1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

What kind of engineering jobs could I get with a physics major?

  1. Dec 24, 2007 #1
    I'm not majoring in engineering, so do not suggest it. I know it is possible to get an engineering job with a physics major. Here are a few minors (not exhaustive) I am considering: Mechanical Engineering, Architecture, Construction Management Technology

    I know it might be a little "bass-ackwards," but I think the job I would want to do most right out of college is some kind of engineering, unless I could find another technical job that is more appealing and so forth. Houston is the energy capital of the world, and NASA is just right down the street.

    Here a few engineering jobs I'd consider (again, not exhaustive): Civil, Materials Science, Mechanical

    Basically, I know what I want academically, I just want a little bit of direction professionally.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 24, 2007 #2
    I honestly dont know if a civil firm would hire you with only a civil minor. The ones I talked to did not really want to hire any mechanical majors.

    You could probably find a job doing mechanical work on HVAC systems.
  4. Dec 24, 2007 #3
    The only engineering minor UH has is Mechanical Engineering.

    Working on HVAC systems doesn't sound too appealing. Heh.
  5. Dec 24, 2007 #4
    :rofl: Yeah, but without a full mechanical engineering degree I dont know how far a minor would get you. You could take the FE exam and pass it. That would look good to a company. But I honestly dont know what skills you would have as a physics major in the ME world.

    Do you do any of the following? Heat transfer (w/ME applications), Thermodynamics (not-statistical thermo (not necessary), controls, circuit theory, FEA analysis, CAD/ProE/Solid Works/Fluent/Gambit, mechanical vibrations, fluid mechanics, materials.

    If you are doing things like particle physics, astro-physics, and things of the like, you will not be very marketable to an engineering firm.
    Last edited: Dec 24, 2007
  6. Dec 24, 2007 #5
    Well, I'm still in college, obviously, but the courses in my physics major are not applied courses. If I did the ME minor, it would have a thermo class, fluid mechanics, mechanics, etc. - a good 18 hours of ME courses. I understand engineering is applied physics, but there has to be something I could do with the physics major that I could learn on the job, having conceptually passed the engineering courses.
  7. Dec 24, 2007 #6
    Get a degree in Applied Physics and a minor in engineering.
  8. Dec 24, 2007 #7
    UH doesn't offer that. I'm a bit limited in my choices.
  9. Dec 24, 2007 #8
    Damn....Id really say applied physics if you want to be marketable.
  10. Dec 24, 2007 #9
    Closest engineering I can get is an EE job. My school's physics curriculum includes quite a bit of physics-electronics courses. is. advanced physics lab (circuits lab), electrodynamics, digital/analog electronics, solid states
  11. Dec 24, 2007 #10

    D H

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor

    I majored in applied physics a long time ago and have been working as an engineer for, hmmm, lets just say a long time. A strong background in physics, math, computer science, and mechanical engineering courses have more than helped me get by.

    In addition to your minor, you will have some choices in your junior/senior year physics classes. As most engineering is applied classical mechanics, upper level classical mechanics classes will be much more beneficial than advanced quantum mechanics classes (unless you plan on going into EE, that is). Hands-on work, e.g., tough advanced physics lab courses, will help too.

    A lot of engineers have to program computers nowadays. Truth be told, as a group, mechanical engineers are incredibly lousy programmers. Some computer science classes, particularly those that deal with data structures, algorithms, and numerical analysis will be very beneficial. A good software engineering class (UHCL has quite a few, I don't know about UH main campus) will also help.

    As a physics major you will have to take a lot of math classes. Physicists need to know about Green's Theorem and such. Green is just a color to most engineers. Take numerical analysis classes instead if you have a choice

    Nowadays a masters degree is an essential to getting a good job. You can use your undergraduate physics degree as a stepping stone for an engineering masters degree or PhD, if you want to go that far.
  12. Dec 24, 2007 #11
    Yes, I know this. I think I might need to change my electives up a bit by adding a computer science/programming course. If you're curious, here are the math and physics courses in my degree plan:

    MATH 1431. Calculus I
    MATH 1432. Calculus II
    PHYS 1321. University Physics I
    PHYS 1121. Physics Laboratory I
    MATH 2431. Linear Algebra
    MATH 2433. Calculus III
    PHYS 1322 and 1122. University Physics II and Physics Laboratory II
    MATH 3331. Differential Equations
    PHYS 3315. Modern Physics I
    MATH 3335. Vector Analysis
    PHYS 3110. Advanced Laboratory Analysis
    PHYS 3113. Advanced Laboratory I
    PHYS 3316. Modern Physics II
    PHYS 3309. Intermediate Mechanics
    MATH 3363. Introduction to Partial Differential Equations
    PHYS 3114. Advanced Laboratory II
    PHYS 3327. Thermal Physics
    MATH 3364. Introduction to Complex Analysis. Free Elective, Minor Course
    PHYS 4321. Intermediate Electromagnetic Theory
    PHYS 3312 and PHYS 3112. Modern Optics and Modern Optics Laboratory.
    PHYS 4356. Introduction to Particle Physics.PHYS 2340. Science of Sound.
    PHYS 1305. Introductory Astronomy – The Solar System.
    PHYS 4322. Intermediate Electromagnetic Theory
    PHYS 4337. Introduction to Solid State Physics.
    PHYS 1306. Introduction to Astronomy – Stellar and Galactic Systems.
    PHYS 3305. Introduction to Astrophysics.
  13. Dec 24, 2007 #12


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper

    I don't know about your time, but nowadays, my university does offer programming in C++ for engineering students as an essential module, and I've seen textbooks for some courses titled "C+ for Engineering" or something like that. And the mechanical aspects of Green's theorem (how to use it and when) is taught as a first-year, first-sem course for engineering majors. I know this because I took the clas.
  14. Dec 25, 2007 #13
    Well, guys, I just looked over my degree plan and everything. Of course, I only have a limited number of free electives and there are physics courses I definitely want to take as electives, so I might as well minor in math. I'll have 25 hours with only the required courses - 28 with the Intro. to Complex Analysis course.
  15. Dec 25, 2007 #14
    This question has been answered before, look at different posts. The engineering degree exists for a reason (to train people to do engineering). There are too many engineering graduates for you to compete with as a physics grad. Double major, or do engineering with a minor in physics if you want a job.
  16. Dec 26, 2007 #15
    That is not my experience unless you want to do something that requires a license.

    I work at an aerospace company in the US.

    1) The Quality Engineer on our project has a physics degree (BS).

    2) One of our hardware engineers has a physics degree (BS).

    3) One of our algorthm engineers has a physics degree (BS).

    4) One of our control engineers has a physics degree (MS).

    In other words, in my company there is lots of opportunity for physics majors if you are a US citizen.
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2007
  17. Dec 27, 2007 #16

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My physics degrees have done me well in the aerospace industry.
  18. Dec 27, 2007 #17
    Aerospace industry?

    Hey Dr. Transport,

    i'm wondering, what kind of skills can you bring to the aerospace industyr w/ ur degree? I'm really interested in space exploration, but could my physics degree allow me to go into soethign liek that?
  19. Dec 27, 2007 #18

    Dr Transport

    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    My background is in electrical and oprical prpoerties of semiconductors. I work with our optical labs in th edevelopment of better measurement techniques.

    If you wan tto do space exploration, I cannot see any reason why not, engineers do have the only inroad to NASA.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook