Skip to main content
Updated date:

Physics Vs Engineering - What Should I Opt

Prince Kumar is currently studying computer science engineering in college.

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

"Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever." ~ Mahatma Gandhi

Physics and engineering are two very common entanglements for many students like me. When you were in Senior Secondary School, you might have taken the subject of physics like me and liked it very much. But do not know if the direction is the best route than engineering. As engineers use physics on top of engineering principles to solve problems. Well, I'm going to sort out the differences between each major:

  • Both the pros and cons,
  • Field of both courses, and
  • What are your other options

Then hopefully you will be able to make an informed decision. Let's start with the pros and cons of each major. Because depending on how long you want to stay in school or what option you want later, it can push you in one direction.

Major Pros and Cons of Physics and Engineering


  • Pro: It is a more direct career path for engineering professionals. If you study mechanical engineering then you will apply for jobs related to mechanical engineering that you have studied. You only need a bachelor's degree for most engineering majors and you earn a lot of money after graduation. If you want to go right into the workforce, find a full-time job that allows you to support yourself, and from there you can work your way up.
  • Con: Engineering's major drawback is that being a graduate is more on the subject you can't start with the most exciting work that applies to a physics graduate as well. Some people work for companies but they start with very basic assignments that are not advanced research or design work that you want to do. I mean, maybe you start with that. There is no way to predict what your career will do in the beginning.


  • Pro: Physics opens you up to a wide range of job fields. Engineering is also not less in terms of jobs, but if you look at the statistics, you will find that the laws of physics are used to understand engineering rules. You can also gain several foundations as a Physics major concerning the various branches within the field. You learn many concepts such as Thermodynamics, Classical Physics, Quantum Physics, etc. If you decide to engineer later as a master's, let's say, your technical background will be advantageous and accelerate your ability to grasp engineering theory.
  • Con: The main con of physics is that in most cases you need a Ph.D. to work as a physicist. If you want to work on astrophysics string theory, high-energy laser research work with particle accelerators, relativity work on quantum computers, etc., and you want to play the role of physics researcher in those fields then Ph.D. is needed. If you just want to go to college for four years and jump into the workforce, then maybe engineering is better for you. If you are willing to stay in school for maybe eight to ten years after high school, in which you will do four or five years of a bachelor's degree, you can probably give four to seven years of a Masters's and/or PhDs in physics. So you can work as a researcher in physics, and of course, starting with a physics bachelor's is a good place to be. The other kind of physics career path isn't as defined. Whether you want to do a Ph.D. in physics because you want to work as an astrophysics researcher in big research companies, colleges, or universities but there are not enough spots for everyone. So you might have to change your field, you might end up in a defense company as a data scientist, maybe in a technology company, and so on. There is nothing wrong with them either. You will probably get a job that you like, but keep your options open.

Pros and Cons in Glance

Some other minor and major pros and cons of both courses.




Direct Path

Flexible Path

High Salary

High Salary



Job availablity

Job availability

Take a less time to complete



Harsh curriculum

Tough to be a physicist



Take a long time to complete


"Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems." ~ Scott Adams

"Engineers like to solve problems. If there are no problems handily available, they will create their own problems." ~ Scott Adams


There are many fields of engineering and the jobs of the fields are quite different from each other.

Major Fields and Their Work

1. Civil Engineering: If you have an interest in designing

  • Bridges,
  • Tunnels, dams,
  • Roads,
  • Buildings that can stand up to earthquakes, etc.

Then civil engineering might be good for you.

2. Aerospace Engineering: Aerospace engineers can work

  • On the structure of an air or spacecraft design,
  • To test the propulsion system to ensure that an aircraft is capable of traveling at supersonic speeds, analyze the aerodynamics, and so on.

3. Electrical Engineering: Electrical engineers can work on

  • To improve the efficiency and speed of electronic systems like those in your phone and computer,
  • Wireless communications and ensure that two satellites can communicate with each other securely,
  • To improve the coverage for a cell phone company,
  • Solar panel power systems and more.

4. Chemical Engineering: Chemical engineers can work on

  • Chemical reactors, control systems safety systems, and more for places like Procter and Gamble or Budweiser where large chemical reactions take place,
  • The process that makes solar panels, computer chips, foods, drinks, medicine, rocket fuel, and so on.

5. Mechanical Engineering: Mechanical engineers can work on

  • Cars including the engine structure, suspension, and breaking,
  • Aircraft, robotics, maintaining a proper temperature within a spacecraft,
  • To make wind turbines that are aerodynamic and highly efficient in their submarines, roller coasters, biomedical equipment and so much more.

This is one of the broadest engineering fields.

6. Computer Engineering: Computer science and engineering is modern engineering. The demand for this field is sharply increasing due to the arrival of big tech companies. This engineering has a huge contribution to modernizing the whole world. You can work as

  • Software Developer,
  • Database Administrator,
  • Computer Hardware Engineer,
  • Computer systems Analyst,
  • Computer Network Architect,
  • Web Developer,
  • Project Manager, and more.

