Physics or Engineering degree? Watch

The_Gina
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Hi

I am struggling to decide whether to do physics or engineering at uni. I am in year 12 and am doing further maths, maths, physics and chemistry, achieving high As in each. I very much enjoy all my subjects, but mostly maths and physics. I hope to go to cambridge.

The reason Im stuck between engineering and physics is that I like aspects of both. I really like the fact that engineering incorparates design, as I am a creative person, but I also like the diversity of the physics degree, covering everything from mechanics, to quantum physics. I want my degree to be useful for me in a later career, and i have heard that physics is very theoretical at uni so has little apllications outside of research, whereas what is learnt in engineering will be used in a career. I think I would find a physics degree more interesting than engineering, but the fact I would like useful applications to result from my degree and the job prospects, I am swaying towards engineering. The thing putting me off engineering is the fact that I don't know enough about it and that i am not a particularly practical person. Do you need to be good with your hands to do engineering?

The job prospects for engineering are better than for physics I have heard, as with an engineering degree you can go straight into an engineering job, or go into finance etc, whereas physics leads into teaching/research/finance. I am unsure what I would like to do as a career, but renewable energy interests me and I would possibly like to set up my own company.

Would appreciate any advise, particularly from people who have had the same dilemma.
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CosmicTalia
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Tough call!

You're more likely to get a place if you choose engineering.

Last year the number admitted to Cambridge for Natural Sciences (Physical) was 628, with only 4 placements. Where as Engineering had 5 places and the number admitted to Cambridge was 344.

Both courses are avaliable at all of the Cambridge colleges.

Do you need to be good with your hands to do engineering?
Being good with your hands doesn't make you an engineer, it makes you a mechanic.
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Rennit
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Engineering will be very narrow in the variety of work you will do. You will specialise in a certain type of Engineering. This is the same with physics but at PDH level instead of undergraduate.

If you like being creative, particulary with maths, then I'd go for physics.

If you do not feel 100% on maths, but are still good at it then go for engineering. Engineering is more creative in an easier way. For example, choosing materials for jobs. But be warned, Engineering has alot of paperwork and form filling.

They're quite similar up to UG level.
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Fuzzed_Out
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(Original post by Rennit)
Engineering will be very narrow in the variety of work you will do. You will specialise in a certain type of Engineering. This is the same with physics but at PDH level instead of undergraduate.

If you like being creative, particulary with maths, then I'd go for physics.

If you do not feel 100% on maths, but are still good at it then go for engineering. Engineering is more creative in an easier way. For example, choosing materials for jobs. But be warned, Engineering has alot of paperwork and form filling.

They're quite similar up to UG level.
At most universities engineers cover more maths than physicists. I've met many physicists that would make poor engineers but I've not met many engineers that couldn't study physics.


Having said this engineering lectures can be quite boring but the subject becomes a lot more interesting when you begin to apply it through projects such as Formula Student (FSAE).

Edited my post because I misread yours.
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Rennit
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(Original post by Fuzzed_Out)
At most universities engineers cover more maths than physicists. I've met many physicists that would make poor engineers but I've not met many engineers that couldn't study physics.


Having said this engineering lectures can be quite boring but the subject becomes a lot more interesting when you begin to apply it through projects such as Formula Student (FSAE).

Edited my post because I misread yours.
Any good Physics course has ALOT of maths in it. Engineering will have alot of maths too. The difference however, is that Physics-Maths is alot more difficult than Engineer-maths. Engineering Maths is mainly integration and differential equations. Physics-Maths is alot more complex and involves a wider range of mathematical techniques.
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helen-a-ravenclaw
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Hopefully I'll be able to shed some light on the matter as well as I'm going to start an Engineering degree in September and am currently doing a 'Year In Industry' placement with an Engineering company.

For career prospects, Engineering is definetly a more useful degree as you come out with a qualification the trains you for a job. It's like Law, Medicine, Architecture etc. You come out of uni, and can go straight into an Engineering job.

As mentioned previously, Engineering is not all practical. Many people confuse Engineers with Mechanics and the like. While the basis for Engineering is fixing things, you don't need to be a majorly pratical person to be a great Engineer. Engineers solve problems, they come up with solutions in creative and inventive ways. Another great thing about Engineering degrees is that you don't have to go into an Engineering related job if you don't want to.

