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Physics major vs Engineering

Firecube2426Firecube2426 Registered User Posts: 199 Junior Member
edited May 2009 in Engineering Majors
How hard do you think Physics major is compared to Mechanical, Electrical, and computer Engineering?

What's the "GPA killer" of a Physics major?
Post edited by Firecube2426 on

Replies to: Physics major vs Engineering

  • haru07haru07 Registered User Posts: 661 Member
    I think physics is harder than any of those majors...seriously. Just looking at my own school, though.
  • jr1038jr1038 Registered User Posts: 109 Junior Member
    I took a wide variety of upper-level physics, chemistry, and ME/EE courses, and I consistently found physics classes to be the most difficult. Physics emphasizes a deeper and more mathematical understanding of concepts relative to engineering. In my experience, assigned workloads were similar but I had to study harder and practice problems more often to do well in physics.
  • TreetopleafTreetopleaf Registered User Posts: 2,721 Senior Member
    Former Physics major here. GPA killer? Based on the comments I've heard from other physics majors, many (but not all) of us had a bias towards either the quantum mechanics-type studies or the electricity & magnetism-type studies, and either theoretical or experimental (lab) type classes. In other words, some struggled in labs, some loved labs, etc. But I personally never experienced one class that was lots harder than others. Physics department seemed to want you to learn physics.
  • MaineLonghornMaineLonghorn Super Moderator Posts: 27,050 Senior Member
    For me, my two physics classes were much harder than my engineering ones. I'm not sure why. I just remember looking at each test thinking, "We studied this?!?" The test problems were killers. Engineering tests seemed much more straightforward.
  • silence_kitsilence_kit Registered User Posts: 1,826 Senior Member
    I think studying physics requires a little more intelligence and mathematical skill than studying engineering. (I say this as an EE major) However, I hear that engineering, with labs and design and such, requires a much heavier workload.
  • silence_kitsilence_kit Registered User Posts: 1,826 Senior Member
    I hear from the physics majors at my school that there is a pretty steep jump in difficulty when you stop taking the physics courses alongside the engineering majors and start taking physics-majors-only classes.
  • RacinReaverRacinReaver Registered User Posts: 6,608 Senior Member
    Different schools have different killer physics classes, though I remember hearing a lot of my friends complaining about this course called Physical Analysis. I decided to minor in physics instead of double majoring to avoid a few of the less interesting classes and didn't really feel the physics classes were a whole lot harder than my engineering ones, just that they required a different background. If I had taken all of the math my physics friends had I probably would have had a much easier time in solid state physics.

    I'd also say my thermo class in materials was more difficult than the one I took in physics, even though the physics one was junior level and had a worse reputation.
  • DocTDocT Registered User Posts: 7,272 Senior Member
    The emphasis in engineering and physics is somewhat different. I teach E&M to engineers. When I got to Maxwell's equations and adding the displacement current and how the velocity of light comes out of the equations, the engineering students would just look as if who cares - not the same reaction as in a physics class.
  • Klockan3Klockan3 Registered User Posts: 201 Junior Member
    I think the reason engineer students complains about physics and maths classes is more because they are more interested in building stuff than maths or physics.

    On the other hand those who studies maths/physics are usually really interested in those subjects so they will study what they like and not be forced to study other things just because they need to learn it to do what they want.
  • SlorgSlorg Registered User Posts: 2,009 Senior Member
    My physics classes were more difficult than my engineering classes. I believe this is simply because, on average, students interested in physics are of a higher caliber than students interested in engineering.
  • TreetopleafTreetopleaf Registered User Posts: 2,721 Senior Member
    However, I hear that engineering, with labs and design and such, requires a much heavier workload.

    When I was choosing between physics and EE, the physics major had more labs. The only EE class I took was digital computer design; the prof drew circuit pictures on the board. No lab. So for your statement to be true, lab work required for physics must vary by school.
  • silence_kitsilence_kit Registered User Posts: 1,826 Senior Member
    Yikes I forgot that physics had labs as well. Carrying out an experiment, I imagine is pretty time-consuming, but programming labs, digital design (that's kind of a rip that you didn't have a lab component in that class), circuit design are really, really time-consuming.

    I guess it depends on the school as well--from browsing the course page of the physics program at my school, I found that you only need to take one laboratory class to get a bachelor's in physics. Although I imagine, with the emphasis on theory for physics and the emphasis on design and practice for engineering, that in most places, the EE degree will have more design/laboratory work.
  • silence_kitsilence_kit Registered User Posts: 1,826 Senior Member
    Really, you had to do no design in the computer design course? I'd feel robbed! The senior computer design course at my school has you designing a pipelined processor with a cache at the gate level. The course pretty much rules your semester.
  • gthopefulgthopeful Registered User Posts: 1,828 Senior Member
    The difficulty will honestly come down to how well-regarded each program is. At Tech, the physics classes are easier than the engineering classes, but where I went to undergrad the physics department was ranked higher than engineering and so the difficulty was raised to meet the expectations of those students.
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