1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Opinions on Engineering Physics vs. Pure Physics undergrad?

  1. Mar 3, 2013 #1
    Hello again PF,

    I now need to decide whether to pursue an engineering physics or pure physics degree for my undergrad, I've been accepted to both, but am unsure what would be the better fit for me.

    I obviously like the extra job security that an engineering degree would carry with it, but I'm worried that engineering physics won't be as "theoretical" as I like. I don't necessarily want to get into math like real analysis, but at the same time would still like to see derivations of equations, will an engineering physics degree still provide this problem solving basis or do they just throw equations at you?

    Also I would definitely like to go to grad school (for now anyways) afterwards, perhaps in medical physics or nuclear engineering, we'll see how I feel once the degree starts.

    Specifically these are some of the programs I'm looking at:
    http://registrar.mcmaster.ca/CALENDAR/2012-13/pg1615.html [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 6, 2017
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 5, 2013 #2
    You should take the same math and physics classes as the pure physics majors, just with engineering electives instead of quantum 2, e&m 2, etc.

    If you're willing to take five years to graduate, you could take all of the normal physics degree.
  4. Mar 5, 2013 #3
    You should know that with an engineering physics degree (at least the ones in Ontario you mentioned) you CAN become a Professional Engineer in Ontario. With a bachelors in pure physics you pretty much can't (would be very difficult). The engineering in the title will help you find employment much easier with just an undergraduate degree, at least in my experience. Since you said the main reason you want to take physics is for the derivations, you might see derivations in your physics courses but if you want more read the textbook or buy a more theory based textbook for fun over the summer.

    This is all from my experience as a 3rd year engineering student in Ontario, and knowing people in pure physics and engineering physics also in Ontario.
  5. Mar 5, 2013 #4


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor

    From what I understand, the first 2 years of the Engineering Science program at U of T is focused on taking basic courses in math, physics, chemistry, computer programming, statistics, and systems biology, along with an engineering design course in 2nd year. From the 3rd year on, if you decide to pursue the engineering physics option, you end up taking the same physics courses as those enrolled in a pure physics degree, which you can make as theoretical or as practical as you like.

    I'm not that familiar with the engineering physics program at McMaster, but from what I've read, that program is focused primarily on "applied" physics such as photonics/optics, mechatronics, nanotechnology, nuclear engineering, or some combination of the above areas.
  6. Mar 5, 2013 #5
    I am in the Engineering Physics option at UofT and I can assure you that you can take courses as theoretical as you'd like.

    The first two years are general and you learn a lot, and it is at the same level or higher than other engineers/physicists.

    In your upper years you can basically choose most of your own courses. I am currently taking in my final semester:

    Complex Variables (math department)
    Statistical Mechanics (physics department)
    Relativistic Electrodynamics (physics department)
    Radio and Wireless Communication Systems (Antennas) (electrical engineering department)

    You typically take a balance between engineering courses and upper division math/physics courses. If you want to take a lot of upper division math AND physics, then it would be best to go into a physics/math degree. However, I would only reccommend this if you wanted to do theory in grad school. For doing anything experimental or engineering related, engineering physics is great!
Know someone interested in this topic? Share this thread via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook