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!

Physics Physics or engineering? Going into university this fall and still unsure

  1. Aug 15, 2016 #1
    So I will be entering my big state U in two weeks as a freshman. I have down physics as my major because I have such a passion for the sciences and math however I am very torn if this is a right choice. I applied to my schools engineering school for the spring semester yet look through job postings on my local area, Mechanical Engineering jobs do not seem very intriguing (After receiving a scholarship a lady gave me a card for an internship at a place that makes screws-not very science driven career I always thought I would be in). I feel as though I would love doing research or at least pursuing a career that was strongly science driven. Should I get a bs in physics and then a ms in mechanical engineering ? Or just go straight into a bs in engineering . I gave the first option that way I can get my science fix during school but then get the masters for job prospect reasons. Any advice on what I should do? I feel as though the life as an engineer isn't as exciting as most people expect them to be.
  2. jcsd
  3. Aug 15, 2016 #2
    Do physics. Career in medical physics.
  4. Aug 16, 2016 #3


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    Why? Without an explanation, we might as well advice the OP to become a baker or a sociologist.

    To the OP: I think engineers do a lot more than supervising screw production, which could already be a non-trivial process by itself. Especially if you continue for an advanced degree (such as a PhD) in engineering, I am sure you will be able to get your "science fix" as well. More in particular, I believe that the main difference between the two professions is that a scientist mostly analyzes while an engineer mostly synthesizes, but of course lots of people do both. (In my opinion, this combination is also the most interesting.)
  5. Aug 16, 2016 #4
    Thanks for the reply. So are you saying go for engineering? I honestly love the advantages physics will give me at the undergraduate level even if I such as teaching me how to think and gaining research skills and then getting a master's in engineering. That way I can learn the "why" in physics and the "how" in engineering. And also it supports your claim about an advance degree in engineering will give me my science fix. Do you think a bs physics and ms engineering would suffice? My university's engineering grad school accepts physics majors. Thank you again for reading !
  6. Aug 16, 2016 #5


    User Avatar
    Education Advisor
    Gold Member

    Truthfully, it really won't matter for your first two years as both programs probably have nearly identical freshman and sophomore class requirements. In your sophomore year, you can re-evaluate your options. I really liked physics, but I ended up becoming an EE, but truthfully, I was not academically inclined enough to succeed as a physics major. A graduating Engineering major can get work even with a less than stellar GPA. A physics graduate??? Well, they need a 3+ GPA to even think about graduate school, and if they enter the work force with a BS in Physics (and a mediocre GPA), they often struggle just to get that FIRST job. You can read about the difficulties the Physics degreed graduate with a low GPA has on this website as well as others (although, I wouldn't be to heavily discouraged, just forewarned).
    And getting a low grade here or there is an almost certainty for many STEM majors. Everyone seems to have that one semester where they took to many rough courses (often called weed out classes) that test a person's resolve to stay at it. Your love of physics might help you to remain a physics major or an internship or other event may steer you onto engineering or even some other profession. But you certainly do not have to concern yourself with these decisions today.
  7. Aug 16, 2016 #6
    I just feel like if I don't choose now I will be a little behind since the freshman and sophomore courses for engineers already consist of engineering classes rather than core classes. Also it is very hard to get into my schools engineering program so I was that's why I applied right away so I wouldn't have to worry about getting in in the near future.
  8. Aug 16, 2016 #7


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

  9. Aug 16, 2016 #8


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    You are welcome. I am not saying that you should go for engineering, but I did want to point out that I believe that a degree in engineering can also help you satisfy your "science cravings".

    I do not live in the US and I am not that familiar with your education system. For that, post #5 may be more relevant. I think that post #7 (and specially the link therein) is also very much to the point. As a corollary to these two posts, I would conclude that it does not matter too much what you choose now, unless you feel a very specific need to explore foundational topics in physics (such as general relativity) that are not typically encountered in engineering courses. Assuming you do not feel such a need at this point, I would advise you to follow what your heart tells you and find out along the way which particular direction is most appealing.
  10. Aug 16, 2016 #9
    Yeah I was planning on continuing my physics education and possibly take engineering related classes like zz said and if I like it I'll do a master's in engineering. Thank you !
  11. Aug 16, 2016 #10


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Have you looked through job postings for physics grads and company?

    Have you considered:
    1. How much education you need/want for each?
    2. Competitiveness/employment prospects?
    3. Salary?
    4. If there is a difference between a job, a career and a passion?
  12. Aug 16, 2016 #11
    I honestly have not ruled out going for a Phd in physics. Any there actually aren't too many job postings for physics grads. And I do consider salary to be important.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted