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Physics MSc EE vs PhD physics? (industry)

  1. Aug 22, 2008 #1
    First let me state I have absolutely no interest in going into academia as a career, just doesnt interest me. I am more interested in industry, not cause money, I dont want to be a professor.

    I plan on pursuing dual EE/physics major in undergrad, and plan to attend graduate school after. I would really enjoy being an engineer by profession, but i also love physics and really think it would be fun to do a PhD in condensed matter physics(superconductivity). I dont know if i want to get a masters in EE or a phd in physics.

    How are the industrial job prospects for physics phD's? if i had a phd in physics and a BS in EE would the BS be useful to my career, obviously i would have acquired more skills but will employers overlook the BS since i would have a phD? Or would it be advisable to dual major in say math/physics instead at undergrad if EE wont aid my phD industry career?

    Any other input in this regard would be greatly appreciated too :D
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 22, 2008 #2
    An EE BS would make you gold for a physics Ph.D. People love it when you know electronics.
  4. Aug 22, 2008 #3
    what types of industrial possitions could one with a phd in physics go into? im assuming i would work closely with engineers possibly sharing projects etc.
  5. Aug 22, 2008 #4


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    A BS in EE will not prepare you for graduate study in physics. A BS in physics will not prepare you for graduate study in EE. Nearly all jobs for physicists require a PhD, but very few EE jobs require one. A PhD in physics is useless for EE jobs, and you won't be able to get a job in any kind of physics with a PhD in EE. They're extremely different degrees, with almost no overlap in terms of graduate study and employment opportunity.

    - Warren
  6. Aug 22, 2008 #5
    i have no intention of getting a phd in EE, if i decided to go engineering i would get a masters. the phd is if i decide to go physics. like i said i plan to dual major physics/EE in undergrad. after completion i believe i will be prepared enough for graduate work in either field. i dont think you read my post..

    I am not trying to get an engineering job with physics degree and not trying to get a physics job with a EE degree.

    Basically what im asking is, are there plentiful jobs for physics phd's in industry? (but i guess academia is the one without room for phd's) how do they compare?
    also would the BS in EE be useful to me if i had the phd in physics? not so i can be an EE but possibly a better job in R&D etc.
    What kind of doors in industry would a phd in physics open to me
  7. Aug 22, 2008 #6
    Incorrect. It depends entirely on your concentration and there can be a lot of overlap. For example I was just looking at a position close to my school at http://www.uni-solar.com/uploadedFiles/Research%20Scientist%20%20%206-08.pdf" [Broken] that requires a PhD in Physical Sciences or Electrical Engineering.

    My 2 cents, since you want only a job in industry then get your PhD in engineering. Engineering is another word for physics in the real world. If you want a better idea of what kind of jobs you can get then just go on Monster.com and do a search. You will see they are almost all R&D related.
    Last edited by a moderator: May 3, 2017
  8. Aug 25, 2008 #7


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    When I started graduate school in EE there were a small group of BS Physics students in the mix. The U. had put them all through a fast six week EE prep program in the summer preceding the start of the traditional EE graduate work. They all did fine IRC. I had a small edge on them in EE background at the start but that quickly decayed to zip. I've been told that crossing over the other way, BS engineering to grad school physics, is much more difficult.
  9. Aug 25, 2008 #8
    He's getting a dual physics/EE BS. In that sense an EE degree will go a LONG way to help his physics Ph.D. studies, since he'll know a lot about electronics and will be able to significantly contribute to a given experiment, providing it's not something like the LHC.
  10. Aug 26, 2008 #9
    You should try to lose the mindset of just obtaining degrees because they could help you out in various theoretical situations. Just take some time, find out what you are truly interested in, and pursue that. When you're younger and not actually engaged in the degrees it sounds great to just pile them on so you're covering every situation, but that's not realistic.

    Unless you have very specific interests, I don't see an EE/Physics degree being useful. Well, not worth the effort, in my opinion. You could just take some electronics courses as a physics student if you want to know about electronics. An EE degree is not just a degree in electronics. If you are interested in EE, then take some physics courses as electives.

    People sometimes think piling on degrees horizontally (i.e. 50 bachelor's degrees) will make them more competitive. It might, but it will also make you 60 years old with no work experience and behind a 23 year old with a BS and a year of experience in his field.
  11. Aug 26, 2008 #10
    How are job prospects for physics ph'ds in industry relative to academia?

    Anyone here completed an engineering and physics degree concurrently? My true interest would probably be physics in terms of learning the subject; however, I am unsure of what kind of industrial career i would get. If i decide to go physics i am particularly interested in condensed matter physics, i want research superconductors in particular. I love physics but for a career i am torn between engineering and physics. To be honest i am quite sure i would be happy with either career in the long run
    Last edited: Aug 26, 2008
  12. Aug 26, 2008 #11
    Do they not offer an Engineering Physics degree at the institution you'll be attending? I thought such majors were common nowadays... I would be very hesitant about double-majoring in EE and physics. It will take you a *long* time to graduate, and if you then plan to go to grad school you'll be very old and very poor by the time you finish. Odds are the in grad school, you'll end up using little-to-none of one degree or the other, so I wouldn't double-major for the purposes of boosting grad school. It can be worth doing for its own sake, but you can easily take enough electives in undergrad and in grad school to fill in whatever gaps you may have from a single degree. Similarly, many EE programs allow/require specialization within EE, and so allow you to skew the degree towards physics if you wish (semiconductor physics, say, or E&M).

