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University Course: Engineering or Physics?

  1. Mar 19, 2014 #1
    I am currently first year at university studying software and electronic engineering. It is okay.... but it isn't very interesting. I find physics much more interesting so I've been thinking about changing to it.

    I would really appreciate it if someone could answer these questions,

    1 - Is physics much more difficult than engineering? I find the maths side of engineering fine and I was looking at my friends work who does physics, a lot of it is similar.

    2 - Is there jobs in physics? My course has amazing job prospects, I think it is about 96% of people get hired within 6 months of graduating. I've heard that to actually get a job that involves physics, you need to first get a phd

    3 - Do engineering companies want to hire physicists or do they mainly just go for engineers?
    4 - Is there money in physics?
    5 - Does it take a lot of hours of revision outside of classes to understand everything?

    Another concern of mine is this, I only got a C at A-Level physics, I got AAC overall. Do you think this would mean I would find it extremely difficult? Thanks
  2. jcsd
  3. Mar 19, 2014 #2


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    The first thing to do would be to check if your university would allow you to switch to Physics with a C grade at A level. If they don't, then the rest of your questions are moot. Even if they do, you would need to pinpoint the reasons for your obtaining a C: did you screw up a couple of the exams, or did you fail to understand some concepts? If the latter, then I would worry about how you'd go on with a physics degree.
  4. Mar 19, 2014 #3
    cristo - I think my university would let me, the grades they want is ABB but apparently my uni is very good at letting people change within courses.

    I don't think the problem was understanding the concepts, I got a B in AS physics and an A at GCSE. I'm not sure why but I didn't revise that much for my last two exams and it brought me down a bit.
  5. Mar 19, 2014 #4


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    This depends on the person and the physics and engineering courses that you're comparing. In a very general sense... probably not.

    Not the same way there are jobs in engineering. Engineering is a profession. Physics is an academic subject. One of the issues that many physics graduates face is how to market themselves if they don't go into academia. To get a job doing physics, you more or less need a PhD and even then, it's not guaranteed.

    There are professional branches of physics though, such as geophysics and medical physics.

    Engineering is a profession. You need professional qualifications to do it. There are cases where physicists are hired to do some research and development work, but you have to remember that there is a very large pool of qualified engineers out there.

    There can be, depending on how you look at it. When you look at the median salaries of physics graduates, they tend to finish middle of the pack amid the engineering disciplines, but they are subject to a larger standard deviation. And if you're considering graduate school, you should factor in the opportunity cost of a PhD.


    If you struggled with high school (or A-level) physics, then that's a good indication you'll struggle with university-level physics. Particularly if you don't do anything different.
  6. Mar 19, 2014 #5


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    I guess I can offer my point of view since I did courses from both faculties.

    Apples and oranges. Generally speaking, physics eventually becomes more mathematically rigorous but enginnering fields will require more practicality concerns.

    It depends on what "jobs in physics" mean. Research positions most likely want at least an MSc/ME/MTech/Msomething, but with the abundance of postgrads these days, you might want PhD to be competitive if you don't have anything else the employer's might want. For academic positions (excluding those who only wants to teach), I'm pretty sure you need a PhD regardless of you field.

    Having said that, just about everyone in our physics department agree on: people should only do PhD's only when they trying enjoy doing research in those fields.
    I mean, I know a few people who are doing PhD's just because they think it will get them a neat job. I always feel like they are bashing their faces against a brick whenever I see them.

    Generally, companies like to hire engineering graduates over physics graduates become most engineering degrees require some practical experience outside the courses (in our engineering faculty they want something like 800 hours of related internship), and the course materials themselves are designed to make the students more trainable for roles in the companies.

    There is money everywhere.

    The exact hours depend on the individual. But as long as you do have a revision system and avoid cramming, you can't go wrong. This is true for every subject as far as I know.
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