Picking an engineering program with a Physics bachelor's degree

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Up until this past summer, I thought I was going to go to Physics grad school following my undergraduate study. I worked at an REU program at UC Davis this summer, and decided that physics was not the route for me.

Now I am trying to decide to which engineering discipline I should apply. I have a good GPA (3.8), with 2 summers of research experience (and one publication, though it's about physics), and a lot of math and physics coursework. Unfortunately, I have only taken a couple CS classes (C++ and an intro CS course), which seem to be very important for Engineering schools. I've taken a practice GRE test, which I think it is in the ballpark of what I'll score, and I scored 162 on verbal and 164 on quantitative.

One of my big issues is that I've accrued a lot of student debt, so I'd like an affordable program that will set me up to make a good salary, preferably after getting my Master's degree.

A couple ideas I have are electrical engineering and mechanical engineering, though I think I am leaning toward electrical engineering because of its earning potential and industrial flexibility.

I would really appreciate feedback, and would love to clarify anything!
Thanks.
 

Answers and Replies

  • #2
Student100
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One bad experince has you wanting to change to engineering? The grass isn't always greener. Further, you shouldnt be as worried about not having much computer science background as you should be for not having any real engineering background. You're going to require a slew of remedial courses assuming you get accepted into a program.

If you really want to make the switch, why not look into an Applied Physics program? Or a discipline in physics that is more in line with your end goals?
 
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It wasn't necessarily a bad experience, it was just the nature of Physics research. From what the grad students and the other REU students said, it is a lot of slaving away for not all that tangible of a reward. Through engineering I think I would be working for an actual cause, not just to get material for a publication.

From what I've read, the remedial courses are doable. Also, I have taken Basic Electronics and Advanced Electronics courses, which would help if I went EE.

Also, it may be worth mentioning that my Bachelor's degree is for Applied Physics, and not Physics.
 
  • #4
Student100
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It wasn't necessarily a bad experience, it was just the nature of Physics research. From what the grad students and the other REU students said, it is a lot of slaving away for not all that tangible of a reward. Through engineering I think I would be working for an actual cause, not just to get material for a publication.

You'll also be slaving away for an employer doing your job. What if that job were something like designing a circuit that detected when a cleaning vacuums flow was reduced letting the user know there was a clog? Or what about something even possibly less glamorous. Would that still be tangible? So just what is and isn't tangible to you? That seems important to the discussion.
 
  • #5
Vanadium 50
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I hope you realize that you are not prepared for a graduate degree in engineering. You may be accepted into a program, but it will almost certainly involve remedial undergrad work, and it is much less likely you will be supported in this period.
 
  • #6
StatGuy2000
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I hope you realize that you are not prepared for a graduate degree in engineering. You may be accepted into a program, but it will almost certainly involve remedial undergrad work, and it is much less likely you will be supported in this period.

Vanadium 50, your post above doesn't really give much help to the OP. From what I can tell, the OP has made the decision that, after pursuing a (Applied) Physics BS degree, he/she does not want to pursue further graduate studies in physics, but wants to consider a more practical major such as engineering (which would make sense, since engineering is often considered to be more employable).

So what you suggest the OP to do?
 
  • #7
Student100
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Vanadium 50, your post above doesn't really give much help to the OP. From what I can tell, the OP has made the decision that, after pursuing a (Applied) Physics BS degree, he/she does not want to pursue further graduate studies in physics, but wants to consider a more practical major such as engineering (which would make sense, since engineering is often considered to be more employable).

So what you suggest the OP to do?

The OP's masters path is also counter to the fact that he doesn't want to overly increase his student debt, which the OP would almost certainly do by going the MS route. For the OP a 2 years master program would likely take 3 or 4 years to complete with remedial courses. Almost all of it will be self funded, more likely than not.

I think the OP should also scratch out mechanical engineering. P.E. licensing is probably more important for ME than EE, where it doesn't really matter. Since he didn't do an accredited bachelor's, getting a PE will be harder.

I also don't understand why he doesn't look into applied physics program, especially since his undergrad was in AP. He'll get funding and be able to enter industry after, it's also normally taught in engineering departments at the graduate school level.

Also, if the end goal is to work as an engineer, why not apply to entry level jobs instead of more schooling? It's likely he'd be able to find something with a bachelor's in AP.

Don't you think?
 
  • #8
StatGuy2000
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The OP's masters path is also counter to the fact that he doesn't want to overly increase his student debt, which the OP would almost certainly do by going the MS route. For the OP a 2 years master program would likely take 3 or 4 years to complete with remedial courses. Almost all of it will be self funded, more likely than not.

I think the OP should also scratch out mechanical engineering. P.E. licensing is probably more important for ME than EE, where it doesn't really matter. Since he didn't do an accredited bachelor's, getting a PE will be harder.

I also don't understand why he doesn't look into applied physics program, especially since his undergrad was in AP. He'll get funding and be able to enter industry after, it's also normally taught in engineering departments at the graduate school level.

Also, if the end goal is to work as an engineer, why not apply to entry level jobs instead of more schooling? It's likely he'd be able to find something with a bachelor's in AP.

Don't you think?

As an aside, in Canada, all engineering fields require PEng licensing, the Canadian equivalent of the PE license (whether it would be mechanical, electrical, industrial, chemical, civil), and only those with the PEng license can be officially called an engineer. To be licensed as a PEng, engineering graduates are required to work for 4 years under the supervision of a licensed PEng and then are required to write the PEng exam (similar to the PE exam). So there is really no such as an engineering field where licensing doesn't matter -- they all matter.

Anyways, getting back to the point -- applied physics graduate programs are not necessarily taught in engineering departments. For example, the applied physics program at Stanford is taught in the School of Humanities and Sciences.

http://web.stanford.edu/dept/app-physics/cgi-bin/

I should also note that many employers, when given the choice between those who graduate with an applied physics degree vs an engineering degree, will more likely go for an engineering graduate for an entry level engineering position. So the concern that the OP expresses is legitimate.
 
  • #9
Vanadium 50
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So what you suggest the OP to do?

I don't know. He wants another few years of education (a good idea), but doesn't want to pay for it - which simply may not be possible. The "grad school is free" advice that PF usually dishes out relies on assumptions that are not the case here.
 

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