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Masters in Engineering after Bachelors in Physics?

  1. Aug 14, 2007 #1
    I'll be finished my BS in mathematical physics next spring, and have been thinking about what to do after. One idea I came up with was to do a masters in Engineering (probably mechanical, aerospace, or electrical). Does anyone have any information on if this is doable? Will I have sufficient background, or will I end up taking a couple of years of catch-up courses? Would there be any special requirements to make the transfer?
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 14, 2007 #2
    Well to do post graduate engineering universities require you to have equivalent to a BEng. Some universites(like polytechnical) accept the credit acquired from courses in physics. In order for one to be an engineer he/she has to give a Professional engineering examination(No matter which engineering field you are in).

    I am assuming you are doing physical sciences. If so you have to consult your Academic advisor. He or she can better direct you the required courses.
  4. Aug 15, 2007 #3
    It depends what area of mathematical physics you've focused on as an undergraduate. If you've taken a lot of thermal physics go mechanical, a lot of fluid physics go aerospace, I can't comment on electrical. However, don't feel obligated to get a masters in engineering for career purposes, physicist can hold most of the same jobs as an engineer (you can get your PE licensure too).
  5. Aug 15, 2007 #4


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    You have to be a bit careful with that statement. It depends on the state in which you live and would be licensed. Also, one needs the required time as a practicing engineer to sit for the PE exam.

    From the Society of Professional Engineer's web site:
    You can look up a lot of licensure information for you state here:
    http://www.ncees.org/licensure/licensing_boards/ [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  6. Aug 15, 2007 #5
    Yes, it is doable. Just make sure your grades are high. You will (more than likely) have to take some undergrad courses if you are admitted, not a couple of years worth though. If you have time you can probably take some engineering courses in your last couple of semesters at your current school. It should hopefully prevent you from having to take them again and also give you a better idea of what you really want to do.

    Consult the webpages of schools you're looking to apply to and see what they say. Also visit an engineering advisor at your current school and ask what courses would be good to take now.

    Good luck
  7. Aug 21, 2007 #6
    You can certainly enter a graduate program in engineering. Just be aware that the research you will do will be highly focused and thus, you cannot qualify as a practising engineer, because you lack the requisite broad background taken by undergrad engineering majors.
  8. Sep 20, 2007 #7
    Would a BS in Physics plus an MSEE plus experience allow one the get the type of electronics engineering job that would normally require a BSEE (understanding that it precludes one from becoming a professional engineer and doing the things which require it)?
  9. Sep 21, 2007 #8
    There are two reasons a recruiter wants engineers:

    1) Someone told them to get one and they don't know any better,
    2) They need a PE for the job, usually for legal reasons,
    3) Both.

    All 3 are very common. In the first case you'll have to convince them your masters prepares you for the job. You'll also have to convince them they'd rather have you than one of the other large numbers of EE's getting their BS. It's my experience that the people doing the hiring have a very specific list they'd rather not stray from - it'll get filed by someone else long before they consider you for it. Strong networking skills would help alleviate this problem. In the second case you could be out of luck.

    You need to ask yourself what a masters really brings to a private engineering firm, and then convince them it makes up for not having a BS. That's tricky business.

    On a personal note: I'm looking for a job now. It's easy to get engineer envy when you look at all the people who want to employ them. Take a second look at most of the jobs they're offering though. 90% of entry level engineering jobs are ones I wouldn't take a second look at anyways. Sometimes I forget there was a good reason I switched degrees, long long ago.
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2007
  10. Sep 22, 2007 #9
    These are my feelings exactly. I want to continue doing R&D work that is both physics and electronics related. I have already had an entry level position, and jobs that seem to most strictly require an ABET-accredited BSEE are the ones I am least likely to want. I have decided that an MSEE can supplement my BS in Physics well to continue in this line of work, and have accepted the facts that I will never be a PE and probably always run into people who take offense at having a coworker who "didn't pay his dues."

    That being said, I think the importance of a network and relevant experience are often understated. If the network doesn't come through though, you're on your own. The questions will remain:
    1) Will you make the cut made by the HR person (or parser script) looking for the letters "BSEE" in a resume? I think that for R&D jobs requesting a "BSEE or equivalent" a BS in Physics has a very small chance of making it through depending on experience and relevant coursework, and a BS Physics plus MSEE has a much better chance. What about for "BSEE required, MSEE preferred" or "MSEE required"? I would think at that level that experience is even more important. Again, the more the job seems amenable to an applicant with a physics background, the more you would be likely to want it.
    2) Assuming you make the cut, will the hiring manager balk at the sight of a BS Physics despite your MSEE? I would think at that point that experience and graduate coursework would matter the most for experienced positions, and where they don't you probably wouldn't want to be hired anyway.
    3) Can you make it through the interview? I think only you can answer this question. I use two methods for doing this. I like to look through college catalogs to see what courses I have missed from a BSEE, check out the textbooks and lecture notes and decide if I know the material, and use that to determine which other classes to take, books to read, or projects to undertake. I also like to look at job requirements by talking to people or looking at postings and see what knowledge is needed for the type of work I am interested in. These methods work not just for getting jobs but also for personal education in general. Actually caring about knowledge versus credentials is what matters once you make it to this stage.

    So those are my thoughts. I think the short story is that with a BS in Physics you are "able to do anything, trained to do nothing," and you will constantly have to prove your abilities through experience and relevant coursework. I think an MSEE goes a long way towards this. You may never be a PE or a "real engineer," but you will probably be employed.
    Last edited: Sep 22, 2007
  11. Sep 22, 2007 #10
    I have a friend who got his BS in physics, but didn't like physics in graduate school. He is now working on EE in grad school. It's definitely possible.

    The department made him take a few mid-level EE classes like electronics (op-amps, transistors, logic, etc), an introductory signals course, and a few design classes.

    I think a BS in Physics is a great stepping stone for EE work in graduate school. You might be at a disadvantage in some fields, but with a few intro EE courses, you'll be caught up. The biggest problem will be that you have very little design experience. Since you guys did not have to do the mandatory senior capstone project, you have not worked on a large engineering design with a team. I'm sure you could work that detail out within your respective department.

    There are a lot of EE fields that having a strong background in physics will be extremely helpful. You might consider going into one of those fields so you are not stuck with having to take a large amount of undergraduate EE classes.
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