Physics Time investment for switching from EE to physics?

  1. This is going to be a bit verbose, so prepare yourself :)

    I asked this same question a while ago on this forum and the responses I got indicated to me that I did not ask my question properly and that I did not give enough background information for anyone to understand what my goals actually were. So I'll give it another try.

    In a few weeks I will be entering my second semester of my third year of electrical engineering. I have finally come to terms with the fact that engineering is absolutely not the right field for me. In my first year of university I took very general courses pertaining to calculus, linear algebra, computer science, physics and chemistry, as well as a single course on circuit theory and electromagnetics. Although my grades suffered as a result of not modifying the work ethic that got me through high school, I enjoyed the courses I was taking and did not have any regrets. In second year, with the exception of a single calculus course, every course was something specific to electrical/computer engineering. I quickly realized that I did not have any interest in what I was learning, but I heard that "it gets good in third year" or something along those lines, so I just grinned and bore it. Having recently completed the first half of third year I now know, for sure, that I am not in the right program. Since the latter half of second year I have hated every course I have taken. Recently I was required to select my technical electives for the first semester of fourth year and looking through the list of courses not a single course looked even remotely interesting to me (except one course about robots, but who doesn't like robots?), I was horrified as I realized if I stick with engineering it doesn't matter what field of work I go into I won't enjoy it. I have also completed five coop terms (for those of you not familiar with coop, think of it as a paid internship) and I do not find this work particularly interesting or gratifying. The thing I enjoy the most in life is learning and the topic I find most interesting is science (specifically physics), so I think the best career choice for me would be a researcher/professor. I have decided to pursue a masters degree and PhD in the area of physics, although I have yet to determine which field; I've always found astronomy to be absolutely fascinating and I also find theoretical physics interesting (my grade 12 chemistry teacher told me I would be very good at it). I have decided to complete my engineering undergraduate, as I think the skill set that one develops by going through an engineering program is invaluable in any field, not just engineering (i.e. problem solving). I am not terribly concerned with money or competition in the field, I really think this is what I would like to do. So my question boils down to:
    Approximately how much time will I need to invest to earn the appropriate credits (after finishing my undergraduate) to have a good chance of being accepted into a graduate physics program?
  2. jcsd
  3. Hepth

    Hepth 530
    Gold Member

    You don't go to kettering, do you? :) That's where I went, and switched from EE to Applied Physics in my third year.

    If you have ANY electives, take the physics courses. If you get into a grad school with your EE degree for physics, they're going to make you retake those classes, and it'll help tremendously if you've already had them (Also for the AP physics exam)

    In undergrad, depending on where you go, there are a few major courses you have to take:
    Optics 1 (2 is optional)
    Acoustics (usually elective)
    Materials (usually elective)

    Then the big ones:
    Quantum Mechanics
    Classical Mechanics
    Thermodynamics/State Mech

    If you have the last 4 under your belt (some are two semesters) those are the major upper-undergraduate works needed to be able to do well on the AP exam, as well as to get into a lot of schools.

    You might get lucky and get a school to take you on the condition that you finish those 4 in a year, and then technically start your graduate school the following year. Since you probably already meet the mathematics requirements, the physics ones aren't that bad.
  4. Sorry, I don't go to Kettering, I go to the University of Waterloo in Canada :)

    In my first year I took a physics course on mechanics (Newtonian mechanics, moments of inertia, torque, etc.), then another course about waves and optics. In second and third year I took courses on semiconductors which had units that briefly examined quantum mechanics (i.e. Schödinger). In the former half of my third year I took a course on thermodynamics, it was technically an engineering course but we never got into application or anything engineering-specific. I've also taken several courses in which roughly 50% of the course was electromagnetics. Any idea if these credits would count at all toward a physics program? If I understood you correctly (correct me if I'm wrong) there are really only five credits that I actually need to have, so it should only take one or two semesters for me to earn the extra credits I'll need?
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