    If you go to the right place, there's every possibility that you can do a PhD in condensed matter physics/superconductivity in an EE department. Hopefully some actual condensed matter physicists can give you a better idea...

    Not clear on why you are comparing apples to oranges here. Why not get a PhD in EE, or a master's in Physics? It's true that there are more jobs at the MS level in engineering, but that doesn't mean that those jobs are comparable to the PhD Physics jobs. And there are probably as many PhD engineering jobs as there are PhD Physics jobs in the private sector; it's just the the engineering ones make up a much smaller portion of the total than the physics ones do.

    You're always considered to "be" whatever degree you got most recently. It would be more about what relevant skills you could claim to have acquired. Electronics is a good one, as people have mentioned, but a BSEE doesn't necessarily guarantee that you're good with electronics in any practical sense.
  13. Aug 26, 2008 #12
    If i could get a phd in EE while researching condensed matter physics i think i would probably do that. I will inquire at the university i plan to attend, thanks for the idea :).
  14. Aug 26, 2008 #13


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    If you haven't even started university yet, it's difficult to know exactly what you want to do. Pursuing a graduate degree means that you will be "in academia" for an extended period of time, regardless of whether you want to stay there.

    There are lots of opportunities available outside of the academic environment for both electrical engineers and physicists. Physics, however, is not considered a "profession" , the way engineering is, so you won't often see adds that specifically seek physicists the way you will see them for engineers. What matters are the marketable skills you develop during your education.

    Something else to consider as well, is that in the many years it will take you to earn a graduate degree, the world will change. Consider that the Ph.D. graduates of today (2008) began their post-secondary education roughly 10 years ago (assuming BSc 4 yrs, MSc. 2 years, PhD 4 years). That was before the ".com" bubble burst, before Sept. 11, before Facebook and Youtube and Google, before flat screen televisions and cable-based internet, before global warming was part of the average person's vocabulary, before oil hit $100/barrel... you get the picture.
  15. Aug 26, 2008 #14

    Andy Resnick

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    The overwhelming number of industry engineers I know, who actually do engineering instead of managerial work, have BS degrees. A MS in engineering is a plus, sure. A PE is somewhat useful as well.

    In my experience, the industrial prospects for physics PhDs is to lead engineering teams. Often, this means the PhD moves into a management slot.
  16. Aug 26, 2008 #15
    What does a management slot look like in terms of day to day work? Just pushing paper? Begging for more funding?
  17. Aug 26, 2008 #16
    It depends on the industry, and the company. In sectors that are not research-intensive, it's more administrative. In sectors that ARE research-intensive (communications technology, say), the managerial work is still very hands-on and technical, at least at the lower and mid levels. It is still very much technical engineering work, although you do more meetings than actual hands-on lab work. It also varies from company to company, depending on their focus and culture. The telltale sign of a place where you'll be doing meaty technical work for a while as a PhD is when they don't hire engineering positions below the PhD level. It also varies by the exact department; the R&D department will obviously be the most technical; if you go into standards or legal stuff it can get pretty dry pretty fast. Lastly, it also varies by how long you've worked. The mid-level management is more about paper-pushing and angling for cash; the lower-level management jobs are more of a transition from low-level technical work to high-level conception and execution of projects.

    But be prepared for the prospect that by the time you've finished a PhD and worked for a couple of years, you may be old enough and bored enough with (what you will come to see as) low-level work that managing a team on an R&D project will be exactly what you want to do. There's a tendency to exaggerate the differences between "the technical people" and "management" which can be taken too far. While there's definitely a huge gap between a CEO and a new science/engineering grad, the boundaries between the high-level "technical" people and the low-level "management" people are usually pretty indistinct.
  18. Aug 27, 2008 #17
    Do you have any industrial experience at all? Engineers are in a huge demand right now, and will be in the future especially with fewer engineer graduates every year. I know a VERY few engineers in industry that actually practice engineering with just a BS degree, its almost unheard of. An MS is a HUGE plus, its pretty much required if you want to do any actual engineering, and a PE license is EXTREMELY useful and can add quite a bit to your paycheck although it has disadvantages as well.

    I've never met a manager with a PhD. True if you have one, you are more likely to lead an engineering team but 98% of the time in industry that is done by moron bean counters. In industry the guys with the PhDs typically are the ones conducting the research and development and have to deal with management BS on an hourly basis. 6 sigma, 5-s, all that garbage. If you want to be a manager, then get your MBA.
  19. Aug 27, 2008 #18

    Andy Resnick

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    Yes, I do (did?) have industrial experience. I carefully pointed out that my comments were based on my personal experience.
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