Engineers write software build control systems and develop ways to help the environment. Design medical tools, power plants, renewable energy technologies, and plenty more. But note that engineers are not the only ones who work on these. Physics majors could get into several of these fields. However, in general, a lot of these are more geared towards engineers and if any of them interest you engineering might be a better major.

"Physics is experience, arranged in economical order." ~ Ernst Mach

"Physics is experience, arranged in economical order." ~ Ernst Mach


Especially from a research perspective, you will see physicists in such positions as improving the speed of computer chips, for example. But again, most of these are classic engineering examples.

Now engineering has all study branches but if you study physics you'll likely start simply as a physics major where you'll learn the foundations of various branches of physics, however, when you go to grad school there are many fields for you to get into that can lead to different areas of research.

Major Fields and Their Work

1. Astrophysicists or Cosmologists: They may study

  • Black holes,
  • Galaxies,
  • Supernovas,
  • The Cosmic Microwave Background,
  • Dark energy, and why the universe is accelerating, etc.

2. Plasma physicists: They may work on

  • Research and fusion energy, which is the process that power stars like the Sun which we want to use here on earth to power our homes and businesses,
  • Ion thruster research, which is a form of electric propulsion for spacecraft,
  • The study of magnetic reconnections under lab conditions so that teaches teach us more about solar flares Aurora's, and more.

This common but not well-understood phenomenon exists in the universe which means when magnetic field lines within a plasma, break and quickly reconnect.

3. Condensed matter physicists: They can research on

  • Superconductors or conductors with no electrical resistance. These currently only exist at very cold temperatures, but we can create room-temperature ones,
  • Countless applications Including faster computers, very accurate sensors, all the way to cars that can hover above the ground,
  • Spintronics,
  • lasers and nanotechnology as well just to name a few fields.

This is a big branch as it deals with the macroscopic and microscopic properties of matter.

It is about manipulating electron spin to produce certain results. Because electrons are charged the spin gives electrons the properties of magnets. Current research is mostly about using that spin as a carrier of information so we can represent data by the direction of that spin instead of physically moving charge or current. Some of this research has led to electronics with enhanced memory reduce power consumption and more.

4. Particle physicists: These physicists are trying

  • To understand physics beyond the standard modelº,
  • To explain things like the nature of dark matter and dark energy which are two topics. We know very little about dealing with the movement of galaxies and the expansion of the universe,
  • To determine the mass of a neutrino, which once was thought to be massless. But now we know it is not the question of what their mass remains. They're exploring the origin of the mass structure of a proton, the hot and dense matter of the early universe, and plenty more.

Of course, there are a lot more subfields, but these are just some of the unique areas of research you can get into and you can see their popularity here.

ºThis model classifies the known elementary particles which are not made up of anything else and also describes three of the four fundamental forces. The gravitational force is the big missing piece to this puzzle that the model does not explain at least yet. The standard model is a great low-energy approximation. But is not valid at higher energies where gravity cannot be ignored like it can for small particles.

The theoretical math behind including gravity in this model leads to infinities that we cannot make sense of currently and experimentally. We would ideally like to detect a fraction. A hypothetical particle is responsible for the gravitational force that we would include in the standard model. But we have never detected one and we know that doing so would be very difficult. Physicists are hard at work trying to piece this all together.

Opportunities as Physicist

A lot of these jobs lie in academia where you research a University in your field of expertise and work as a professor as well or a good amount of these jobs can be found at National Labs or government agencies where you do a lot of experimental physics-related research.

If you don't want a job in academia, businesses can, of course, get research jobs in an industry, where you'd work for a company such as Google, Microsoft, Boeing, etc, that hires physics PhDs. These are where you could work on laser technology, high-speed circuits, quantum computers, and so on. This research is more often to make a product for that company rather than determine the physics of black holes.


Other Options

So now if you are still in dilemma and are not able to choose one well. So let's talk about other options.

1. Engineering Physics

If you want to study both then you can look into Engineering Physics. It is a combination of physics and engineering where you take classes in both subjects. Many who go to this major end up in graduate school for physics or engineering. But this is not very common, so make sure that the schools you are applying to are habitual.

2. Extra Classes (Electives/Minor)

Another option is you can take classes on the side that are not within your major. That could be for electives or maybe as a minor for those who go to schools that offer one. It's common to take computer science classes along with a physics degree or lots of engineers end up minoring in physics just to gain that extra knowledge.

3. Physics(BS) » Engineering(MS/Ph.D.) and Vice Versa

But the biggest question I get is whether I can graduate from physics than masters in engineering or a Ph.D., as well as vice versa. So understand that you do not need to have a particular degree before entering the particular master's program. Based on my studies, it is much better and easier to get a masters in engineering than bachelors in Physics.


I hope you liked my article and after studying it you can make a good decision. Ultimately, you have to decide. Do you know the critical thinking of a person should be very high at such a time because a wrong decision can make your career difficult? Therefore, do not be hasty and decide judiciously.

Related Articles