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Engineering Physics Major & Degree Programs

Dec 21, 2017

If you're interested in physics, engineering, mathematics and computers, then you may want to combine all of these areas in your studies by pursuing a degree in engineering physics.

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Overview of Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Physics

The advancement of physics as a field depends on new technologies and instrumentation, which are created by engineers. A bachelor's degree in engineering physics allows students to combine studies in engineering and physics. This can prepare graduates for careers in engineering or for opportunities to work in research.

Graduates have a strong foundation in science and know how to use scientific principles to solve problems; they are particularly well-suited for industrial research and development. Engineering physics programs can also prepare graduates to become innovative problem-solvers in product development or traditional engineering roles. They also provide excellent preparation for graduate studies. The major may be offered as a dual-degree program that allows students to select a particular engineering field and graduate with an engineering degree as well.

Admission Requirements for Engineering Physics Programs

In order to be eligible to enter an engineering physics program, it is necessary to be accepted by the college or university first. This involves completing an application and providing supporting documentation. Documentation typically includes high school transcripts and SAT/ACT scores. Schools may also consider evaluations and recommendation letters from former teachers.

Once admitted, students must complete the courses required to qualify to pursue studies in engineering physics. In some cases, students may apply for the major at the end of their first year, while other schools may take applications during a student's second year. Since programs are typically coordinated across departments, students should speak to their academic advisors as soon as possible.

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Engineering Physics Program Coursework

An engineering physics degree combines studies in physics and engineering and develops a strong academic foundation in science. Students can expect to also study mathematics extensively, since mathematical skills are essential to both physics and engineering. The specific engineering coursework will vary depending on the engineering concentration chosen, when applicable.

Introduction to Engineering

In order to earn a degree in engineering, it is essential to understand the governing principles of engineering. An introductory course in this subject will help students differentiate between different engineering fields. Students will also learn about specific engineering issues related to different fields and the history of engineering. Students also begin to learn about design.

Calculus

Engineering and physics professionals are required to use mathematical theories and skills in their work, so they can expect to take multiple semesters of calculus. Introductory calculus courses will ensure that students pursuing a degree in engineering physics understand the theories and practical applications of calculus. It's common for students to be required to continue with advanced calculus courses so that they can learn to apply the principles of geometry in three dimensions and work with more complex topics, such as differential equations.

Thermodynamics

Introductory courses in thermodynamics cover thermodynamic laws and how they apply to engineering. At more advanced levels, statistical mechanics are incorporated, and students study topics such as photons, astrophysics, and correlation functions.

Computer Science

It is important for students in engineering physics to develop a strong base of computer skills. Physicists use computers to analyze and retrieve data, while engineers regularly use computers to produce design schematics and other technical materials. It is common for engineering physics programs to require students to complete a course designed to prepare STEM students to use computers in their field effectively. Such a course prepares students to retrieve and process data on computer programs and perform other practical applications related to the fields of engineering and physics.

General Physics

General physics courses may be offered at increasingly advanced levels. Students at the introductory level learn about basic physics principles like momentum and heat. At advancing levels, topics expand to include relativity, optics, and quantum mechanics. Students in these courses develop a strong foundation in theoretical physics that prepares them to advance to more complex theories and applications.

Electricity and Magnetism

This course offers an intensive study of the principles of electricity and theories related to electromagnetism. Students will develop an understanding of how these theories apply to engineering, with topics including electrostatics, conductors, and physical electronics. Students will have an opportunity to do laboratory work to test theories and demonstrate their applications.

How to Choose a Bachelor's Degree in Engineering Physics Program

It is important for students to consider program length and outcomes. As mentioned, some engineering physics programs offer dual degrees and therefore may take up to five years. These students graduate with two degrees, one in science and the other in engineering, and have to decide which field of engineering to earn their second degree in. Non-dual degree programs may require students to choose an engineering concentration and may offer either a science or engineering degree. Determining one's career and future education goals is the first step in deciding which degree path to take.

Be sure the school you select offers robust engineering coursework in your specific engineering field of interest. Engineering programs should be accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET). Those interested in the research applications of engineering physics should review course offerings across institutions to identify areas of interest.

Career Options with a Engineering Physics Degree

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that physicists earned an annual median income of $115,870 in 2016 and that the job growth rate from 2016 to 2026 is expected to be 14% for these professionals. Although many careers in this field require graduate studies, it is possible to pursue research jobs in the government with a bachelor's degree. Individuals with a bachelor's in engineering physics will be ideally suited to such opportunities. Engineering physics graduates may also be interested in other options working as engineers.

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