Switching from Physics to Engineering

In summary, the rising Junior Applied Physics Major is considering switching majors to engineering. He is looking for advice on how to spend his summer to help him decide whether or not to switch majors. He has thought about taking engineering books out of the library and looking through them, but is unsure this is the best way to go about it. Any advice would be appreciated.
  • #1
I am a rising Junior Applied Physics Major and I am thinking of changing my major to some type of engineering (this would require me to stay 5 years). Given that I want to make a well thought through decision about what to do next year, I want to utilize my time that I have this summer to make that decision. I am looking for some advice on what would be a good way to use my time to help me decide whether I want to go to engineering. I have thought about taking some engineering books out of the library (some MechE books and EE books--though I lean toward EE since from freshman year I was debating between physics and EE) and looking through them, but I am not sure this is the best way to go about it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
 
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  • #2
What is your reason for the switch? Do you mean you would have to stay an extra 5 yrs as opposed to maybe 2 more? If you're looking for good employability with a BS only, then maybe the switch to engineering would be good. If you're good at physics you will be good at engineering.

If you think you would have to stay an extra 5 yrs, then instead why not tough it out and stay in physics then do a 2 yr MS in engineering after that?

Check out this thread: https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=240235
 
  • #3
cmos said:
Do you mean you would have to stay an extra 5 yrs as opposed to maybe 2 more?...If you think you would have to stay an extra 5 yrs, then instead why not tough it out and stay in physics then do a 2 yr MS in engineering after that?
By saying I would need to stay 5 years I mean 5 years total (i.e. I would need to stay 1 extra year).
cmos said:
If you're good at physics you will be good at engineering.
I have done well in physics, but I am not sure I enjoy it.
cmos said:
What is your reason for the switch?
One of the reasons I am considering switching is that I am not really enjoying physics all that much. I originally came to physics after being inspired by reading books like Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time" or Brian Green's "The Elegant Universe" as well as hearing of the attractive strangeness of Quantum Theory and Relativity. (Oddly enough, I didnt like physics in High school but majored in it anyway--my favorite high school subjects were actually Computer Science and Chemistry and I am currently beginning research in computational chemistry/biophysics and enjoying it but I don't think I would like to do it as a career since I would be at a desk all day...which I don't really want to do). I initially came wanting to be a pure theorist; however I have not been satisfied with physics (the only thing that is satisfactory to me from a theoretical standpoint is Mathematics--which is really my favorite academic subject, but I don't want to major only in math essentially because, though I love math, I don't want to work behind a desk all day...I would much rather be doing something hands on...such as building something, which is what I love doing and is what I do in my free time...and choosing math as a carrier would really eliminate that). If I did get my BS in Physics, I am pretty sure I wouldn't want to go to grad school in physics. I like building things and I really liked the electronics class I took this last year, I have always built things (from a half-pipe, to an computer controlled etch-a-sketch --actually I have a website with a few of my projects and maybe it is the best way to explain some of my interests: http://programsandprojects.tripod.com/) and enjoyed it. So, I find there are two things I like: 1)pure abstract theory, such as pure mathematics and 2) hands on work, where I am unconcerned with understanding every detail and, though I want some level of understanding about the theory (how the thing is working), I am more focused on getting something to work. For me, the problem with physics is that it is stuck somewhere in between. It is not as "pure" (theory-wise) a subject as mathematics, and it is not as practical as Engineering. And I think this is part of the reason I don't enjoy physics much: it doesn't hit on either of the things I really like. If I stay an extra year, I may actually double major in math and Engineering (I am currently pretty much right on schedule with a math major). Thanks for the link to the thread, I'll take a look.
 

1. Can I switch from Physics to Engineering without any prior engineering experience?

Yes, it is possible to switch from Physics to Engineering without any prior engineering experience. While some engineering programs may require specific coursework or experience, many programs offer introductory courses for students coming from other disciplines. It may also be helpful to take some engineering-related courses during your undergraduate studies in physics to gain some familiarity with the field.

2. Will my physics background be helpful in engineering?

Absolutely! Physics and engineering are closely related fields, and many concepts and skills learned in physics can be applied to engineering. For example, a strong understanding of mechanics and electromagnetism from physics can be directly applied to mechanical and electrical engineering. Your analytical and problem-solving skills from physics will also be valuable in engineering.

3. What are the main differences between studying physics and engineering?

While both fields involve studying the natural world and using mathematical and scientific principles, there are some key differences between physics and engineering. Physics is more focused on understanding the fundamental laws and principles that govern the universe, while engineering is more concerned with applying those principles to design and create practical solutions to real-world problems. Engineering also tends to have a more hands-on and applied focus, while physics is more theoretical.

4. Are there any specific engineering fields that are more suitable for physics majors?

Many engineering fields can be a good fit for physics majors, depending on your interests and skills. Some common options include mechanical, electrical, and aerospace engineering, which all involve a significant amount of physics coursework. Other fields that may be suitable for physics majors include materials science, computer engineering, and biomedical engineering, among others.

5. Will I need to start my engineering studies from the beginning?

It depends on the specific program and university you are transferring to. Some programs may allow you to transfer credits from your physics coursework, while others may require you to start from the beginning. It's important to research the requirements of the engineering program you are interested in to determine if any of your previous coursework can be applied towards your degree.

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