Engineering degrees are sort after by companies looking for leaders and managers as they know that the person has been trained to solve problems and think in a certain way. If you finish your degree and don't think you want to spent a lifetime working as an Engineer, you can always go into management, consultation, or setting up your own company as you suggested.

Engineers will always be needed, and at the moment there is a shortage of Engineers so it's a great time to start your degree.

I may be a bit biased, because I myself love solving problems and working out how things work but I think that Engineering is a great type of degree to have and impresses people when I talk about it!

So my advice is go for Engineering. It's pratical, fun, interesting and who knows, you could be part of a team that designs the next space station or a new type of miracle car that drives itself!
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Rennit
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(Original post by helen-a-ravenclaw)

So my advice is go for Engineering. It's pratical, fun, interesting and who knows, you could be part of a team that designs the next space station or a new type of miracle car that drives itself!
I have to disagree with the "Designing the next space station or miracle car" part of this quote.

Space Stations are infact designed primarily by Physicists and suprisingly, Doctors. Very few engineers have the technical expertise in this field to design space shuttles.

And yes, Engineers do design cars, but it would be Computer Science ( a more maths related degree) who would design a self driving car.
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The_Gina
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(Original post by Rennit)
Engineering will be very narrow in the variety of work you will do. You will specialise in a certain type of Engineering. This is the same with physics but at PDH level instead of undergraduate.

If you like being creative, particulary with maths, then I'd go for physics.

If you do not feel 100% on maths, but are still good at it then go for engineering. Engineering is more creative in an easier way. For example, choosing materials for jobs. But be warned, Engineering has alot of paperwork and form filling.

They're quite similar up to UG level.
I would do a general engineering course (like that offered at oxbridge) and specialise in the third year.
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The_Gina
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(Original post by helen-a-ravenclaw)
Hopefully I'll be able to shed some light on the matter as well as I'm going to start an Engineering degree in September and am currently doing a 'Year In Industry' placement with an Engineering company.

For career prospects, Engineering is definetly a more useful degree as you come out with a qualification the trains you for a job. It's like Law, Medicine, Architecture etc. You come out of uni, and can go straight into an Engineering job.

As mentioned previously, Engineering is not all practical. Many people confuse Engineers with Mechanics and the like. While the basis for Engineering is fixing things, you don't need to be a majorly pratical person to be a great Engineer. Engineers solve problems, they come up with solutions in creative and inventive ways. Another great thing about Engineering degrees is that you don't have to go into an Engineering related job if you don't want to.

Engineering degrees are sort after by companies looking for leaders and managers as they know that the person has been trained to solve problems and think in a certain way. If you finish your degree and don't think you want to spent a lifetime working as an Engineer, you can always go into management, consultation, or setting up your own company as you suggested.

Engineers will always be needed, and at the moment there is a shortage of Engineers so it's a great time to start your degree.

I may be a bit biased, because I myself love solving problems and working out how things work but I think that Engineering is a great type of degree to have and impresses people when I talk about it!

So my advice is go for Engineering. It's pratical, fun, interesting and who knows, you could be part of a team that designs the next space station or a new type of miracle car that drives itself!
Where are you doing your YIN? I may do that if i don't get into cambridge first time through.
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helen-a-ravenclaw
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(Original post by Rennit)
I have to disagree with the "Designing the next space station or miracle car" part of this quote.

Space Stations are infact designed primarily by Physicists and suprisingly, Doctors. Very few engineers have the technical expertise in this field to design space shuttles.

And yes, Engineers do design cars, but it would be Computer Science ( a more maths related degree) who would design a self driving car.
Well I would have to disagree with your statement.

With any of those projects, there will be some sort of Engineer working on the team. Okay, so they may not be doing the actual designing part, but they will definitely be working on the current design, improving it etc.

You would be surprised at the sort of projects that need Engineers!
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helen-a-ravenclaw
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(Original post by The_Gina)
Where are you doing your YIN? I may do that if i don't get into cambridge first time through.
I'm currently in Salisbury, working at a company called Chemring Countermeasures.

