Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Seeking input on education path

  1. Sep 24, 2003 #1

    I am exactly half-way through a degree in engineering physics. At my school, most students are either in the engineering physics program or the aerospace engineering program. Up to the half-way point (where I am now), both programs are almost identical.

    I don't really want to make a career of doing research. I want to be an engineer. I would LOVE to be an aerospace engineer, but outsourcing has limited jobs, and most jobs I see require security clearance. This is a problem for me, I think, because I was stupid when I was younger (between 17-20, I had a couple felony convictions...but no jail or prison...I'm 30 now).

    So I have to be realistic and keep my options as open as possible. The faculty in the EP program say that with the EP degree, I will have a well rounded engineering, physics, and math education to bounce into any engineering field. The faculty of the AE program tells me that the EP degree is basically a physics major, and I will not have enough engineering education to walk into an aerospace engineering career. Both parties are contradicting themselves, so I feel that both are BSing me.

    I just don't know what to do. It seems that the AE program is easier (from what EP/AE crossover students have told me), and that I have a better chance of keeping my GPA high (currently 3.93). Whereas the EP professors don't seem to care about grades...it doesn't seem to bother them when they give out exams and expect 70% of the class to fail it, with the highest score possibly being a 75%.

    Should I continue to sit on the fence and finish the EP degree? Or should I commit to the AE degree?

    Basically, the difference would be,
    EP: Modern Physics, Electro-optical engineering, Electricity and Magnetism, Quantum Mechanics, Classical Mechanics, Spaceflight dynamics, space phyics, microcomputers and electronic instrumentation

    AE: Aerodynamics, Aircraft Stuctures, Stability and Control, Turbine and Rocket Engines...some of these classes are 2 semesters.

    The rest of the classes are basically the same: Physics 1,2,3, Calc1,2,3, Diff eq, vector calc, linear algebra, partial diff eq, elect. eng 1, 2, computer science, engineering drawing, etc...they are both 136 credit programs...

    Any thoughts would be appreciated.

    Last edited: Sep 24, 2003
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 24, 2003 #2


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'm a senior in AE at University of Maryland right now.

    It looks to me like your engineering physics program is still geared toward space applications (microcomputers, SF dynamics, etc).

    What do you want to do? If you would like to focus more on hardware and system design, then switch to AE. If you would prefer to deal with software, navigation, guidance, system controls, then stay in the EP program. That's what it looks like to me, based on the course names you've listed. Your actual mileage may vary.

    Regarding the security clearance, I don't think you should worry overly much. They only ask if you've done anything in the last 7 years, and as long as you're up front and honest about it, they'll take that into account. From what I've heard, the only thing which is a big issue (it's the reason they're doing the tests, afterall) is if you've done anything which could harm the security of the United States. If you've kept your nose clean for over 10 years (adult years, too...) you shouldn't have a problem.
  4. Sep 24, 2003 #3
    How many students that you know are getting good job offers?

    Have you ever heard of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University? They tell us that the school is highly respected in the industry, yada, yada, yada...

    But it worries me because I already have $35,000 in loans to pay back for the first half...it'll cost me another $35,000 to finish the program...and it would be comforting to know that I would be employable.

    I have even considered switching majors to biology to jump into a medical career, considering that it would be difficult to outsource MD's.

    At the state university nearby, it would only cost me $7000 to finish a bachelor's degree. That would leave me alot left over to spend on med school.
  5. Sep 24, 2003 #4


    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    I'm not entirely sure. I haven't started looking yet, myself. There are jobs out there. A guy I worked with in an semi-unrelated field(MEPR drafting) last year got a job designing anti-missile missile systems. There are also plenty of university research jobs available (which I may be doing depending on how the job search goes in a few months).

    Yep, considered going there, but the program looked like it was more focused toward aeronautics than UMCP's space program is, and since I lived in Maryland anyway...

    You'll be employable. Even if you can't find a job doing space systems, aerospace and mechanical engineering have a good deal of overlap, so you'll be able to find a job somewhere, doing something engineering related. Pro-E drafters get between $25K and $35K to start, and that doesn't even require an engineering degree.

    Do you want to be in medicine?

    Remember, the economy may not be great now, but you've got 2 years before graduation. It'll pick up again. If all else fails, Universities do pay fair amounts for TA/RA grad students (e.g. $20K + tuition at UMCP), and you could get your masters before entering the job market.
  6. Sep 24, 2003 #5
    The thing is, I'm 30 years old now. For the past 4 years, I've been working as a technology consultant and provider for dentists. I've been self-employed doing this for the past year. I do not like doing what I'm doing right now, and really do not want to continue long term. However, it has provided me with income and connections. I have made friends with many doctors, even spending considerable time with them in their homes. I have shown them tremendous integrity and work ethic, and as such, several have offered me a chair to start with if I ever go to (and get through) dental school.

    I am just starting to think that I'd be an idiot to not take advantage of the career boost I'd get if I went into this field. I have already learned a great deal about dentistry because I have to know how certain concepts, products, and implementations can save them time and money. I probably know more about a dentist's day-to-day than an engineers, heh.

    I don't really care much about how much money I will make, because it fluctates greatly from dentist to dentist anyway. But I don't fear outsourcing, and like I mentioned, I would have several offers to choose from after graduation.

    I have a friend that trains brazilian jiujitsu with me that is an aerospace engineer, and he ends up moving to different places around the country, jumping from project to project because he can only find contracting positions.

    At this point, I think the only reason I still have to stick with the engineering degree is to finish what I started.
  7. Sep 26, 2003 #6


    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Does Embry-Riddle offer mechanical engineering? If you aren't that attached to Aerospace, you may consider switching - it gives a much more diverse (and therefore marketable) degree.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook