Transition from Physics to Engineering?

In summary, Julianna is considering a career in engineering, but is unsure if she should pursue a bachelors of engineering or a masters of chemical engineering before trying to get into industry. She was recently awarded an internship with Halliburton, but is unsure of whether she can transition into an engineering position with her physics degree. She thinks that an internship is a good idea, and recommends that she try out the job before deciding whether to pursue a graduate degree.
  • #1
Hi there!

I'm currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Physics with minors in both Applied Math & Chemistry and am considering a career in engineering. Now, before all of you engineers jump my case about physics isn't engineering or whatever, please be mindful I'm here for help about my career path.

I've always been interested in a job in the oil and gas sector and was just awarded an internship with Halliburton, but I suppose my question is: is it possible for someone with a physics degree to transition into an engineering position or would it be more beneficial to pursue a master's degree in Chemical Engineering or Petroleum Engineering before trying to get into industry?

I'm too far along in my physics degree to start over with a bachelors in engineering, also my school doesn't offer either of my desired fields.

Any insight will be greatly appreciated!
 
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  • #2
I think that you should try out the internship. It will give you a better idea of the requirements of the job.

Some engineering classes would be helpful also. Even if you don't do enough for a minor.
 
  • #3
Julianna,

I think you are on the right track. An internship in the field you are interested in pursuing is a good idea. You can try out the work, see if it something you like, and it should also give you some contacts that may be useful later. As for the graduate degree, I think you might consider it as a way to enhance your skills and knowledge in the field you find interesting. The shorter the course of study is, the better off you will be. You might also find that you can do what you want to do without a graduate degree, in which case you will not need it.
 
  • #4
Julianna Weldon said:
Hi there!

I'm currently pursuing a Bachelors of Science in Physics with minors in both Applied Math & Chemistry and am considering a career in engineering. Now, before all of you engineers jump my case about physics isn't engineering or whatever, please be mindful I'm here for help about my career path.

I've always been interested in a job in the oil and gas sector and was just awarded an internship with Halliburton, but I suppose my question is: is it possible for someone with a physics degree to transition into an engineering position or would it be more beneficial to pursue a master's degree in Chemical Engineering or Petroleum Engineering before trying to get into industry?

I'm too far along in my physics degree to start over with a bachelors in engineering, also my school doesn't offer either of my desired fields.

Any insight will be greatly appreciated!
Julianna,

Two of my friends in undergrad who were physics majors went on to get Applied Physics PhDs at Stanford U. If you look at their careers, post PhD, it would probably be difficult to differentiate them from PhD engineers.
 
  • #6
If "internship" means "not paid" then I would consider that very carefully. I have kind of a "thing" about internships.

Exactly what is it this company is promising to do for you that justifies you spending months working for them for nothing? Are they even promising to let you in the building? How do you know you won't spend four months "getting coffee" and then be shown the door?

If you did labs in your physics degree (and I would be surprised if you did not) then the differences between an engineering undergrad and a physics undergrad can be overcome.

Engineers typically study some topics that don't get mentioned in physics because engineers are generally expected to be in industry. So they study things like economics, managing projects, engineering ethics, engineering case law, and so on. These are things that are supposed to prepare the engineer for the culture of doing business in addition to the technical aspects of doing engineering. Some engineers also study a broad variety of things that go under the heading "leadership" because they are expected to make the big difficult decisions.

The biggest aspect is to have something on your course list that is in some way "hands on." By that I mean, can you contribute to building something or improving some real world thing? You mention applied math and chemistry. Going into the petro-chem industry might be easier because of that, depending on what exactly you studied.

If you still have time to modify your course list, or possibly add one or two classes, you might be able to tweak things to make the jump easier. Check your course catalog at your school. Get some advice from your profs and the profs in the engineering department as to what classes could best put a "shine" on your CV. It is not unusual for BSc degrees to include classes in other departments. Maybe there is a keen petro-chemical engineering class you can take.

And auditing a class (assuming you have the time and the university will let you and not charge you too much) might be better than an internship.
 
  • #7
DEvens said:
If "internship" means "not paid" then I would consider that very carefully. I have kind of a "thing" about internships.

Exactly what is it this company is promising to do for you that justifies you spending months working for them for nothing? Are they even promising to let you in the building? How do you know you won't spend four months "getting coffee" and then be shown the door?

Engineering internships nearly always have a salary. I used the "nearly always" caveat because, although I haven't heard of an engineering internship that does not have a salary, I cannot categorically say that such internships do not exist.
 
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Likes ulianjay

1. What is the main difference between physics and engineering?

The main difference between physics and engineering is that physics is a fundamental science that seeks to understand the principles and laws governing the natural world, while engineering is the application of those principles to solve real-world problems and create new technologies. In other words, physics is focused on understanding the "why" behind natural phenomena, while engineering is focused on using that understanding to design and create useful products or systems.

2. Can a physicist work as an engineer?

Yes, a physicist can work as an engineer. While the two fields have distinct focuses, they often overlap and share many core principles and skills. Many physicists go on to pursue careers in engineering, particularly in fields such as electrical engineering, mechanical engineering, and materials science.

3. Do physicists have an advantage over engineers in the field of engineering?

It depends on the specific field of engineering. In some cases, a physicist may have a deeper understanding of the underlying principles and theories that govern a certain technology or system, giving them an advantage in designing and improving it. However, engineers also have specific training and expertise in applying those principles to practical problems, so they may have an advantage in other areas.

4. Is a degree in physics helpful for a career in engineering?

Yes, a degree in physics can be very helpful for a career in engineering. The analytical and problem-solving skills developed in a physics program are highly applicable to the field of engineering. Additionally, many engineering programs require coursework in physics, so having a background in the subject can be beneficial for further studies in engineering.

5. What skills from a physics background are most valuable in engineering?

Some of the most valuable skills from a physics background that can be applied to engineering include critical thinking, mathematical modeling, data analysis, and experimental design. These skills allow engineers to approach problems systematically and develop innovative solutions based on a solid understanding of the underlying principles and laws of nature.

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