Would this Engineering Physics degree be better than a degree in physics?

  • #1
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I have been stuck between physics and engineering for a while. Someone recommended that I major in engineering physics, as the school I want to transfer to has like the 4th best EP program in the US. I pretty much take all of the physics classes physics majors need (except for labs and seminars), and then I take a bunch of engineering classes. Would this be good to go to grad school for physics, while also having the chance of getting an engineering job out of college?

Would I even need to take intermediate mechanics? I just threw it in there to fill in some space.

Here is a pic of the curriculum:
http://imgur.com/a/tR8Ky
 
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  • #2
ZapperZ
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OK, do this. Put yourself in our shoes, forget that you know you, and then re-read what you wrote.

Here's what I got: (i) I want to major in Engineering physics; (ii) then I want to go to graduate school in physics, and (iii) finally, I want to work in engineering.

First question that popped into my head: If you want to work in engineering, why not go the most DIRECT route and major in engineering? Why the circuital route?

Zz.
 
  • #3
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OK, do this. Put yourself in our shoes, forget that you know you, and then re-read what you wrote.

Here's what I got: (i) I want to major in Engineering physics; (ii) then I want to go to graduate school in physics, and (iii) finally, I want to work in engineering.

First question that popped into my head: If you want to work in engineering, why not go the most DIRECT route and major in engineering? Why the circuital route?

Zz.
I'm not sure if I want to go to grad school for physics or get an engineering job, so I'm wondering if this degree will allow me to do both, so I can pick later on down the road.
 
  • #4
ZapperZ
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I'm not sure if I want to go to grad school for physics or get an engineering job, so I'm wondering if this degree will allow me to do both, so I can pick later on down the road.

OK, now that makes a bit more sense.

Have you talked to an academic advisor in the engineering physics program and ask him/her the kind of employment students went into upon graduation? I won't be surprised if this is very subject-dependent, i.e. the type of engineering that a student went into.

Still, considering that even traditional physics majors do get employed in engineering, I'm guessing that having an engineering-physics degree will be an added advantage if you wish to go into engineering with your undergraduate degree. But I have no statistics to back this up.

Zz.
 
  • #5
f95toli
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If EP in the US (where I am assuming you are based) is anything like it is in Europe it will also depends a LOT on the specific program.
I studied EP for pretty much the same reason mentioned in the OP: I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do once I graduated and EP at a good university gave me quite a bit of flexibility.
At my university (in Sweden) the EP program was structured so that you took a lot of math and physics classes during the first 3 years(as well as some engineering type classes in e.g. circuit theory) and then specialized the 4th (this was a MSc program, the system in the US will be different) .
The math and physics gave everyone a very good grounding meaning the people who then went into engineering or CS tended to end up in quite math heavy jobs (numerical simulations etc).

A bunch of us then ahead and did PhDs in either engineering, physics,CS or maths.

All in all I am very happy that I decided on EP as opposed to "pure" physics; many (I'd say most) of the engineering courses I took turned out to be extremely useful; especially the EE ones since I am an experimental physicist and spend most of my time doing electrical measurements.

BUT, I also know of examples of EP programs in Europe that are very geared towards e.g. electrical engineering (e.g. semiconductor/device physics) and there you would probably not have the same flexibility .

Note that there are quite a few well known physicists who studied EP: Max Tegmark is a good example.
 
  • #6
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If EP in the US (where I am assuming you are based) is anything like it is in Europe it will also depends a LOT on the specific program.
I studied EP for pretty much the same reason mentioned in the OP: I wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do once I graduated and EP at a good university gave me quite a bit of flexibility.
At my university (in Sweden) the EP program was structured so that you took a lot of math and physics classes during the first 3 years(as well as some engineering type classes in e.g. circuit theory) and then specialized the 4th (this was a MSc program, the system in the US will be different) .
The math and physics gave everyone a very good grounding meaning the people who then went into engineering or CS tended to end up in quite math heavy jobs (numerical simulations etc).

A bunch of us then ahead and did PhDs in either engineering, physics,CS or maths.

All in all I am very happy that I decided on EP as opposed to "pure" physics; many (I'd say most) of the engineering courses I took turned out to be extremely useful; especially the EE ones since I am an experimental physicist and spend most of my time doing electrical measurements.

BUT, I also know of examples of EP programs in Europe that are very geared towards e.g. electrical engineering (e.g. semiconductor/device physics) and there you would probably not have the same flexibility .

Note that there are quite a few well known physicists who studied EP: Max Tegmark is a good example.

Hey thanks for the reply, it's good to hear from someone that majored in EP. Did you end up going to grad school for physics? Was it easy to get into a physics grad program?

And I posted a picture of the curriculum, could you tell me what you think of it?
 
  • #7
f95toli
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Hey thanks for the reply, it's good to hear from someone that majored in EP. Did you end up going to grad school for physics? Was it easy to get into a physics grad program?
Yes, my PhD was in physics and getting in was not very difficult. But then, most of the senior staff in the department had also studied EP and perhaps 75% of the PhD students came from from the EP program. Again, this was in Sweden and the system is quite different to the system in the US

And I posted a picture of the curriculum, could you tell me what you think of it?

It looks a bit more focused on engineering than I would have expected. But again, the systems are different (my MSc program was 4.5 years so there was time for more math and physics). Those engineering courses could very well turn out to be useful even if you decide to do a PhD in physics later. The important thing is that you double check that you will have fulfilled all the requirements for whatever grad school you think you might want to apply to afterwards and that you will have enough of a background in math/physics to understand (and pass) graduate level math/physics.
 
  • #8
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f95toli is right, EP gives you flexibility when it comes to the future: there will be no problem going to grad school in either physics or engineering after EP. In fact, for grad school in engineering, I think a good grounding in physics is often, but not always, more desirable than good knowledge of current technology, as technology evolves while the physics remains.

Also, keep in mind that engineering physics is quite challenging because you will have to learn significant amounts of engineering in addition to the classical physics & maths curriculum => no opportunities to take easy mickey-mouse courses/shortcuts.
 

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