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Engineering Physics bachelors to Engineering masters

  1. Jun 15, 2017 #1
    Can one do a physics bachelor's degree and carry on to pursue a master's in engineering? I was wondering if this would be a feasible and practical route.. I understand that I'd probably have to take a couple of extra engineering classes here and there but was thinking it probably wouldn't be several years worth of catching up since I am a physics major anyway; so it's not something so wild like jumping from an art degree to engineering
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  3. Jun 16, 2017 #2


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    My experience is that most engineering departments would want you to take a couple of years of undergraduate engineering classes before they will talk to you.
  4. Jun 16, 2017 #3
    My experience is that needing a couple of years of catchup is overkill, they will want you to take a few undergrad courses more related to your focus area before you move on to graduate level engineering though.
  5. Jun 16, 2017 #4


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    Many of our physics majors go on to do a master's in engineering. IIRC they usually take two years to finish it, maybe 2.5.
  6. Jun 16, 2017 #5
    Actually I took this route: bachelor's degree in physics and master's degree in electrical and electronics engineering. They did not require me to take all the courses to catch up with the curriculum; however, my research was based on plasmonics (a sub-field of optics). Thus most of the work I did was closely related to physics. Through my study I learned programming in Matlab and some signal analysis stuff.
  7. Jun 16, 2017 #6


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    That's good to know. I am happy that there may be more options for the OP. I went from a PhD in pure math to Industrial Engineering (Operations Research oriented). They were the only engineering department that seemed interested in me. It was the best move I ever made.
  8. Jun 16, 2017 #7
    I suspect that much will depend on the particular engineering degree the OP wants to pursue. If he were to want to go into mechanical engineering design or thermal machinery, I think that there would be a whole lot of junior and senior level undergraduate courses required just to have the necessary background to understand the graduate courses.
  9. Jun 16, 2017 #8
    Long ago, when I was in graduate school, there was a fellow with an MA in Math who came into the OR graduate program (which happened to be in the ME department). He did very well, and I think he finished a PhD in OR, but I've lost track of him.
  10. Jun 16, 2017 #9

    George Jones

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    After doing a bachelor's in physics and a master's in abstract theoretical physics (group theory, abstract associative algebras), my wife did a master's in materials science engineering at a good Canadian school (University of Toronto). She did not have to take very many (if any) remedial courses.
  11. Jun 16, 2017 #10


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    The amount of remedial work you need depends so much on the school it is hard for any of us to give advice.

    At my graduate school a friend of mine had a physics BS and took the equivalent of a semester's worth of remedial undergraduate engineering classes to catch up. Your experience may vary.
  12. Jun 16, 2017 #11
    OP is a she, just fyi lol. 'nyways, mechanical eng is what i've been considering, but that can of course change. Nothing too definite as of yet, just trying to see what options i have after finishing my bachelor's..
  13. Jun 17, 2017 #12

    Dr. Courtney

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    Shoot, I had to take a year of undergrad Physics courses to go from a BS Physics at LSU to grad school in Physics at MIT. The department did not require it, but the step up in rigor from LSU to MIT made it a good choice, and I would have been swamped in the grad Physics courses at MIT without the extra year of undergrad courses.

    But I suspect it depends a lot on the rigor of the coursework in the grad program and how heavily it depends on undergrad engineering coursework that is not similar to what the physics major got. I expect that there are plenty of Masters programs in engineering out there where a graduate of a rigorous Physics BS program could do very well without taking any (or many) undergrad engineering courses.
  14. Jun 17, 2017 #13
    Perhaps you should clarify what year you are in now. Many physics majors often take a number of elective courses in a minor concentration anyway (even if it doesn't fulfill requirements for an official minor degree): math, EE, and CS are common. I took a heavy dose of materials science and engineering courses, since I planned to concentrate on solid-state physics; I could have easily switched to a MS materials science and engineering program if I had wanted to. Unless you're a senior, fill up your electives with ME courses, if that's what you're interested in pursuing.
  15. Jun 18, 2017 #14
    Great info, thanks a lot! I'm in a junior college right now but will be transferring soon, so I have time to fill up my electives once i transfer
  16. Jun 22, 2017 #15
    Also note that some engineering programs have engineering physics or physics sub specialties. I am getting a EE masters from a physics bachelors. Because I am doing solid state device physics, the only overhead I have to deal with is taking a couple courses outside of device physics in circuits and signal processing.
  17. Nov 10, 2018 #16


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    The vast majority of master's programs in engineering are not ABET accredited, even if the undergraduate is. Keep that in mind. You will be getting an advanced engineering degree that is not ABET accredited.

