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Physics or Engineering?

  1. Apr 23, 2017 #1
    Hi everyone,
    I am a new member in this forum. I am a high school student and will be going to uni next year. I live in Auckland and Auckland university offers both Engineering and Physics courses. I need some advice on which course should I choose and will give me a better position in the job market after I graduate.
    Personally, I am very much interested in physics and maths. I wouldn't say I'm extraordinary in both if you are talking about exams but I'd say I'm moderately good and I do stick to my studies. I'm pretty sure the gap in difficulty between high school and uni is massive. I do not know which course to choose for what job. Up until now, I used to think that studying physics in high school is the same as studying engineering in university. But now I know that you can actually 'study physics' to a higher level. But what are the job opportunities in that sector? And even if I do choose engineering does it cover " all of the physics"? I was interested in doing a job as meteorologist however it requires " Bachelor of science in physics" and not engineering.
    I would be very grateful if someone can help me and give me some advice. I'm sure indecisiveness won't get me anywhere so I want to set a goal now.
    Thank you so much for reading.
    Please do stop by to tell me which one is better.
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 23, 2017 #2


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    Staff: Mentor

    Welcome abcd,

    I have moved your thread from "Member Introductions Only - No Questions" for you so you don't have to re-post your thread in the correct forum. :smile: Many people seem to miss that information in the welcome e-mail for some reason, so no big deal.
  4. Apr 24, 2017 #3
    Physics is a part of science (also chemistry, biology, etc), and the primary focus of science is the acquisition of knowledge. Science seeks to understand how things work, to discover relationships, and to gain understanding and insight into the physical world.

    Engineering is much more directed toward accomplishing specified task. In many places, the legal definition of an engineer is "a person qualified to design" where design means to specify in complete detail systems to perform tasks. Engineers make use of physic daily, often in considerable depth. They also do research to discover new knowledge, but usually with a specific goal in mind. Thus engineering research might be directed toward understanding the propagation of cracks in steel, a very specific goal.

    No one can tell you what you should study. That is entirely up to you. You should try to talk with people in various jobs that you think might be of interest, ask them what they do, what their goals are, what their days are like.
  5. Apr 24, 2017 #4
    Are you sure about being a meteorologist? If you are, you should focus on the academic path that leads to that.

    Otherwise, give it some time. Most Physics and Engineering programs have the same core courses at the beginning. You'll take intro level Calculus-based Mechanics and Electromagnetics courses. You can also take courses like Statics and Dynamics as core requirements for any Engineering program. Usually, there's a course in circuit theory as well. Most programs also have some kind of Modern Physics/Introductory Quantum Mechanics course. Once you take all these courses, you should have a better idea of which path is better for you.
  6. Apr 24, 2017 #5


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    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor

    When you're looking at this kind of problem: engineering or physics, it's important to remember that there is no objective optimal path. Each path has its advantages and disadvantages and so you have to look at your options in terms of what's best for what you want to do.

    With engineering some of the main advantages are that the programs are professionally oriented. They are set up to get you into a specific profession that will have its own professional governing bodies and set of regulation about who can and can't be a professional engineer. When you graduate, you'll be able to look for a job as an engineer and there will be employers who are looking to hire engineers. The different disciplines are broad and you can end up doing a lot of really cool stuff. Unless you do something like "engineering physics" you probably won't see subjects like quantum mechanics or relativity and instead will focus on much more "applied" topics.

    To contrast it, physics is a lot more academic. An undergraduate degree in physics will generally be set up to prepare you to go on for graduate study in physics. And when you graduate, you won't be ready to springboard into a specific profession outside of academia. There aren't too many employers who look to hire BSc-level physics graduates. So you'll likely have to figure out how to transition from an education in physics into some kind of profession. According to the data, it seems that most graduates tend to fair pretty well in the end, but anecdotally the transition doesn't seem as smooth as it is for people coming out of a professional program.
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