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Single degree (physics) or combined degree (physics/engineering)

  1. Feb 18, 2009 #1

    I have completed second year of bachelor of science degree, and I am considering switching to a combined degree bachelor of science/bachelor of engineering.

    If I decide to do only one degree (science, major in physics), it would take me another year to complete Bachelor of science, and then honours year. (Therefore, to complete science(honours) degree would take me two years). If I decide to do combined degree, it will take me 3 more years (+a few courses I would take over the summer). If I do combined degree, I would not do honours year in physics.

    My plan is to do a phd in physics after completing my degree (regardless of whether I do a combined degree or just science+honours year). (They told me that doing honours year in physics is not required, that doing science/engineering combined degree is sufficient.)

    The main reason why I might switch to a combined degree is to increase my chances of getting a job.

    My question is whether switching to a combined degree would really be good decision. Completing my undergraduate study would take a year longer and would, of course, cost more money. Also, I don’t get to do a honours year in physics.

    After completing my education I will have a combined undergraduate degree in science/engineering and a phd in physics. (with honours in engineering and no honours in science)
    Would that degree make it easier for me to get a job than Bachelor of science(honours) and a phd in physics?
  2. jcsd
  3. Feb 18, 2009 #2


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    Ultimately this depends on the kind of job you want to get. If you want to do engineering, then obviously it makes sense to take the engineering route. If you're serious about pursuing a PhD in physics and then moving into academia, your undergraduate course won't really matter as long as it (and your overall performance in it) is sufficient to you into the PhD program you want.
  4. Feb 18, 2009 #3
    At this point, having a BS in an accredited engineering program is needed to receive your Professional Engineer (PE) certification. (I think this is due to change in 2010 to include people with a certain number of master's level credits in an accredited engineering program and a BS degree in a science, but I don't guarantee that.) Some higher-level jobs might require you to be a PE. Presently you usually work for a few years before seeking accreditation, so entry-level jobs aren't effected except perhaps by reputation of your degree/training.
  5. Feb 18, 2009 #4
    A somewhat related question:

    I'm in the early stages of planning out exactly how to major when I transfer to a 4 year university next year, with the idea of going to grad school afterward.

    Would a grad school generally prefer to see a double major, even if the second major isn't directly related to the grad program?

    I'll give the specific example I'm thinking of:

    Astrophysics: http://www.towson.edu/physics/physics/PHYS_ASTRO.asp

    Then, since there is a lot of overlap and it would only take about another year:

    Earth-Space Sciences: http://www.towson.edu/physics/geosciences/GEO_ESS.asp

    Would the extra classes in geology help with entry to an astronomy or astrophysics grad program?
  6. Feb 19, 2009 #5
    Thanks for responses.

    I would like to work in industry, rather than at university. Do you think that someone with combined degree and a phd in physics has more chance than someone with just bachelor of science and a phd in physics?

    Maybe the advantage of doing just a single degree is that it would let me focus more on physics (it would let me take more courses this year and do honours year next year).

    If someone wants to employ a physicist, do you think they would prefer someone who has done 4 years and a phd rather than someone who spent half of their undergraduate time on engineering…

    I think, however, that my reasoning here could very, very easily be wrong (maybe engineering degree is a great advantage).

    So, if anyone knows more about this, I would welcome any information.

    (I just wish I thought more about these things 2 years ago when I was starting my degree…)
  7. Feb 20, 2009 #6
    I'm guessing you're australian since you're facing this particular dilemma. I just did the opposite - I just changed from an BEng/BSci to an advanced science degree. I can't tell you anything about job prospects but... I found that engineering wasn't quite as interesting and challenging as physics and maths. There is problem solving and design involved but there's also significantly more plug and chug, at least in australian programmes anyway. So I made the choice based on what I'd enjoy more (and due to the enjoyment factor, do better in).

    It's true that, at least in Australia, an engineering honours can serve as a physics honours for getting into a PhD. And engineering, especially mechanical or ee will probably serve you better in industry. I don't know of any Australian physics programmes that actually have a strong engineering bent. (Yes, I'm assuming you're australian)

    Also, wouldn't you rather spend that extra year on your PhD?
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