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Physics to engineering?

  1. Dec 1, 2007 #1
    I am grad school now for physics, but it seems to be taking over my life. What options do I have? I was thinking that getting a job would perhaps help me regain sanity, but I am not completely sure what one can do with a 4 year degree in physics. Is it possible to migrate to the engineering side? Maybe I could stick out my program for a few years and get a masters. Would this help my job prospects?
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  3. Dec 1, 2007 #2


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    What do you mean by "it's taking over your life." Is that not what grad school is supposed to do? That is, instead of being an undergrad doing hardly any work, you're now a grad student and have to put full weeks in! Of course, if it's taking your weekends and all your freetime up too, then something's going wrong. What do you mean by "stick it out for a few years and get a masters?" How long does it take to get a masters degree where you are?
  4. Dec 1, 2007 #3
    I mean it is taking my weekends and free time. Maybe 2-3 years for a masters.
  5. Dec 1, 2007 #4
    Hell, undergrad does that.
  6. Dec 1, 2007 #5


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    Erm... :uhh:
  7. Dec 2, 2007 #6
    I will have a bachelor's in physics in December and currently trying to get an engineering (mainly computer/electrical) position. Most of the electric engineering positions would accept a physics degree, but require me to have taken some electrical engineering courses and have proof that I know the concepts and theory behind EE (either through my transcript or work experience).

    The transition is much more difficult than what people tell you (career-wise, it is very difficult, academically, it is quite simple). I will graduate from a top 10 public school/top 30 in the nation. I've spent my last 4 months looking for a job before my graduation in December. I'm having no luck in finding a engineering job with a physics degree unless I have +1 years of work experience.

    As for the physics degree itself, it's useful to a degree (no pun intended). But to get into any engineering job with a physics degree would require you to have some work experience in engineering in the first place. Kind of like a catch-22. Those with an engineering degree will have the advantage for an engineering position than someone with a physics degree.

    I would understand this if you have a full-time job, but if you don't........ then I do not know what's going on. Maybe graduate school isn't really for you? If I spent a majority of my 168 hours/week on studying graduate courses, I would personally stop and find a job.
  8. Dec 2, 2007 #7
    So I was thinking that it might be useful to stay in my program and continue taking courses, but skew them towards the engineering side. Unfortunately, I don't really know where to start. I don't know the first thing about engineering. How could I get started on learning, e.g., EE?
  9. Dec 2, 2007 #8
    If you've got a serious interest in EE specifically, maybe go to your adviser and say "Hey, I want to learn more about Solid State Physics, maybe pick up some better lab skills working with that."

    I'd be a little paranoid showing uncertainty about my field of study. To a certain extent, they're there to help you with that, but...I know you can change majors like underwear as an undergrad without anyone thinking too badly of you, as long as you do it in a way that you can still reasonably graduate on time. But as a grad student?
  10. Dec 2, 2007 #9
    That's exactly what I've been thinking.....
  11. Dec 2, 2007 #10


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    As an undergrad, I migrated from Physics (Astro and Nuclear) to Nuclear Engineering, then went on to obtain an MS in NE, and started a PhD program but left before finishing to get a job.

    Most of the MS/PhD grad students spent time in the office/lab evenings and weekends. Grad school pretty much does take up one's time, especially when it comes to the research and writing one's thesis/dissertation. And that's seemingly regardless of one's major in math, science or engineering.

    That's also why it is highly recommended to finish grad school before getting married and especially before starting a family. Both can be done, but juggling family and grad school is not fun.
  12. Dec 2, 2007 #11
    It's not so much that I mind the weekends and long hours. But it does look like this is going to be my life for many years to come. Some of the postdocs I've spoken with don't seem any less overworked than I am. And I am sure the stress continues on up the ladder.
  13. Dec 2, 2007 #12


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    Yeah - it can be that way professionally as well - sometimes.

    It is a skill to balance life outside of school/work and work. But it is necessary (and important) to have some downtime and just relax a bit. In my group at university, on Friday afternoons, the grad students would go for happy hour at a local bar near the university ($1.00 margaritas back then) or we'd have an early dinner at a local burger joint that also served a variety of imported beers. Undergrads were also invited to join us.
  14. Dec 2, 2007 #13


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    The problem is that the same thing might very well be true if you get an "ordinary" job.
    That is the downside of "higher education", most of use tend to end up in careers where juggling work and free time is very difficult. On the other hand this is true for everyone.

    In many ways I think it is probably a bit easier in academia since you (generally speaking) have more control over your time. I probably work just as much as my friends that work in the "real world" (engineering, banking etc) but I can usually control WHEN I want to work and can take the weekend off (although I tend to work a few hours most weekends), many of my friends seem to have deadlines they have to meet several times a week and are under a LOT of pressure to "perform" just about every day. I honestly doubt that I could cope with that kind of stress for very long.
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