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Physics Should I major in physics or mechanical engineering?

  1. Apr 13, 2017 #1
    I'm an international student and I'm going to attend a U.S. college this fall, and in order to decide which college I should pick, I have to make my decision whether or not I would like to major in engineering because the college that I want to attend doesn't have engineering, while the other one does. So, I like physics and I'm really good at it. I'm also really good at math, but not a math genius though. If I'm to pursue physics, I'm planning to get a PhD from a top research institution and then work in research or academics (I have no idea how easy it is for someone with a PhD). I've been studying physics at high school from textbooks like "Physics for scientists and engineers" and "Haliday physics." and i have no problems. I'm just worried that maybe I won't like the complicated math when it comes to tensors and string theory and so... (it's just a concern)

    As for mechanical engineering, I have no idea how the job market is like but I hate looking after machines and fixing the parts. I also don't like the details of the machines.If there's something I like about mechanical engineering, then it's something like designing rockets, planes, and cars using the principles of motion and fluidity in creative ways. I, however, don't want to end up copying and pasting with small changes because that's what the employer wants and so. Is it easy to get a job where I can creatively use the physics principles to come up with ideas for designs? I also enjoy solving mechanics problems including motion at high school.

    I'm also considering computer science since I love programming and I'm curious about AI.

    What do you think? Is physics the right major for me? or mechanical engineering? have you been through this before?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 13, 2017 #2
    If you hate machines, then there is a very good chance that ME is not the place for you. But this sentiment, combined with your comment about enjoying mechanics motion problems, makes me wonder if you really have enough information to make this decision. Much of machine design is motion problems, along with stress and deflection analysis, so are you sure about what you like?

    You indicate a desire to be allowed to be creative. Most employers will be pleased with creativity, so long as it is profitable to them. Wild creativity, the follow-your-nose type, is generally not going to be welcome in the work place. Employers have a specific market they want to address, and creative solutions to the problems of th at market will be very welcome; outside that, not so much.
  4. Apr 14, 2017 #3
    @Dr.D yes, I believe that I'm not very qualified to make this decision right now, but the thing is that I have to. So, to be more specific, what I enjoy about mechanics problems at school is that I get to imagine and relate to the situation being discussed. I love to feel the situation, but using math to come up with the answers isn't my favorite part (I don't hate it though). But I hate routine, so I DO mind that my job will be to only fix/look after the machines in a factory or so. I also heard from a mechanical engineer that when it comes to design, they have to use the old designs that already proved to work, with maybe very small modifications. They also have to be bound to the arbitrary policies of the place (for example the voltage of electrical devices in a specific country) and he says that because of such things, engineering doesn't really involve any creativity. If this is what it's like, I think engineering isn't what I want to pursue.

    On the other hand, I know I will enjoy the research in physics, but can you tell me how common is it that a student will get bored of the complicated math?
  5. Apr 14, 2017 #4
    It would also be great if i can get masters in engineering just in case.... but I read that employers always choose the applicants who studies engineering in bachelors. I also read that this way I won't obtain something that engineers do obtain and that helps find jobs.
  6. Apr 14, 2017 #5
    Oh and another thing... the college that I want to attend offers only BA (Hamilton college) while the other (Lafayette college) offers BS
    People on college confidential told me it doesn't matter at all.
  7. Apr 14, 2017 #6
    Most engineering employers will inquire whether you have an Accrediting Board for Engineering & Technology (ABET) accredited degree. In most cases, ABET only accredits bachelor's degrees, so if you do not get an ABET degree in engineering, you will not be able to claim that when seeking a job.
  8. Apr 14, 2017 #7
    1) The job market for mechanical engineers is always better than for physicists. 2) Most respectable engineering schools require that you have an undergraduate degree in engineering to apply to graduate programs. Even if they admit you with a degree in another field they will require that you make up all the missing coursework. 3) People for some reason think that it's easy to go from physics to engineering which is not true. While they share some similarities and engineers use physics they are different. 4) Mechanical engineers do not fix machines, they design them and leave the fixing to technicians. 5) There are lots of interesting sub-fields of mechanical engineering, dynamics and control, non-linear vibrations, fluid mechanics etc. There is a lot of overlap with aerospace engineering and a lot of fun problems. There is just as much fundamental research in engineering as in physics, it is extremely creative and fun, and doesn't depend as heavily on government funding. I know people who do flutter for Boeing and vibration analysis for Ford.
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