    Anyway, you're a female. You don't need an advanced degree or a degree in engineering. Companies will hire you as an engineer with a physics degree, even though it's not an ABET accredited degree, because you're a woman. A girl I know graduated with a physics degree from my school and was hired by Raytheon as an engineer. She currently makes more money than I probably ever will in my life.

    I would just apply to jobs in engineering and receive job training rather than going to school. You can return to school after you're hired and get a fat promotion.
    Last edited: Nov 10, 2018
  18. Nov 11, 2018 #17
    There's loads of engineering work that doesn't require a 4 year ABET accredited engineering degree, this is why contractors like Raytheon, Lockheed, and Boeing will hire physics and math majors to fill those roles if they have close enough experience (diversity initiatives aside, they probably didn't let your classmate slip through just because she's a woman); physics majors are more than suited to work as systems engineers, some forms of software engineers, as well as modeling and simulation engineers.
  19. Nov 12, 2018 #18


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    You're probably right. I was being bitter. She had a lot more experience in MATLAB than I do and still does. I'm now taking Python classes to try and learn some computer skills. Simulations and modeling aren't taught in the physics curriculum, as far as I know, and there is only one physics class related to programming in MATLAB. I would feel unqualified if I were to apply for a position as a software engineer or a modeling/simulation engineer. She somehow taught herself all of that stuff. She is some kind of genius lady. I still don't know how to do that stuff, but I like to use Python for data analysis. It's a million times faster than Excel. I don't know why I wasted my time learning Excel. I can do so much more with Python, and it's so much faster.

    I applied to Raytheon a bunch of times, but I don't think my experience is a good fit for any of there positions. Sometimes I wonder whether being a woman would make a difference. Maybe, but probably not. It was a dumb thing to say. I have also been considering an engineering masters in hopes of getting a job in R&D. My friend was trying to convince me to do a bachelors instead, because the master's programs aren't ABET accredited. He told me he did a masters in industrial engineering and had a hard time finding a job because of that. I don't know if that's true. I can't afford another undergraduate degree, anyway.

    I've spoken with an electrical engineering department about their masters program. They told me that I would not have to take remedial classes but I could if I wanted to. However, at my school, I know someone who pursued an MS in chemical engineering with a biochemistry BS and had to take a year of remedial courses. Maybe it depends on the school and the amount of overlap between the two subjects.
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2018
  20. Nov 13, 2018 #19
    I work in R&D and unless it's in a report I've found higher ups like data simplified to the point where they put it into a spreadsheet, lol.

    Python, MATLAB, and Excel are all good skills to know and to put on your resume.

    There's physics programs where the classes are geared towards a more computational bent, there's also some programs where they have dedicated classes in computational physics (so numerical linear algebra, solutions of PDE's, etc). I did undergrad research in physics so I had some limited experience programming in Python and used it for running fairly basic simulations and for reducing and analyzing data, learned basic Linux through Ubuntu as well; I also did some online coursework in MATLAB on coursera where they had you do projects and you could get a certificate and put it on your LinkedIn.

    I have friends who work in the same environment as me and one works as a Test Engineer for munitions and other systems with 'only' a BS in physics (with internships at a national lab and a private company) and the other works dual roles as a Modeling and Simulation Engineer and a Test Engineer with 'only' a BS and an MS in physics (also had research experience); both my friends are doing graduate work in engineering as they work too.

    My situation is a little different as I double majored in physics and electrical engineering (so having the engineering name in there was useful for jobs but I do have a wide bit of experience) I learned most of the Finite Element Analysis and other numerical techniques like Finite Difference and others I use at work mostly actually at work and it's been working out so far. There's certainly loads of ways to teach yourself the skills you need to get and keep jobs, learning shouldn't stop when college does.

    I know one math major who did a masters in Electrical engineering and now works for Intel on something semiconductor related, actually one of my old supervisors who was doing her physics PhD at the time also ended up working in Intel as a fabrication engineer if I remember correctly.

    I think there's a difference between a science that's more removed from the engineering side of things like BioChem would have a harder time than a Physics or a Math major doing an engineering program. Depending on how good your physics actually is you'd probably be able to make relatively easy work of alot of the MS coursework in an EE department (which I think an ABET accredited MS is the better option vs a 2nd bachelors). E&M from a physics department at the level of Griffiths is harder than the E&M the EE undergrads take so I think you'd do well in that area, but the EE undergrads know alot more circuits than a physics undergrad so I could see you probably take a class or two like Signal Analysis and Electronics to brush up and you could go from there.

    Hope my experience could give you some perspective on thing that are possible, best of luck.
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