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Physics Physics major vs. mechanical engineer undergrad degree to become an engineer

  1. Apr 24, 2010 #1
    physics vs. mechanical engineering undergrad degree to become an engineer


    i am an intended mechanical engineering major (undergrad) since that's where i would like to end up professionally. i'm still relatively early on in my education, but upon taking physics i'm struck by how much more thorough my understanding is of concepts that we are touching on in my engineering classes like statics. i feel like i learn more theory in physics whereas classes like statics feel much more applied. for example, in statics we briefly touched on newton's laws and then cranked through problem after problem. even my statics book feels very thin on theory, but heavy on application as compared to my physics book.

    i'm a former biologist, so i'm used to more scientific theory. a healthy balance between that and lab/application. i'm wondering if i should investigate an undergrad degree in physics. many classes at my local university look parallel, but separate for engineering and physics majors in areas like mechanics, electrical, etc., but i'm thinking the physics classes will be more thorough in a way that i can appreciate. any advice? anyone do this? i don't want to extend my undergrad education out too far, because i'm getting a second baccalaureate degree and want to move on to graduate education at some point soon - thinking to do the mechanical at that point. just want to make sure i'm well-prepared.


    ps - i just realized i mistakingly posted this in the career guidance forum versus the academic one. sorry!
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 24, 2010 #2
    If you know you want to do engineering, definitely go with the engineering degree. It can be difficult to get back to engineering with a physics major. An ABET accredited undergrad engineering degree is required in the US if you want to become a certified Professional Engineer, for example. Many engineering grad programs even require an undergraduate degree in their field. If you have more interest in the physics classes you can try to take some as electives.

    My school had a very theoretical engineering focus. Schools vary in how theoretical they are. You may get more into pure calculus and differential equations based ME courses as you get into upper level and graduate courses. You'll still have the project and practical aspects too, of course.

    You may also want to consider taking pure math electives to complement your engineering. Depending on the classes, they can be more directly applicable to your engineering courses, and they can give you a more theoretical grounding. This will be especially important for grad school. Extra differential equations, probability, and numerical analysis are some applicable math courses (among others).
    Last edited: Apr 24, 2010
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