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Physics or Engineering?

  1. Jan 14, 2015 #1
    Dear PhysicsForumers,

    I will be applying for University soon. I am in a dilemma now. How do you know if physics is for you? I mean, i do like physics but I really have no idea if i'm able to make this last me a lifetime.

    How do you really know you don't like, but LOVE physics?

    I have been under peer pressure from my parents as well. In Singapore, there isn't really much of a career prospect for physicist. It's either a teaching profession or work in the only research Institute in Singapore.

    This has been troubling me for awhile now. I am afraid that this might be a decision made in the heat of the moment and I might regret it in the near future.

    Has anyone been through the same situation as me? I need some guidance!

    Thank you so so much.
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 14, 2015 #2
    Do you want to discover new laws of nature or use those laws of nature to build things? :)
  4. Jan 14, 2015 #3


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    I think at starting-college age most of us go through exactly what you are going through. I was torn between two radically different majors ... English and Engineering. I'm glad I ended up choosing engineering (with a minor in English :smile:) but it was touch and go for a while. How much flexibility is there in the curriculum? The first year of study in American universities isn't likely to be much different, if at all different, for Physics majors and Engineering majors, so we can switch majors at the end of the freshman year without much trouble. Is that kind of flexibility available to you?
  5. Jan 14, 2015 #4
    That's the question. I really have not the slightest clue. I took Mechatronics during my polytechnic days, which I came to like programming, Robotics and creation!

    At the same time, I really am fascinated with the amazing and limitless physics! I'd always be in awe everytime I look at the skies. I can't really tell which is more fun for me and so.
  6. Jan 14, 2015 #5
    That is so nice, having the flexibility. I doubt we have them in Singapore. Let's say there's University A in Singapore, mechanical engineering, aerospace engineering and aeronautical engineering are all in one school called "School of Engineering".

    Then, there's another school called "School of Science" where Chemistry, Biology and Physics all fall under this school.

    That is how the courses are categorized in Singapore's University and courses in the same school, they all take the same curriculum in their freshman year, only 2nd year they will delve into their chosen major. The flexibility isn't there at all. :(
  7. Jan 14, 2015 #6


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    Well, it IS true in the US that there are some schools that have a great reputation for engineering and less so for physics and some that have it the other way 'round, but the flexibility often exists.

    I've read that the German higher ed system is even more rigid than what you are describing. Sounds like a bad idea to me.
  8. Jan 14, 2015 #7
    Yeap, the thing here is after the first year of say, Mech Eng and you want to choose another different course, Physics.
    It is more than likely you will have to start as a freshman again in Physics this time round, wasting a whole year.

    I wish I can study overseas, but I am burdened financially. Gah, there are so many factors to take into consideration.
    Not to mention my parents have been pressuring me to get an Engineering degree instead as it is more applicable in Singapore.
  9. Jan 14, 2015 #8
    Well, many physics classes tend to also be required for engineering. Even if they are in separate "colleges", how difficult is it to switch?
  10. Jan 15, 2015 #9


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    It is worth keeping in mind that the flexibility described in the American system is not the norm throughout the rest of the world. From what I understand, in most other countries that I can think of, the decision to enter into engineering is typically made well before applying into university (in some countries, students must decide to enter into an engineering track at the end of the equivalent of junior high school in the US, and then complete their studies in a special high school track before enrolling in an engineering school in university). And in most such cases, it can be difficult to switch without starting back in first year, since engineering students do not take the same courses as the science students (there are special math and science classes specifically created for engineering students only). I believe Canada's system tends to more similar to the US system, but still less flexible in comparison.

    To the OP: I know for a fact that the National University of Singapore offer an Engineering Science program, which is roughly equivalent to the engineering physics program offered in other countries (and similar to the Engineering Science program offered at my alma mater). If you are undecided between engineering and physics, this might be an area worth considering, since the degree offers options to pursue graduate programs in either field (if that is what you choose to do) as well as open opportunities to working as an engineer.

  11. Jan 15, 2015 #10
    Thanks for all the replies. I will take Engineering Science into consideration. If I am really to focus on Physics, I would probably go for theoretical physics than applied physics.

    But back to my question, how do you guys know if you are in love with physics so much that you are willing to spend a lifetime with it?
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