Oh yes! Do a YINI placement, even if you get into Cambridge. You can always defer your year and do a pre-university placement, or do one during your course.

With Engineering having some experience is just as important as having a good degree.

There was a newspaper article a while back about these Engineering graduates coming out of the top universities in the UK, with only a Saturday job and finding it hard to get employment.

So yes, do a placement if you're really serious about Engineering! It's such a useful year, and looks great on your CV.
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The_Gina
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(Original post by helen-a-ravenclaw)
I'm currently in Salisbury, working at a company called Chemring Countermeasures.

Oh yes! Do a YINI placement, even if you get into Cambridge. You can always defer your year and do a pre-university placement, or do one during your course.

With Engineering having some experience is just as important as having a good degree.

There was a newspaper article a while back about these Engineering graduates coming out of the top universities in the UK, with only a Saturday job and finding it hard to get employment.

So yes, do a placement if you're really serious about Engineering! It's such a useful year, and looks great on your CV.
If I do decide on engineering (looking likely atm) I willmost likely to a YINI if there is one local and interesting.
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helen-a-ravenclaw
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(Original post by The_Gina)
If I do decide on engineering (looking likely atm) I willmost likely to a YINI if there is one local and interesting.
Awesome! The world always needs more Engineers!
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Smack
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If renewable energy is your thing then do either electrical or mechanical engineering.
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Fuzzed_Out
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(Original post by Rennit)
Any good Physics course has ALOT of maths in it. Engineering will have alot of maths too. The difference however, is that Physics-Maths is alot more difficult than Engineer-maths. Engineering Maths is mainly integration and differential equations. Physics-Maths is alot more complex and involves a wider range of mathematical techniques.
So when I compare the maths I do to my house mate who studies physics and mine is slightly harder, am I dreaming? I've done all sorts like iteration methods, Laplace transforms, Fourier series/transforms, line integrals, multiple integrals etc.

Out of curiosity what do you study?

Also I'm pretty sure engineers work for Nasa, it seems like quite an engineering thing seeing as we have fields called "aerospace". Why the hell would a physicist be better at designing the ISS than an engineer?

Professional, Engineering and Scientific (60% of NASA's positions)
Occupations in this category require knowledge in a specialized field such as science, math, engineering, law or accounting (depending on the specific position). These positions generally require a bachelor's degree or higher degree with major study in a specialized field. This group covers positions such as:

Accounting, GS-510
Aerospace Engineering, GS-861
Biology, GS-401
Computer Engineering, GS-854
Computer Science, GS-1550
General Engineering, GS-801
Meteorology, GS-1340
http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/occupations.htm (26/03/2012)

**** me, I can see the word engineering several times!
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Rennit
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(Original post by Fuzzed_Out)
So when I compare the maths I do to my house mate who studies physics and mine is slightly harder, am I dreaming? I've done all sorts like iteration methods, Laplace transforms, Fourier series/transforms, line integrals, multiple integrals etc.

Out of curiosity what do you study?

Also I'm pretty sure engineers work for Nasa, it seems like quite an engineering thing seeing as we have fields called "aerospace". Why the hell would a physicist be better at designing the ISS than an engineer?


http://nasajobs.nasa.gov/jobs/occupations.htm (26/03/2012)

**** me, I can see the word engineering several times!
Second year UG physics maths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_variable. As i said, Physicists and Engineers do different types of maths (Apart from the calculus ).

And hey, some guys have to do all the manual labour right? :P
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Fuzzed_Out
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(Original post by Rennit)
Second year UG physics maths: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Complex_variable. As i said, Physicists and Engineers do different types of maths (Apart from the calculus ).

And hey, some guys have to do all the manual labour right? :P
You didn't answer my question, but I imagine your a physics undergrad. I suppose you just jealous that engineering has real world application :rolleyes:
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username839699
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(Original post by Fuzzed_Out)
At most universities engineers cover more maths than physicists. I've met many physicists that would make poor engineers but I've not met many engineers that couldn't study physics.
Your basis is simply that of having looked at your friend's work and finding it somewhat easier? The typical physics and engineering undergraduate degree covers calculus of one and several variables, linear algebra and ordinary and partial differential equations, usually within the first 2-3 semesters. The reality is that both have the same core-mathematics ("mathematical methods" courses might be more appropriate, seeing as engineering and physics students don't take the same courses as mathematics students) sequence.

