Physics degree or Engineering Physics degree for space?

In summary, Next year is the final year of high school for the speaker and they have been thinking about their future. They did well in math and physics this year and have a decent grade in chemistry. They are considering going into a physics or engineering program, specifically wanting to contribute to space research and technology. They are unsure about the best path to take and are wondering if a doctorate or master's degree would be better for their goals. They are also unsure about the processes of universities and how post-secondary education works. They are interested in researching space travel and related topics, but are unsure about what degree to pursue. They mention engineering physics and physics, but are also interested in other degrees related to space industry. They are a fan of
  • #1
TheDuncster94
6
0
Next year is my final year in high school, and, rightly so, I've been thinking more and more about my future. This year I finished with high marks in math and physics, and a decent grade in chemistry. I know it is presumptuous to assume that I would certainly get into either a Physics program or an Engineering program, but let's just theoretically say that I aced grade 12 with outstanding marks and got accepted.

Now I really don't know what to do. My goal is to contribute to science in the "best" way I can, more specifically space research and technology. I know it is way too early to plan out my entire life, but what would be best if I wanted to work on say, spaceflight or anything in general to do with the universe? A Doctorate or a Masters? I still don't fully understand the processes of universities and how post-secondary education "works", and I know I have to figure this out sometime.

I want to research further into space travel and related topics, yet I don't exactly know what education path I should be going towards. Engineering physics and physics aren't even fully related to the space industry, however they are the only somewhat similar degrees my prospective university offers. Aero/Astronautical engineering would have been my first choice, but again, it is not offered in any of the faculties. Maybe astrophysics? I want to design space related equipment or structures, yet I also want to research it too. I don't even know if you can research designs. Can I get a degree in engineering physics and then get a masters or PhD in some specific branch of astronautical engineering, or something related?

In short, I really want to do something with space. Anything really. I'm a huge sci-fi fan and I've been captivated from a young age by the extraordinary beauty and size of the universe. I want to contribute to the expansion of humanity through space technologies in any way I can.

Again, I know life never really turns out the way you originally plan, but it's always good to have a discernible goal amongst the doubts and worries.

Thanks in advance for any and all offered help.

PS - I'm new here so I probably posted this in the wrong forum, forgive me if I did.
 
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  • #2
TheDuncster94 said:
In short, I really want to do something with space. Anything really. I'm a huge sci-fi fan and I've been captivated from a young age by the extraordinary beauty and size of the universe. I want to contribute to the expansion of humanity through space technologies in any way I can.

Again, I know life never really turns out the way you originally plan, but it's always good to have a discernible goal amongst the doubts and worries.

Thanks in advance for any and all offered help.

PS - I'm new here so I probably posted this in the wrong forum, forgive me if I did.

The best way you can contribute to space technologies is to find the technical area you are passionate about (you can't know that yet, you'll have to take some classes first) and do the best you can at it. Try your best to get internships with organizations (university, NASA, or defense contractors) that do work for the space program. By Space Program, I just mean one of any number of programs involving satellites or space science. Then just go after it!

In my opinion it will be easier for you to get where you want to go if you study an engineering discipline. There are roles to play for aeronautical engineers, mechanical engineers, and electrical engineers. There are also roles for physicists but in my experience the competition is tougher for those guys and gals.

For the record, I have a Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering and I have worked on several space related projects over the years (although I don't work exclusively for any kind of space program).

So, study hard, keep your options open, meet as many people as possible, and good luck!

Carl
 
  • #3
The course requirements for physics vs. engineering physics are very very similar for the first 1.5 to 2 years. So, you don't have decide between the two right away. Take you time, talk to professors and see if you can get contacts in the areas you're interested in.

Sounds like you're on track to be successful, regardless of what you choose. Best of luck to you!
 
  • #4
Thanks for the replies!
 
  • #5
I'm not familiar with "Engineering Physics" degrees but as to the general question of 'engineering vs physics' I would say it comes down to how much education you are prepared to invest in yourself. There isn't a lot you can do with a Physics degree alone, but if you're going to continue through grad school that could set you up to do the space-related stuff you are really interested in.

One important aspect to consider in making this decision is how much effort and risk you are willing to take in pursuing exactly what you want to do as opposed to something related to things you find interesting. An engineering degree isn't easy to get, but neither is a physics degree. To do either you have to be very smart. However, if you are smart enough to do either, an engineering degree will set you up for more of a 'safe bet' career. With an engineering degree you will have a lot of options. It'll still be hard to find a job doing exactly what you want to do, but with the engineering degree you can always fall back on doing something that is at least interesting. On the other hand if you do physics, if you are prepared to continue on with the schooling and get your PhD, there is greater potential in that you might get a great job doing research at a university or with NASA, but there is also greater risk, because those jobs aren't as abundant as engineering jobs.

Whichever choice you make if I may speak from my own experience here you are being very smart for thinking about this at the stage you are at now. Having a plan and following through with it is important. You still have plenty of time to change your mind, but it's promising to hear you are giving it this much thought this early on. That leads me to believe you'll do well for yourself regardless of which option you go for.
 
  • #6
TheDuncster94 said:
I don't even know if you can research designs.

You absolutely can! It is what I do for a living and it is incredibly interesting! I'm one of the few people I know from my high school who truly likes his job, and sometimes I just leap out of bed to get to work!

You are about a lightyear ahead of where I was at your stage! Good job! I predict you will be very successful, because you already have the right attitude and mindset.
 
  • #7
Thanks for all the help so far :) You're all giving me great insight.
 
  • #8
carlgrace said:
You absolutely can! It is what I do for a living and it is incredibly interesting! I'm one of the few people I know from my high school who truly likes his job, and sometimes I just leap out of bed to get to work!

You are about a lightyear ahead of where I was at your stage! Good job! I predict you will be very successful, because you already have the right attitude and mindset.

So is that kind of like Research & Development? Or is it something different all together?
 

Related to Physics degree or Engineering Physics degree for space?

1. What is the difference between a Physics degree and an Engineering Physics degree for space?

A Physics degree focuses on the fundamental laws and principles of the universe, while an Engineering Physics degree combines physics concepts with engineering principles to solve real-world problems.

2. Which degree would be more beneficial for a career in space exploration?

Both degrees can lead to a career in space exploration, but an Engineering Physics degree may be more beneficial as it provides a stronger foundation in engineering principles, which are crucial in the design and development of spacecraft and other space technologies.

3. Are there any specific courses or concentrations within these degrees that focus on space?

Some universities offer specific courses or concentrations within a Physics or Engineering Physics degree that focus on space-related topics such as astrophysics, space instrumentation, or spacecraft design. It is important to research the curriculum of each program to determine which one aligns more with your interests and career goals.

4. Can these degrees lead to a career as an astronaut?

While a degree in Physics or Engineering Physics can provide a strong foundation for a career in space, becoming an astronaut also requires additional qualifications such as physical fitness, military experience, and specialized training. However, many astronauts do have a background in either physics or engineering.

5. Are internships or hands-on experiences included in these degrees for space-related industries?

Many universities offer opportunities for internships, co-ops, or research projects within space-related industries for students pursuing a degree in Physics or Engineering Physics. These experiences can provide valuable hands-on experience and connections in the field, making graduates more competitive for jobs in the space industry.

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