science or biomedical engineering, require a strong understanding of both disciplines. Additionally, many engineers may have a background in physics and use their knowledge to develop innovative solutions to complex problems.

4. What are some challenges that may arise when transitioning from a purely theoretical focus in physics to a more practical focus in engineering?

One challenge that may arise is adjusting to a more team-oriented approach to problem solving. In physics, there is often a focus on individual research and theoretical concepts, whereas engineering projects typically require collaboration and hands-on experimentation. Another potential challenge is learning new technical skills and industry-specific knowledge, as mentioned earlier.

5. Can the skills and knowledge gained from studying physics be applied to other fields besides engineering?

Absolutely. The analytical and problem-solving skills developed through studying physics can be valuable in a wide range of fields beyond engineering, such as finance, data science, and computer programming. Physics also teaches critical thinking and adaptability, which are important skills in any career path.

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