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Physics or engineering, which one is better

  1. Apr 12, 2004 #1
    As "Phobos" who is PF Mentor has advised me to post my message here, it is as below.

    I'm a design engineer. My qualification is MSc Physics. I want to complete higher studies to understand the designing and working of switch mode power supplies. Should I do PhD in Physics or choose electrical engineering( Power electronics) for that. Which one is better. Please refer to "Career in Engineering" at Electrical Engineering forum as well before answering my question.
  2. jcsd
  3. Nov 23, 2004 #2
    Here I found a partial answer to my question...


    Internet Access: This report is available on the National Academy of Sciences’
    Internet host. It may be accessed via World Wide Web at http://
    www.nas.edu, via Gopher at gopher.nas.edu, or via FTP at ftp.nas.edu.
    Careers in Science and Engineering serves as a companion to the Worldwide
    Web site, A Career Planning Center for Beginning Scientists and Engineers
    (available at http:/ /www2.nas.edu/cpc), that provides a source of online information
    and guidance as well as a listing of employment opportunities.
  4. Nov 24, 2004 #3
    I majored in Physics and had to work in Engineering.
  5. Nov 25, 2004 #4


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    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I would go as the one above ... if you major in physics you can always work in engineering (especially as you likely get the hang of it from your current engineering background), but typically not the other way around.
  6. Nov 26, 2004 #5
    I have decided to do PhD with topic "Electromagnetic Problem Solving Techniques and Applications to Power Electronics". I will do it in engineering frame of reference while keeping my MSc Physics degree helping in doing so.
    Anyone interested in the above topic, plz contact me...
  7. Nov 30, 2004 #6
    For your application, it really doesn't matter which degree you have...

    In general:

    The Engineer cares what, but not necessarily how...
    The Physicist cares how, but not necessarily what...
  8. Dec 1, 2004 #7
    MSc Physics is enough for me to find how. I really want to establish some sort of business in power electronics. To do that I think I should do PhD in power electronics rather than Physics.
  9. Dec 1, 2004 #8


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    Staff: Mentor

    I'd be careful with that. "Can" is a shaky word. While there are certainly are some engineering jobs you "can" do with a physics-only background, there are a larger number that you cannot.
  10. Dec 1, 2004 #9


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    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I think that the general convention has been that Physics is a 'pure science' while engineering is an 'applied science'. However, my experince is that reality is not black and white.

    There are many physicists who are involved in practical or applied science, while there are many engineers doing basic (pure) scientific research.

    The core course work and therefore the PhD subject area - Physics or Power Engineering depends on what interests you. Look at the following paper and notice the biographies of the authors.


    Organizations like ABB, Siemens and GE have done a tremendous amount of work in power systems and digital control of power systems.

    One could do a core program in physics with supporting course work in power electronics. Otherwise, one could do a PhD in EE specializing in power electronics while taking supporting physics courses.

    Personally, I find that it helps for physicists to have some exposure to engineering, and for engineers to have some exposure to physics.

    BTW, I know more physicists who went into engineering than vice versa.
  11. Dec 1, 2004 #10


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    Gold Member

    Ummm ... yeah, whether a physicist is an any good engineer is out of reach of my "can". In all honesty many of the physicists I know would have the brains to be excellent engineers, but in the end might not be able to perform many of the practical tasks engineering requires, and overall, with their mindset would not turn out to be that good engineers. I'd have to rephrase that if you're closer to the physics end of engineering rather than practical engineering then the boundaries were lower.
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