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Transition from physics to engineering

  1. Dec 7, 2006 #1
    So I'm going to graduate next year with a physics degree in a somewhat top public U.S. school. I'm thinking about going to grad school for engineering instead of physics since I would like to work in 1-2 years instead of getting my PhD in 6-7 years and then start finding work. Most likely I would probably be going into electrical or computer engineering.

    I'll be applying to some US/candian grad schools and want to know if I would be able to get into one without having an engineering degree. Most of the classes I've taken were originally towards my continuation of physics in grad school but I just had a change of heart, so I basically have zero background in any basic engineering courses.

    Is this transition possible?
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 7, 2006 #2


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    Perhaps, but most schools would probably require you to take a bunch of undergrad courses before beginning anything at the graduate level. You've probably learned basic circuit analysis reasonably well, but you'll need to take classes on computer architecture, digital logic design, microcontrollers, etc.

    - Warren
  4. Dec 7, 2006 #3
    If you're planning on it now, then if there's still time to take some engineering courses in the spring, that would be a good start. You can contact schools you're applying to and see what prerequisite courses they require for a graduate degree, and try and get a few done.

    I would imagine that a few courses in, say, physical electronics (transistors), MOS/VLSI design, and computer architecture would be appropriate, in order of least familiar with digital logic design to most. Also consult an advisor at your school to see which EE courses you can take with what you currently know of EE.
  5. Dec 8, 2006 #4
    I think I'll be doing something similar. Would it help at all if I took a bunch of lab classes? Or should I just try to get into engineering classes?

    Also, would getting a master's in physics instead of a master's in XXXX physics give me a better job outlook or not?
  6. Dec 8, 2006 #5
    I won't be having enough time/space to take some engineering courses in the next 2 semesters. I CAN take them, but that would extend my graduation by another semester, and that's the last thing I would ever want to do. I already checked with the schools I'm applying to what they usually required before taking on graduate level courses.

    Would a grad school accept someone and have them take some of the undergrad courses before taking on the grad courses? Or must the undergrad/pre-reqs have to be taken in your undergrad years?
  7. Dec 8, 2006 #6


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    I don't see why extending your undergraduate degree by a semester is such a big deal, particularly when you're intending on changing fields.

    On the other hand, most graduate schools will just put you through whatever undergrad classes you need, and you might as well be a graduate student instead of a fifth-year undergraduate.

    - Warren
  8. Dec 8, 2006 #7
    I have an MS in electro-optics which was a program JOINTLY run by a physics department and electrical engineering department... and about half of the students in the program were physics undergrads, half were engineering undergrads. The degree was conferred through the school of engineering, and many graduates went into industry or government research after graduation. So SOME programs might actually think physics degrees are GREAT preparation. I thought my "EE" classes for the program were NO PROBLEM... those classes included electro-optice devices (some minor circuitry here -- and lots of noise analysis/modeling), digital signal processing and fourier optics.
  9. Dec 8, 2006 #8
    Another thought, if you are on scholarships or financial aid of some kind, you're probably going to lose that in the transition to grad school - meaning that if you have to take extra prerequisite classes for grad school, it may be cheaper to do them as an extra semester as an undergrad, then wait until grad school and pay sticker (unless you get funding, which is rare for master's students)
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