I've noticed with UK universities that the higher one goes up the league table, the more in-depth the courses tend to be. Therefore, physics and perhaps even engineering undergraduate degrees might involve proof-based mathematics courses. In general, the "with Theoretical Physics" variant of the physics degrees are the ones which are more "maths-y".

In Germany, though, physics degrees are more "maths-y", in that the students take actual pure maths courses as opposed to the "mathematical methods" courses one finds in the typical engineering degrees.

Further, "designing the ISS" is a skill that is to be found in most physicists. Physicists - i.e, those with doctorates - generally conduct research in academia or the private sector (research labs, oil&gas, finance, etc). There aren't many directly relevant jobs for physicists to go around, meaning that they often have to work in other sectors where the skills they acquired during their study are valued.

Why use such a condescending tone? Of course physics has applications! Physics is concerned with modelling natural/physical phenomena, and that includes subjects such as the "electricity and magnetism", which EE students study, or "solid mechanics", which if I'm not mistaken, mechanical and civil engineering students study as well! Another thing to consider is that some topics are quite interdisciplinary. For instance, in a given fluid dynamics research group, there can be chemical, civil and mechanical engineering researchers *as well as* applied mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists!
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moritzplatz
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(Original post by Lilium)
Your basis is simply that of having looked at your friend's work and finding it somewhat easier? The typical physics and engineering undergraduate degree covers calculus of one and several variables, linear algebra and ordinary and partial differential equations, usually within the first 2-3 semesters. The reality is that both have the same core-mathematics ("mathematical methods" courses might be more appropriate, seeing as engineering and physics students don't take the same courses as mathematics students) sequence.

I've noticed with UK universities that the higher one goes up the league table, the more in-depth the courses tend to be. Therefore, physics and perhaps even engineering undergraduate degrees might involve proof-based mathematics courses. In general, the "with Theoretical Physics" variant of the physics degrees are the ones which are more "maths-y".

In Germany, though, physics degrees are more "maths-y", in that the students take actual pure maths courses as opposed to the "mathematical methods" courses one finds in the typical engineering degrees.
in my university, which should be quite good, the maths they do at engineering is just calculation (loads of it and in different flavors)

theoretical physics is more or less maths.
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Dirac Delta Function
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(Original post by Lilium)
Your basis is simply that of having looked at your friend's work and finding it somewhat easier? The typical physics and engineering undergraduate degree covers calculus of one and several variables, linear algebra and ordinary and partial differential equations, usually within the first 2-3 semesters. The reality is that both have the same core-mathematics ("mathematical methods" courses might be more appropriate, seeing as engineering and physics students don't take the same courses as mathematics students) sequence.

I've noticed with UK universities that the higher one goes up the league table, the more in-depth the courses tend to be. Therefore, physics and perhaps even engineering undergraduate degrees might involve proof-based mathematics courses. In general, the "with Theoretical Physics" variant of the physics degrees are the ones which are more "maths-y".

In Germany, though, physics degrees are more "maths-y", in that the students take actual pure maths courses as opposed to the "mathematical methods" courses one finds in the typical engineering degrees.

Further, "designing the ISS" is a skill that is to be found in most physicists. Physicists - i.e, those with doctorates - generally conduct research in academia or the private sector (research labs, oil&gas, finance, etc). There aren't many directly relevant jobs for physicists to go around, meaning that they often have to work in other sectors where the skills they acquired during their study are valued.

Why use such a condescending tone? Of course physics has applications! Physics is concerned with modelling natural/physical phenomena, and that includes subjects such as the "electricity and magnetism", which EE students study, or "solid mechanics", which if I'm not mistaken, mechanical and civil engineering students study as well! Another thing to consider is that some topics are quite interdisciplinary. For instance, in a given fluid dynamics research group, there can be chemical, civil and mechanical engineering researchers *as well as* applied mathematicians, computer scientists and physicists!
I doubt that. You only believe so because of your ignorance of what's involved.
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