Do you think having an MSEE will be useful in getting into a very good Physics PhD program?
Compared to what?
I think what Vanadium is alluding to is that, it sounds rather strange to get a non-physics degree so that one can do a Physics PhD program. It isn't impossible, but one would think that getting a physics degree with be a major advantage to get into a "very good Physics PhD program".
Sure it does. I went for BS Physics at a state school and it was really tough finding a job after that. So I am going back for my masters in electrical engineering to increase my employability. However, I think I would like to teach physics at the college level after I work in industry. Wondering if having an MSEE from a good school would help me get into a better program than I would have with just a BSEE from a mediocre school.
Okay, so you have a BS in Physics, so you are prepared for grad school. The MSEE is probably a bonus, but not that strong of one. It shows you can handle graduate work, but it doesn't show you can handle it in physics. There are parts of experimental physics where an understanding of EE will help, but I don't think this will cause the admissions committee to jump on top of someone with an MSEE.
Also don't forget, you probably can't apply for a professional engineers license without a bachelor of engineering, even if you have a masters. Check out the rules for where you live. I doubt that means you can't become an engineer on it, but perhaps someone with more knowledge could shed some light on this?
Having a master's in engineering will probably do the two things you are looking at:
Help you get a decent industrial / national lab position. Personally, I'd try to get into a master's program where you can do a master's with thesis option under the supervision of someone who is adjunct faculty and primary staff at a national lab. For example: when I got my master's in electro-optics (a joint program between EE and Physics), I worked at the Air Force Research Labs... I should have stayed there for a while before going to grad school in physics. The money and work was good.
But, especially if you haven't had prior research experience (I did, but I'm sure more didn't hurt), getting a master's with thesis option will give you a chance to get what (as a former member of a selection committee to a graduate program) the committee often deems most important: recommendation letters and a personal statement emphasizing research experience. In our committee, this factor was highly weighted in the scoring routine that we used to select new grad students to the program, although GRE's, grades, etc, factor in as well. Make sure your master's GPA is as good as you can have it (mine was a 4.0), and that the program is good as you can get into. And study for the GRE (my gre, was, I admit, pretty hideous, but I still managed, with my background, to get into one of the top-ranked programs in my field).
Having a similar background makes me perhaps more optimistic than others here. Of course, make sure that you aren't burned out of school before your PhD program. Expect it to still take at least 5 years... since you'll have to take the core classes (an EE master's program will probably only get you out of electives). I was a bit burned out by the time I got to grad school, so I didn't pick the best project (I picked the adviser with the Hawaiian shirt ). That isn't always best (publications out of our group were slim). Still, as a lecturer at the college level, and via the support of my department, starting some research program of my own, albeit relatively unfunded), I'm now doing what I'd like to do -- teaching (just not getting paid much, as educators rarely are)!
See, now that's different. It would help if you describe your full situation rather than just snippets of it, which doesn't allow us to give you a more complete assessment.
Any additional level of knowledge helps. And this includes working experience. Your application to get into physics grad school is based on your undergraduate degree, and anything beyond that can only enhance your application.
Fortunately most EE jobs don't require a license. I know of nobody with an EE degree that graduated with me that felt like they had to take the PE exam.
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